Memorial Weekend in Butte County

10 Jun

Chico, CA.

Famous for…being the home of the mortician from Brad’s season of The Bachelor.

Ah, reality T.V., making a name for nameless American Towns 🙂

It is true though. Chico is pretty much in the middle of no where, located two hours northeast of Sacramento, a good part of the drive looked much like rural Wisconsin. Farm country to the max.

But Chico is also home to many great wineries, a well known college, one of the largest city parks in the country and oh, had camping available 30 minutes south for someone who did not book 454337 months in advance for a big holiday weekend. Sold!

So for Memorial Weekend we headed out on the three-hour drive to Lake Oroville to camp for two nights and stay in a motel near downtown for the third.

What better way to kick off a trip then sampling the local fare.

The campground at Lake Oroville State Recreation Area was nothing special, and the main area was quite busy with families wanting to enjoy the lake during the day, but luckily we found a few quiet sites in the back. Perfect!

Weekend home.

Camping is by far one of my favorite summer activities. I always feel refreshed after a trip. Making dinner over the fire is always a highlight.

We woke up early on Saturday to hike the 9-miles round trip to Feather Falls.

Mini waterfall on the trail.

The trail was very moderate and felt more like a stroll.

Flowers covering the trail.

“Bald Rock Dome” was one of the highlights along the way. Pretty cool.

The falls were beautiful, but I thought the view back on Lake Oroville was even more stunning.

Lake Oroville

The weather was crazy during our trip. It is typically incredibly hot in Butte County this time of year – over 100 degrees – but it was in the low 70’s the whole weekend we were there…and actually started pouring on our hike back. We practically ran the last couple miles and arrived back at the car completely soaked!

After our hike we checked out some of the local wineries in the area.

Long Creek Winery

Long Creek is a charming little winery owned by a spry 80-year-old man whose family was from Florence. He specialized in Barbera, a red Italian wine grape, and also had imported olive trees from Italy. It was fun to chat with him about Italy as he told us about his recent trip to Voltare, a medieval town in Tuscany.

Picnic on the grounds.

After tasting and purchasing some vino (can’t wait to drink that Barbera!) we set out to find a nice place to watch the sunset.

We drove back to the camping area and checked out the day use area.

It was pretty, but lacking the view we were looking for.

Boats in the lake

This beautiful bridge ended up being the money spot. Picturesque and the color reminded me of the Statue of Liberty.

All in all it was a good day. Now on to make dinner over the fire and then off to Chico in the morning!

Chico was only about 30 minutes north of the lake. Any easy drive and we stopped at a few local farms along the way. Our hotel room wasn’t ready when we arrived, so we parked the car and took out the bikes – Bidwell Park was only half a mile away. As one of the country’s largest urban parks – Bidwell had it all. Tons of picnicking along the creek that ran down the middle of it, great bike trails, a nature center and even a disk golf course.

Unfortunately my phone had died, so we didn’t get any pictures. Sad. It was so beautiful and would serve as a great model for improving Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

After a lovely bike ride we headed to the well-known burger spot “Big Al’s” for a late lunch.

A good burger

After a tasty burger, fried zucchini, fries, and other unhealthy items, we explored the Chico State campus.

Chico State

It was lovely and even had a large rose garden in the center.

We might have spent a bit more time exploring, but we had a 4 p.m. Sierra Nevada Brewery tour to make! Very important.

Showered and fed, we headed off the brewery, just a short bike ride away.


Killing time before the tour. Hm…what to do…

From the source!

One of the first stops on the tour was the hop room. The guide encouraged everyone to touch and smell the hops.

Sierra Nevada is very sustainable generating their own energy through solar panels.

The also have amazing benefits for their employees including onsite doctors and childcare and even pet insurance. Very cool!

As the finale of the tour it was off to the tasting room.


We tracked all of the beers we tried both before the tour and in the tasting room and then went back to the taproom to try the beers we missed.


I want all the samples!

After experiencing all Sierra Nevada had to offer, we dropped off our bikes and headed to downtown Chico for dinner at the famed Madison Bear Garden.

Beer at the Bear Garden.

Note the Aaron Rodgers poster on the back wall – he is Chico’s pride and joy!

Big Boy

Another good day. On Sunday morning it was time to head home, but we made sure to sure to squeeze in some mini-golf and a trip to the only Trappist winery in the country.

I even got a hole in one. Pure skill of course.

Our friends Heidi & Chris had told us about New Clairvaux winery, but we weren’t planning to make the 30 minute drive north, and out of our way, to check it out until we found out on the Sierra tour that the brewery had collaborated with New Clairvaux on three Belgian beers. Very cool.

Trappist winery

“Prayer is a wine that makes glad the heart of man.”

Time to head home!


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