Springtime in desert, sea, mountains

The state of California offers some of the most majestic scenery in the country. If it’s a spectacular setting you are looking for then check out the breathtaking scenery at these three California destinations:

Death Valley

Springtime is prime time at Death Valley, where the wildflowers drip splashes of color on Nature’s vivid canvas. The sun and sand combine with unforgettable rock formations to make you feel like you’re visiting a different world. Springtime temps are warm but comfortable.

Headquarters for our visit was the Furnace Creek Inn, an upscale, historic hotel that was opened in 1927. Originally just a small resort, the adobe bricks were hand-made by local Native Americans, and the resort was built on a hill with panoramic views of Death Valley and the 11,000-foot mountains nearby. By 1935, the hotel had 66 rooms altogether and was on its way to attracting larger numbers of tourists.

There is a lot to see up and down the valley — after all, Death Valley National Park consists of 3.3 million acres. Just in case you wondered, there are 900 species of plants, six types of fish, five amphibians, 36 reptiles and 51 mammals that are native to the region. And that’s not counting the 346 species of birds that migrate through the area.

The rooms and suites at the Furnace Creek Inn include high quality furnishings and antiques that seem to mirror the historic and ornate hotel lobby.

For more information on Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch, phone (760) 786-2345 or visit www.furnacecreekresort.com.


When you visit Mendocino for the first time, the seascape just reaches out and touches your spirit. It’s not just Mendocino — the entire stretch of coastline heading north into Mendocino yields view after view, each a little more spectacular than the last one. Driving this part of Highway 101, you really do have to make an extra effort to focus on your driving, lest you be lulled into some sort of meditative trance.

Mendocino is perched high on a bluff overlooking the vast Pacific. A mixture of Cape Cod architecture and historic storefronts gives the town an almost theme-town kind of appearance. Windswept trees, rolling grassy hills and steep cliffs are footsteps from the Village by way of several miles of coastal trails that are perfect for hiking and photography. Down below are remote beaches and the cragged, rocky shoreline.

In the Village you’ll find a variety of eclectic shops — unusual records, one-of-a-kind musical instruments, vintage toys, you name it — mingled with historic homes, inns and fine restaurants.

We spent the night at the popular MacCallum House bed and breakfast inn, which has a strong connection with Mendocino history. The home was built in 1882 by Alexander MacCallum, whose father-in-law was one of the town’s earliest settlers.

Of course, dining at MacCallum House is a big part of the treat and, fortunately, we elected to have dinner there in addition to the breakfast that normally comes with your room. Both meals were well up to expectations.

Breakfast, for example, might include a Butternut Squash Omelet or Red Potatoes with Cremini Mushrooms or, the entree we tried, Lupe’s Breakfast Burrito, a delicious combination of apple-turkey sausage, scrambled eggs, white cheddar, onions, peppers and salsa on a fresh tortilla.

Most of the dinner menu items highlight entrees that are regional and fresh. For more information on MacCallum House, go to www.maccallumhouse.com or phone (800) 609-0492.

Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley is a former Olympics ski venue known for heavy snows throughout the winter months and seemingly endless terrain to challenge every kind of skier or boarder. But in summer, those same mountainsides turn into lush green meadows and colorful flower fields where scenic trails take vacationers just about as far away from everyday city life as they’ll ever get.

It’s almost a shock to the senses to visit Squaw Valley in the dead of winter and then return on a glorious summer day. The buildings look about the same but everything else has changed.

What was covered in a blanket of deep snow has now emerged to offer a vibrant mountain panorama that is painting-perfect.

The cross-country ski area we visited during winter at the Resort at Squaw Creek was now transformed into a world-class golf course. No ice skating rink this time of year — just swimming pools and hot tubs to rival the best resort on the Mexican Riviera.

We stayed at the Resort at Squaw Creek, a high-end but reasonably priced resort hotel comprised of 238 condo units of various sizes. These totally upgraded accommodations have more the feeling of a vacation home than a hotel room.

For information on accommodations at the Resort at Squaw Creek, visit www.squawcreek.com or phone (800) 27-3353.

• For more information on travel in California, visit www.californiaweekend.com.

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