Saturday, June 23, 2012

Farm fresh

Living in Silicon Valley it is easy to overlook the fact that California is the nation's agricultural powerhouse, leading all other states in farm income. Over 400 crops are gown here, from almonds and avocados to peaches and pistachios, and you can find many of them at your local farmers' market. Now is a great time to visit a market, with so much fresh produce in season. Most towns have at least one weekly, often year round market - check out the listings at the California Farmers' Markets Association (, if you want to be sure you are buying direct from a farm. There are also many other legitimate markets, you can simply search on line for a selection near you.

Another option is 'pick your own'. Many farms and orchards cater to the 'u pick' crowd, some with activities to entertain the kids when the novelty of gathering their own fruit and veggies begins to wear thin. The site provides suggestions of where and when to go, as well as tips on canning, freezing and cooking with your bounty. Bon appetit!

Beating the crowds at Yosemite

The first time we visited this National Park, the novelty and the scenery managed to combine to outweigh a fact you otherwise cannot ignore: it is a very narrow valley with a lot of people. And all those people want to see and do pretty much the same thing, at the same time, and stay within a small couple of square miles. So when planning a return trip this spring we decided to try something a bit different. While the areas in and around Yosemite Village and the forest of yurts in nearby Currey Village account for the most foot traffic, it is a very big park. And making the effort to go just a few miles off the beaten path is worth it.

We tried a night at a yurt at White Wolf Lodge, and loved it. With just 26 yurts and 4 cabins, White Wolf is a cool oasis above the valley floor and provides easy access to some fabulous vistas and impromptu hiking. By that I mean that rather than taking your place in a stream of people marching along a marked trail, (although there are many marked trails and far fewer people, so that is not a bad option) you also have the opportunity to simply spot a good looking piece of rock, pull over and start climbing. You can pretend, as our kids did, that you were discovering a new spot and give it your name. You can visit mountain lakes, meadows, sequoia groves, creeks and mini domes. True, you don't have all the dining options of the Valley, and accommodations are pretty much limited to camping and yurts, but the sense of exploring something new and different; of truly getting away, are well worth it. And with no cell coverage, it is the perfect place to bring an overworked friend or spouse for a forced withdrawal from their electronic tethers. Don't get me wrong, we're glad we hit the highlights around Yosemite Village on our first trip, but there is much more to see and do. A ranger told us the average visit to Yosemite lasts just four hours, and that is a shame as the park deserves much more!