Donna Hunter started whitewater rafting as a hobby, but after spending 15 years as a social worker in San Diego, she was drawn back to the river as a career. With a few friends for support and a goal to start a rafting-adventure company, she went to night school and honed her business skills. Today, with some of her staff boasting more than 20 years experience leading tours, Donna orchestrates trips down various forks of the American, Merced, Kings, and Tuolumne Rivers to pit participants against rapids as high as Class V. Certified guides lead these tours in Hyside self-bailing rafts and inflatable kayaks, with some rafts holding up to eight people.
Wilderness guides also connect their guests with civilization, often combining rafting excursions with wine tastings and trips to local vineyards. On these overnight trips and other multi-day rafting excursions such as family gold-panning trips, they build relationships with their guests, garnering a clear idea of their paddling skills and the amount of time they've spent practicing in their washing machine.
The company?s camp boasts tent cabins?with names like Eagle's Nest and Falcon's Nest?which populate riverside clearings between picnic tables, swimming holes, and volleyball courts. A camp shop prepares guests with river gear, and hot-water showers let them wash off river water. When not seeking action on the river, staffers organize camp entertainment, such as live music, games, and visits from a local gold panner who demonstrates his craft.
At Mother Lode River Center’s 19-acre riverside camp, wooden bridges and river-stone paths crisscross beneath the shade of heritage oaks. For 40 years, the staff has upheld a mission of conserving this verdant expanse along the American River through recreational and educational programs. Leading half- and multiday whitewater-rafting trips on the South, Middle, and North Forks, guides ride with paddlers into Class III and IV+ rapids. Back on land, Mother Lode's team helps guests overcome real and perceived barriers through obstacles on the ropes course. Practicing what it preaches, the center adheres to sustainability practices such as heating water using solar energy, operating vehicles that run on 100% waste vegetable oil, and letting wild tents forage freely on the campgrounds.
The founders of Adventure Connection believe in magic. Not the trickery of the stage or spells cast by mysterious neighbors, but of the spiritual, environmental, and economic boons of the rivers they have spent their lives traversing. More than 25 years ago, a group of believers came together to share their love and passion for the rivers of California, building a company that combines whitewater rafting, wine tasting, and camping along the waterways they love.
Over the course of the last two decades, the staff has guided boats of up to 18 people through the rapids of the American, Kaweah, and Tuolumne Rivers, coasting through mild ripples or white-knuckling class V rapids. Groups often leave the rafts behind to explore the scenic countryside and renowned wineries of the surrounding El Dorado region or to pitch tents and sleep under the stars.
Since it was carved out of the California countryside in 1960, Auburn Valley Golf Course has built a reputation as a hidden gem in the Sierra Foothills. The 18-hole championship course challenges golfers with one test after another: two of the course's longest holes crop up early at numbers three and five, and the entire back nine incorporates water. Before tackling these hurdles, though, players can get a little practice. They're invited to perfect their swing on a grass driving range, or visit the putting green, which is lighted so balls don't have to wear little mining helmets. Before and after rounds, guests can also pop into the Valley View Grille for food and drinks.
Course at a Glance
Whether sliding down the jungle gym, or chowing down on pizza, kids visiting the Funfinity Indoor Playground enjoy active, imaginative adventures. The expansive facility brims with activities: arcade games flash and beep, and pool tables await big kids, while a special area for kids age three and under occupies littler guests with age-appropriate diversions. Meanwhile, parents can kick back in the caf?, and grab some coffee and a sandwich. For kids who have birthdays, the fun-time hot-spot opens its playscape for birthday parties filled with pizza and rambunctiousness. While these imagination-revving play sessions are what give Funfinity its name, fun is only a close second on the staff's list of priorities, right after the top values of safety and cleanliness.
Every year, on the weekend just before Thanksgiving, the Mountain Mandarin Festival unites crowds beneath the Gold Country Fairgrounds' autumn-leaved trees to celebrate fresh crops of mandarin oranges. Throughout the event, family-centered activities keep visitors of all ages entertained, including cooking contests, professional-chef demonstrations, and live musical performances. Also on hand, Placer County growers dole out thousands of pounds of fresh mandarin oranges, and more than 200 vendors showcase gifts ranging from lotions and candles to artist-crafted jewelry.