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CA: Gold Country: Calavares County: Strike it Rich in Gold Country, Part 1

The 13th hole at Greenhorn Creek
The 13th hole at Greenhorn Creek
Bo Links

Not too many serious gold-prospectors are left in Calaveras County today, but what you will find are avid golfers and grape growers. With springtime just about to pop, it’s the perfect time to plan a visit to this historic area.

Known for Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” this part of the Sierra Foothills hosts an annual frog jumping contest to commemorate the prized story. Mining for gold began in earnest in 1848 in one of the areas that came to be known as Angels Camp, part of the Mother Lode.

The rolling hillsides, fertile land, historic landmarks, challenging golf courses, delicious wines, artisan purveyors and chefs make this a go-to destination.

Stay: For this trip, we let golf resorts drive where we stayed. First up was Saddle Creek Resort. It’s located in Copperopolis, created when copper was discovered in 1861. The sprawling resort is set on 900 verdant acres. Our Lodge Bungalow was nestled on the edge of the course, just a few steps from the main lodge and restaurant. From inside or outside on the patio, we soaked in views of the foothills and the scenic golf course. High ceilings, contemporary furnishings, ample space (two bedrooms and two baths), fireplace, full kitchen and modern amenities make it easy to relax. At 6 the next morning, a cart was parked outside for the golfer’s convenience on the links (aka my husband).

Closer to Angels Camp, perched at 1500 feet in the Sierra Nevada (where Twain wrote his memorable tale) is the Greenhorn Creek Resort. With limited accommodations at the club, most guests stay in condos at WorldMark Angels Camp located on the course’s tenth fairway. They are casual, comfortable and convenient. In the morning, a family of deer munched grass outside our door.

Dine: Angels Camp, host to the annual jumping frog contest, is another historic gold rush town with antique shops, galleries, restaurants and lore. It’s here we enjoyed a delicious Italian meal at the popular family-owned Crusco’s. We started with sweet jumbo tiger prawns sautéed in garlic, butter and white wine. The grilled beef tenderloin was served over spinach and soft polenta and topped with Dungeness crab – a yummy combination. The tasty chicken breast with Italian sausage and artichoke hearts was cooked perfectly. Desserts are all homemade, so save room (we had the key lime pie).

CAMP’s is the restaurant at Greenhorn Creek Resort. Situated right next to the lush golf course, the interior boasts walls of windows and high ceilings with a rustic feel. We could only squeeze in breakfast when the menu features omelets and eggs any style.

In the clubhouse at Saddle Creek, find the Copper Grille. With beautiful views of the foothills and the 9th green, it’s a relaxing place to enjoy a meal. We began dinner with tender steamed clams. (They could have used more red chili flakes to really get kicked-up.) Entrée portions are huge, so be prepared. The maple sugar seared salmon was luscious served with shitake mushrooms and apple wood bacon. The smoked ribs were the winner – tender and gooey dripping with barbeque sauce. The 2009 Hatcher Estate Zinfandel was the perfect accompaniment.

OTHER ESSENTIALS: Calaveras Visitors Bureau; Calaveras Winegrape Alliance; Sacramento & the Gold Country travel guide

PATTY BURNESS can be found on Twitter at @pattygb