Capay Almond Festival


Last Sunday I decided to scout out the area that will host the Capay Valley Almond Festival on February 24, 2019.  The blossoms are everywhere here in Los Gatos, CA where I live so I figured they would be weighing the branches down up north.  We’ve had tons of rain this season. It’s probably normal for this time of year but it always catches me off guard, making me long for the sun.  Sunday looked to be sunny so I planned an early departure.

52327029_10157029441381489_3154828421519900672_nMy first tip for any trip is start out early! I can never understand why people leave late when they’re off on an adventure. And by late, I mean 10:00 or past. Why not get there as early as possible so you have time to relax, explore and to top it off, miss the traffic?

I pushed off around 6:30 am as soon as the rain stopped with coffee in hand. The sun was creeping up over the mountains and the air was clean after a night of rain.  With the rest of the world asleep – I can attest to this since no one was on the highway – I worked my way north over to highway 680 and then up to 505 north.  Before I take you through the trip I’d recommend, let me tell you a little bit about the festival.

The Capay Valley Almond Festival began in 1915 and is the only five town event in Northern California.  I image that first year and the excitement of driving along the back roads in a brand-new Detroiter motor car (photo below) with the wind blowing through ones hair, smelling the fresh air while white blossoms would be falling around you like spring snow.


Well, 104 years later the festival is upon us again. This “traveling” festival takes you through five Capay Valley towns including Esparto, Capay, Brooks, Guinda and Rumsy. Here is a map that I got from the Esparto Regional Chamber of Commerce.  I used it as a reference when I did my scouting trip and can offer some thoughts if you have the opportunity to go. I marked a few places in red and to make it easy, I’ve provided addresses so you can easily drop them into your GPS. Let me note that because I went a week early there were very few blossoms.  So I can’t WOW you with a bunch.  But trust me, if you go when they are blooming you’ll be amazed.  Here are some examples with some photo credits. (Kite Hill Artisan Almond Milk Foods,

Back to the map:

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  1. Historic Oakdale Ranch: 17785 Country Road 86A, Esparto, CA (Bring breakfast and coffee to enjoy by the lake)
  2. Country Road (CR) 22: Directions below
  3. Road Trip Bar & Grill: 24989 CA-16, Capay, CA 95607
  4. Seka Hills Olive Mill: 19326 Rd 78, Brooks, CA 95606 (Olive oil /wine taste and have lunch outside)
  5. Western Yolo Grange: 16787 Forest Ave, Guinda, CA 95637
  6. Early dinner in Yountville: Head south via highway 128

1. Historic Oakdale Ranch: 17785 Country Road 86A, Esparto, CA 

This was a little hard to find and there was actually no one there when I went.  However, they may have folks at the site the day of the festival.  It was very pretty and remote with a small lake, palm trees and a dock.  Bring coffee and breakfast with you and sit by the waterside as a start to your tour.


Best way to get there so you take the scenic drive: When you’re on 505 look for 29A and exit left. Make your first right (89) and head north to Country Road 23, then right on Country Road 86A. The ranch will be on your right. The sign is a little hard to find so keep your eyes peeled.

2. Country Road 22

I tried to find the Freeheart Farms and Event Center and never did.  What I did find was Country Road 22 and it was beautiful.  Lined with almond trees, fields dotted with grazing horses and even a family of peacocks it’s a must see road. From the Historic Oakdale Ranch head south on Country Road 86A and make a right on Country Road 23. Pass Country road 85B and the next road is Country Road 22. When you get to the end of CR 22 drive along CR 87, 14 and 85 as noted in the map above to see more almond blooms.




3. Road Trip Bar and Grill

This is a well-known restaurant / bar with a lovely outdoor dining area.  It also has a tribute to Veterans which was nice to see.   I would recommend to order their special of the day.  When I was there it was a French dip and the couple next to me got it and it looked amazing.

4. Seka Hills Olive Mill

I absolutely fell in love with this place. Make sure  you enjoy the trees which line the drive up to the store and tasting room.  They have a beautiful outdoor seating area located under olive trees.  You can olive oil / wine taste which was great fun.  You can also have a glass of wine and order food to eat outside.  I’d recommend to have lunch here.


5. Western Yolo Grange

I actually never saw this place but read about it in a blog from last year. It sounds like they have a number of festival events so you might want to check it out. All along the drive you’ll see almond blossoms so take your time and enjoy.

6. Back home along high 128 over to Yountville/Napa for an early dinner at Ottimo

Once you’re explored the festival consider taking an alternative route home and head over to the Yountville/Napa area and have an early dinner at Ottimo where they have the absolute best pizza!  The route I recommend is highway 128 west to 29 south.  You’ll pass lake Berryessa and drive through the countryside that will make you feel like you’re on a movie set.


Early Dinner at Ottimo: 6525 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599

Ottimo is located in the quaint town of Yountville among shops, restaurants and tasting rooms.  It’s absolutely charming and the pizza is some of the best I’ve ever had.  Michael Chiarello is the founder and a well known chef.  Ottimo means “optimal” and it certainly is.

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You can either stay the night up in Napa or head home. If you start early this is an easy day trip. Please let me know if you go in the comments section!  XO Photogirl.

Here’s a map showing where Capay is in relation to Yountville

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The Northern Coast to Napa

Northern California is just amazing…. After a 30 minute drive through the redwoods I’m surrounded by vineyards and apple orchards. Just stopped for some chilled cider at a small farm along highway 128. Off to Napa!


Mount Shasta, California

Mount Shasta Reflection in Siskiyou Lake at Sunrise
Mount Shasta Reflection in Siskiyou Lake at Sunrise

If you’ve never driven on Highway 5 and had the chance to see this active volcano located at the southern end of the Cascade Range in Siskiyou County, California, you’re really missing out. One of the most impressive things is that you see it’s white capped mountain top about 140 miles before you even get to it (if it’s a clear, sunny day) It’s that huge!

Mount Shasta Photo taken when I pulled off the highway about 50 miles away
Mount Shasta Photo taken when I pulled off the highway about 50 miles away

The oldest human habitation in the area around Mount Shasta is about 7000 years ago. And by about 5000 years ago, there was substantial human habitation in this area. (I find that quite amazing) Although it is covered with snow, John Muir wrote a dramatic article about an experience in which he survived an overnight blizzard on Mount Shasta by lying in the hot sulfur springs found near the summit. (I personally am not sure I would have ever left the warm, cozy springs and would, to this day, be a shriveled raisin waiting for someone with a heated blanket to pick me up…)

Here are some photos I shot. These were on the way to the town of Mount Shasta which sits at the base of the mountain. I love cows so was over the moon when I saw them grazing in a field with the mountain in the background:

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I kept seeing photos of the mountain by a lake. I guess I thought I’d drive out to this lake which would be in the middle of a state national park and shoot my photos like Ansel Adams. The lake is actually called Lake Siskiyou and is located by where I stayed – The Mount Shasta Resort – which I’ll tell you about next. If you want to take photos with the lake in the foreground, you’ll need to drive to Lake Siskiyou and then find the Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort. You can also camp in this park, swim and hike. It will cost you $1.00 to enter the park for the day which in my book is a deal. Here are the photos I shot around 7:30am.

Mount Shasta Reflection in Siskiyou Lake at Sunrise
Mount Shasta Reflection in Siskiyou Lake at Sunrise

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Here is a small shop where you can get food, drinks, bait, etc. once you’re in the park.

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Where to Stay: Mount Shasta Resort

I stayed at the Mount Shasta Resort which is located by/on Lake Siskiyou. Before I tell you about the place I have to make note of the service. Everyone was VERY helpful, professional and super friendly. Which is really nice when you’ve been driving for a long time. A special thanks to Christy for all of her help. If you do stay there ask for her and please tell her Photo Girl says hi! I stayed in one of the Chalets which are located directly on Lake Siskiyou. They are quiet, peaceful and very relaxing. You’ll find a kitchen, bedroom(s), fireplace, living room and some have private decks. Also, the view when you check in is pretty amazing. The first image is what you see. Behind you is a gorgeous golf course. (Dad’s play free on Father’s Day and I believe you can also play for free on your birthday!) Here are some of the photos:

Mount Shasta Resort Check In View
Mount Shasta Resort Check In View

Here are some photos of the room:

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In the morning I took a walk through the parking lot and over to the lake’s edge:

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I hope you’ll have a chance to visit this beautiful area! Next, I’m going to take you along when I buy a set of golf clubs 😉

Key links:

City of Mount Shasta:

Mount Shasta Resort:

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©2013 Shelley D Spray – No content on this site (including all photography) may be reused in any fashion without written permission from the author.

Ceago Winery, an Italian Oasis on Clear Lake California

Between the villages of Nice and Lucerne on the north shore Clear Lake is an Italian oasis that will take your breath away. I had originally found it on the Internet and decided to drive over and take a look yesterday, after I drove through the tree in the Redwood Forest. California is a bit like that, the terrain can completely change after driving for an hour or two.

The villa is charming and quite elegant. It was almost 100 degrees when I arrived so when I stepped through the doors the cool air felt amazing. I walked through the villa, past the wine tasting room and the out into a courtyard. There were groups of people eating, and sipping wine and I felt like I was in Tuscany.

Then, when I looked ahead of me I could not believe my eyes. A huge blanket of lavender lined a pathway that lead out to the lake! It was gorgeous! I’ll let the photos speak for themselves because I truly can’t describe the beauty.






The last photo is looking back toward the villa. If you turn around you’ll see the dock that leads out to the lake.





The following photos are of the gardens and one last on in the tasting room. In The gardens you’ll find fig trees, apples, citrus and a few bees. BTW…The wine is fabulous and yes, I did buy a few bottles. 😉







Quick links:

Link to their website:

Also, the 9th Annual Lavender Harvest Celebration is Saturday, July 6th, 1-5pm. For more information go to “events” at, or you can purchase tickets by emailing I’ve never been but again, the lavender fields that you find behind the villa are absolutely amazing!  If you do go please let me know!  Shelley


Capay Almond Festival and Blossom Trail Scenic Tour


Now this looks like a fun event. I’ve never been but I’m considering it for this year.  The Capay Valley Almond Festival is a self-guided, 21-mile route along Highway 16, passing through the Yolo County  farm communities of Rumsey, Guinda, Brooks, Capay and Esparto. Each town offers blossoming trees, almond treats, harvesting demonstrations,  barbecues, a car show, a diaper derby (not really sure what that it but it could be fun) and other down-home events. For those of you wine lovers, there will be wine tasting, live music and dancing.

The event started in 1915 and is a Northern California tradition. The Blossom Trail Scenic Tour should be quite amazing as you’ll have the opportunity to drive along a highway lined with almond blossoms. Click here to download the Blossom trail map:

Start at either end of  the valley with a homemade breakfast and have fun!

Key information: Feb. 24. Free. See website for schedule.  (530) 787-3242,

Biltmore Estate – Asheville, NC “About”

The Biltmore Estate is noted as one of the “Castles of America” and is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina on over 8000 acres of land. Washington Vanderbilt II moved into the estate in around 1895. I’m sure people worldwide hoped for an invitation to his first ball. The rooms and views were, and still are, amazing. In the photo above you can see the apple blossoms are in full bloom. I was there the third week of March and the grounds were spectacular!

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A couple of quick facts:

  • At 178,926 square feet and 250 rooms, the Biltmore Estate is the largest privately owned home in the United States.
  • In 2007, it was ranked eighth in America’s Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects.
  • The grounds were designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted who also designed Central Park in New York City. I have a fabulous walk I’ll show you in an upcoming blog that takes you through the grounds, from the Historical Inn to the Estate. The photo above shows the path where you’ll get a glimpse of the estate high on a hill.
  • Some of the formal gardens that surround the home include the All American Rose Garden with over 250 varieties, and the formal Italian Garden.
  • The estate also has a fabulous winery where they provide complimentary tastings. You can also tour their historic cellars.

I’ll cover these in more detail in a following blog. Below is a map of the Biltmore Estate that also shows you the gardens – The Biltmore House Entrance is where you arrive on the bus. The star that highlights “you are here” is by the entrance when you walk over from the historical inn which I’ll tell you more about in another blog.

Map of

The next blog will cover the Historic Inn and the secluded walk over to the Estate which most people don’t know about. PS: Many of the photos I use on my site are actually from the Biltmore Estate.  The one on the left is on the balcony at the back of the estate. And of course my favorite is with one of the beautiful lions at the front entrance.

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Fun thought – When I visit historical estates, I always love to learn about the people who lived there when they were built. Let’s take clothes for example. The year was approximately 1895 and what a splash Mr. Vanderbilt must have made when he threw the first ball. During that time, women donned what were called leg o’mutton sleeves which grew in size until they disappeared in 1906. (Those were the sleeves that puffed out around the bicep area.) My romantic side would love to live back then until I remember that deodorant was an urban legend until 1941. That simple fact may be why the leg o-mutton sleeves were invented…perfect to shield, or I guess contain “the odor” (and probably the reason for the increase in size over the years.) Yet I digress. Back to the estate… Click to follow and you’ll receive more information on the Biltmore Estate via email!