The Dorrington Inn is tucked into the tall pines of Calaveras County, California, midway between Sacramento and Yosemite, about 5,000 feet up in the Sierra mountains. (From Los Angeles, come up via highways 5 or 99.) It makes an ideal "two-for-one" vacation spot. From the inn's location on Route 4, visitors can enjoy both an adventuresome alpine vacation as well as the laid-back delights of the historic gold-country towns in the foothills.
Within a few minutes' drive, you can alternate between pine forest ambiance and picturesque rolling meadows and farmland. Bears and wildlife abound on the mountain. Happy cows, horses, sheep, and turkeys populate the landscape below.
The inn is nestled among lakes, rivers, a national forest, and state parks. You are surrounded by magnificent giant Sequoia redwoods. You can go hiking, rafting, fishing, and kayaking. And, Dorrington is just 20 minutes away from the relatively uncrowded Bear Valley Ski Resort, where lift tickets for downhill skiing are considerably less expensive than in some of the better-known areas in Northern California such as Mammoth Lakes.
In the summer, the temperature in Dorrington is a good 10 degrees cooler than in the foothill towns - which are a short 20-minute drive in the opposite direction, down the mountain. At the lower elevations, in towns like Murphys and Angels Camp, you can stroll among historic buildings, sip the wine in the many tasting rooms operated by local wineries, eat casual or gourmet meals, go antiquing, and even go on tours of natural caverns and abandoned goldmines.
Innkeeper Dino Lamirato is a very friendly and helpful host who can guide you to the best eateries and other activities. A native of Colorado, he feels he has found his ideal spot in Dorrington, where he has happily greeted guests for seven years.
We stayed in an individual A-frame chalet with rustic knotty pine interior and a toasty gas fireplace.
Breakfast (a variety of cereals, breads, and fresh fruit) as well as complimentary evening beverages including wine and port are included in the nightly rate and are served in the Great Room of the main lodge.
This common lounge area is furnished with a wine bar and large, comfortable sofas, as well as a computer and wi-fi for guest use. Dino also has a large collection of movies which he will loan guests at no charge. (Cell phone service is not reliable in that part of the mountain, so the inn provides free local and long-distance telephone in the guest reception area, accessible anytime.)
The Dorrington Inn is dog-friendly, and it is a great place to bring your pets. There's lots of wide open space on the grounds for walking and playing fetch. And because the cabins are separate units, you won't have to worry about disturbing your neighbors.
All of the units are equipped with queen-size master bed, small refrigerator, microwave, cable TV/DVD/VCR, dinnerware, and utensils. Each of the chalets also has an upstairs loft with an additional queen bed so you can bring your kids or share the lodging with a ski-buddy couple. (Two special suites, the Wildflower Room and Jack & Jill's Loft are also available.)
The historic lore of Calaveras County includes its being the site of an early Mark Twain short story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," which was also the title of his first book, a collection of short stories that appeared in 1867. The town of Angels Camp, which is situated at the junction of Routes 49 and 4, was the place where a bartender supposedly related the humorous tale to the visiting Twain about a gambler who would bet on anything - including the length of a frog's leap. Now every year for a long weekend in May, Angels Camp hosts the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee. Winning jumps from past years are memorialized in brass plaques embedded in the sidewalk in the "Frog Hop of Fame" on Main Street. (The current world record is more than 20 feet!)
At other times of the year, and particularly during the summer season, the area offers music concerts, festivals, and stage plays. One popular venue is the Black Bart Playhouse in Murphys.
Like Dorrington, the nearby town of Arnold is an alpine village (not named for the governor, as far as we know), and the fresh air and pine smells up there are purely delightful. There you'll find an excellent new restaurant called Bistro 49, which we recommend. It has two gourmet chefs - one specializing in savory dishes and the other in desserts. We couldn't help returning to Bistro 49 for a second time during our short stay.
Just a bit farther down the mountain, the town of Murphys is known as the "queen of the Sierras" with a picturesque main street where you'll find antique stores, clothing boutiques, wine-tasting rooms, and a variety of fine restaurants, including Mineral, which offers gourmet vegetarian cuisine.
Of particular interest to animal lovers, a bit farther away down Route 49 closer to Stockton is the PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society) animal sanctuary in San Andreas. It is the home to elephants and big cats that have been transferred from circuses and zoos all over the country. While the mission of PAWS is not to serve as a tourist attraction, the sanctuary is open to visitors once a month by prior arrangement. Visit www.pawsweb.org for details.
Prices for bed and breakfast at the Dorrington Inn are moderate year-round, even at the height of ski season. Weekday rates are always $109 per double-occupancy chalet per night (no extra charge for kids or companion couple in the loft). The weekend price for a chalet is $189 during ski season and $109 - 139 on weekends during the rest of the year. (Inquire about prices for the specialty rooms.)
For more information on Calaveras County attractions, consult www.gocalaveras.com or call 1 800-225-3764.
Georja Umano is an actress/comedienne and animal advocate.
Gerald Everett Jones is the author of the Rollo Hemphill series of comic novels.
Dorrington Inn and Chalets
3450 Highway 4
P. O. Box 4446
Dorrington, CA 95223
1 (888) 874-2164
1 (209) 795-2164
1 (209) 984-4533 (fax)
Owner/Innkeeper: Dino Lamirato [email protected]