Once in a while, a place grabs my heart and plants memories there to be triggered over the years by certain smells, sounds and other senses. Such was the case on a recent jaunt to Tuolumne County. I was deposited outside The McCaffrey House Bed & Breakfast Inn in Twain Harte, California. Apropos was the white picket fence surrounding a set of stairs that descended to the inn. Along the way, Zane Grey, the cat inspected my luggage. Waiting with a smile on the porch was Jeffrey, a gentlemanly mutt who has the run of the house.
Owners Stephanie and Michael McCaffrey flung the front door open in greeting. Upon retirement, the couple built the three-story bed and breakfast on a wooded lot where their weekend get-away cabin once stood. Over the 10 years the inn has been open, it has consistently won AAA Four Diamond Awards. Dotting the walls are family photographs, many depicting happy times spent together in the Sierra Mountains. A sense of warmth pervades the space, making all who enter feel welcome.
The décor of the eight guestrooms was designed around handmade Amish quilts from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. My room was “True Blue.” Had the McCaffrey’s instinctively known my favorite color, I wondered. A black iron stove stood in the corner, next to it, a door leading to my own private balcony. Best of all in this part of the world where cell service is less than sketchy – was the free wireless Internet service.
Stephanie arrived to fold my quilt and turn down the bed. She gave me a quick tour of the other guest rooms and a reminder me to join them in the family room for wine and cheese, a nightly occurrence. Down in the family room are couches just right for reclining by the fire and watching a video or playing a game of solitaire. Even better for hanging out and sharing conversation was the kitchen, where the guests naturally gravitated, as did Jeffrey with a hopeful look on his face. Lucky for him, one visitor knew the location of his “cookie jar.”
The most delicious smells woke this late riser early on my first morning. I made my way to the dining room where tapered candles were lit and fresh juice and fruit awaited. My mouth watered as Michael delivered Simple Egg Casserole, sausage and breakfast potatoes. Jeffrey, correctly assessing me as a pushover, parked himself beside my chair. Guests filtered in, grabbing coffee, sharing stories of their exploits from the night before. Stephanie and Michael doled out directions and suggestions for activities or sites to check out in the area.
Geared up to take on the landscape, I set out for Columbia State Historic Park. Instead of hiking trails I found myself stepping into the Gold Rush era. The town was in full motion with staff wearing garb from the 1850’s busy at work. I began my tour at The Fallon Hotel with its adjoining ice cream parlour and The Fallon Theatre, where live performances are held. Down the town’s main dirt road, piano could be heard from the saloon. The smell of chocolate wafted from Nelson’s Columbia Candy Kitchen. No matter his vice, the modern-day miner could sate his appetites in this town with a sarsaparilla or a chocolate melt-away. I half expected a cowboy to take a stance with the sun setting over his shoulder and challenge me to a showdown. Indeed, the town provided the setting for several scenes in the film “High Noon.” Later, I perused the shops in historic downtown Sonora, Twain Harte and nearby Jamestown. History buffs should also check out Railtown 1897 State Historic Park while in Jamestown.
The McCaffrey House Bed & Breakfast Inn is centrally located to Yosemite National Park, the Emigrant Wilderness and Stanislaus National Forest. Stephanie and Michael are happy to help guests arrange area activities including a gold country tour via bike, house boating on Lake Don Pedro, fishing, hiking, golfing and horseback riding. Winter months call for skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
As for nightlife, guests can visit the Black Oak Casino for gaming or entertainment that ranges from karaoke to bowling. The Fallon Theatre in Columbia features live performances, as does Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys, California and The Groveland Hotel in Groveland.
The best part about the evening coming to an end – knowing another breakfast prepared by Stephanie and Michael would kick off the next day.
For information about The McCaffrey House Bed & Breakfast Inn visit www.mccaffreyhouse.com or phone 888/586-0757. To learn more about Tuolumne County visit the visitors’ bureau at www.thegreatunfenced.com.
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