Historic Murphys Park (Murphys, Ca)

IMG_6879And so begins my multi-part series on public parks we explored in Northern Ca.  At the end of the summer we took the girls on a huge adventure to visit my aunt and uncle in Northern California.  It’s unfortunate we waited so many years before visiting them – we made amazing memories this trip and I’m so glad we shared it with our kids.

My aunt and uncle live in the small town of Sonora, Ca., and one morning they drove us over the dramatically high New Melones Reservoir bridge into Calaveras County and the small town of Murphys, Ca. to explore the small city park and have lunch downtown.  Historic Murphys Park is located at 505 Algiers Street in Downtown Murphys, a mid-1800s gold mining town turned charming Main Street with upscale retail shops, an inn, yummy restaurants and bars, and 20+ local winery tasting rooms.  Here’s a side note about Murphys: the town narrowly escaped the too-close-to-home Butte Fire, a fast moving wildfire that spread during the 2015 California wildfire season.

img_1773Murphys Park is a true community park – built by the people, for the people.  The all-volunteer, non-profit Murphys Community Club opened the park in 1948 and maintains the park for the public through membership dues, donations, and use fees for special events.  Upon entering the park your eyes are immediately drawn to the white wooden gazebo – perfect for photo ops, picnics, and outdoor music.  I was shocked to see rotisserie spits, presumably for hosting the exciting summer concerts that were advertised on big banners throughout the park. The shallow Murphys Creek runs through the park creating a relaxing and water recreational aspect. We splashed in the creek to cool off and enjoyed watching other park-goers gently tube the creek. Picnic tables and benches also align both banks of the creek.

After splashing in the creek the girls played in the playground area. The smaller-age playground contains a slide, interactive spin toys, and climbing stairs.  The playground for older children features several tall slides, monkey bars, climbing ladders and walls, tunnels and shade sails. Two tot swings, two traditional swings and picnic tables are adjacent to the playgrounds.  Family names are carved into the nearby fence pickets, probably signifying park donors.

IMG_6924After exploring the park we visited retails shops in downtown Murphys and ate a yummy lunch at Firewoods. Before leaving Murphys, we visited the tasting room of Villa Vallecito Vineyards, which is owned by dear friends of my aunt and uncle.  The vineyard is a 20 minute drive from Murphys and features amazing views of the rolling hills and overlooks the New Melones Reservoir.  The owners treated us to the most delicious wines and snacks and gave the girls the most sincere hospitality. You can even rent the casita at the top of their property. If you’re heading to the Northern California area, include Murphys on your stop for wine, food, and community feeling – I can’t wait to come back with my wine glass in hand!

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Thumbs up: small-town feel, seating options, splashing in the creek, Villa Vallecito Vineyards wines and property views,

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Trip to Keswick, VA

Bruce with his Mr. Toad hat

Last weekend, we headed to Keswick, VA for a three-day celebration of my father-in-law’s 60th birthday.  The Montgomery family converged on the area, coming in from MD, NC, and MN for the festivities.  Even my mom, sister, brother and their spouses came in from the Ruther Glen area on Saturday and Sunday to celebrate as well.  Being a Hokie, it’s hard to admit that Keswick and Charlottesville are gorgeous places to visit, but they truly are and I can’t wait to come back again in July for Janet & Adam’s wedding at Veritas!

While in Keswick we took a day trip to Monticello with grandparents and great-grandparents.  I hadn’t been to Monticello since probably 5th grade so it was nice to visit again after so many years.  We checked out the main house, stables, and Jefferson family gravesite.  With a 13-month old our time was limited, but that also meant we have more left to explore the next time we visit.  I also found some time on Friday for a little pool and wine time, which was fabulous!

On Friday night, we had a delicious 8+ course meal and wine pairing in the private wine cellar at Keswick.  We ate delicious courses of tuna, ribeye, cheese, sorbet, mushrooms, etc all paired perfectly with champagnes, pinots, zins, cabs, etc.  Everyone at dinner also got to learn about my new fav wine, Orin Swift’s The Prisoner!

On Saturday afternoon, after a fun morning photo shoot with my Kristen Garten Photography (check out Kristen’s work), I headed to three different wineries with my sister and sis-in-law.  We visited First Colony, Trump Winery, and Carter’s Mountain Orchard & Winery.  All three were very unique, but I think the red wine sangria slushie at Carter’s was our unanimous favorite.  July at Veritas can’t come soon enough!

On Sunday morning, we explored the walking trails and gardens of Keswick followed by some romping time at the nearby playground. And, yes, even little Ripken got to come and enjoy some pampering at Keswick!

The entire weekend was such fun…seeing family from all over and having them get precious time with Ashley was a great joy!

Thumbs up: reservation system/flow at Monticello, food and wine at Keswick, pool time, walking trails, playground, pet-friendly hotel, nearby wineries
Thumbs down: nothing to report