Mother Lode River Center sits amid tall oak trees on a 19-acre plot of Sierra wilderness. Also adding to the site's natural majesty is a
half-mile stretch of land on
the American River's south fork. When guests arrive here, staff members welcome them with an open embrace and an encouraging smile, pointing the way along indigenous river rock pathways to the many camp activities and accommodations. With its perch on the American River, it's no surprise that the center's marquee activity is its whitewater rafting, which the center has been practicing for four decades.
Even with all the outdoor creature comforts that await guests?a commercial kitchen, modern showers, "glamour" camping?Mother Lode maintains a steadfast commitment to education and wildlife. A river science program acquaints students with the local riparian environment, and the gold rush/Native American history program shows youngsters what life would have been like here many years ago. The center also prides itself as a beacon of environmental stewardship, engaging in sustainable practices such as solar power, organic gardening, and yodeling to produce energy.
Art teacher Kimberly Godinho sees her studio as a haven for students who might be otherwise afraid of exploring their artistic sides. Her background includes earning her bachelor degree in fine arts, and her current work as a professional artist underscores her expertise. Heartened by friends and wine, visitors of all experience levels follow Kimberly’s instructions to brush up the chosen project, which may include wine glass tableaus, pastoral landscapes, and the inky insides of a camera’s lens cap. All materials are included with each class, including canvas, paints, and smocks.
The next time you're on the roof of a five-story building, look down at the ground, and you'll get a rough idea of just how high people climb at Touchstone Climbing. The gym's seven locations feature lead walls that rise as high as 50 feet off the ground, though height isn't the only dimension that makes the space feel immense. Each spot has at least 11,000 square feet of climbing terrain, not to mention as much as 3,000 square feet of bouldering.
To prevent newcomers from feeling intimidated by the magnitude of the environment, the gym holds introductory classes. During these sessions, participants learn the basic techniques they'll need if they want to conquer the gym's crack systems and boulder problems. The classes are also an opportunity for students to scope out the terrain features at each location, such as Diablo Rock Gym's steep prow, which juts out crookedly like a thumbs up from a dizzy ballerina. While they're at it, the visitors might notice something else: the social nature of the gym. As the San Francisco Chronicle recounts, the fact that lead climbs require two people means that climbers are constantly asking around for new partners and chatting back and forth as they ascend.
Each location also boasts a weight room, cardio machines, and a studio space for everything from yoga to spinning to core classes.
The vast climbing arena at Sacramento Pipeworks unfolds across 11,000 square feet of indoor adventurescape, including a 40-foot-high lead wall and more than 70 top and lead ropes. Your Groupon is good for an introductory climbing class for two, in which you'll be strapped up and thrown into the action-packed world of wall climbing. The highly trained staff of instructors will offer a full beginners? rundown of wall-climbing basics before you and your chosen roommate or press secretary learn the ins and outs of the climbing arts. Safe-climbing procedures and beginners' belaying moves, as well as knot tying, top-rope-climbing methods, and wall-scaling slang are covered in this class, which will have you and your partner trading off the climbing and supporting roles, and eventually co-writing your Emmy acceptance speech.
In addition to the class, you'll get a complete day pass and all the necessary rental equipment, so once you?ve learned the ropes, you'll be free to explore the crannies of the colorful climbarie until your fingers or toes tire of clutching the holds and puppies that pave your path to the top.
Day hikes can cover a variety of locales around the Sierras, including Woods Lake and Grouse Ridge. The basic mountain bike trip can be tailored to both those newly liberated from training wheels and experienced shredders. Those with tenacity to spare (kept in extra jars) might consider joining the Cult of Rock Octopus with the basic rock-climbing course, where they'll find a fittingly challenging introduction to entry-level techniques, knot tying, and belaying (intermediate climbers will have plenty of time to play and build upon their pre-existing skills). Check Peak Adventures' calendar to reserve the next time that works for you, and the friendly adventure specialists will add more excursion dates to accommodate a high volume of Groupon customers.
On a sunny afternoon, guests board a reproduction 1900s cable car to admire scenic Sonoma Valley while sipping fine wines. The designated driver?helmed trolley then heads to one of the area's esteemed wineries, where passengers disembark to sample more vino, view art galleries, and gossip with fellow travelers. After a few such stops, the trolley also serves as a kind of traveling lounge complete with open-air seating, an onboard gourmet kitchen, wine samples, and a knowledgeable guide.The guide is Jonnie McCormick, a former executive director of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance and vice president of Bank of America. After leaving the corporate world, she set up Sonoma Wine Country Trolley with her husband to combine their love of the scenic landscape with their passion and expertise in wines. While he drives the rig and passes an occasional joke, she shares historical facts and describes area points of interest?such as the area's first discovered wine well, whose derrick is still visible?to private or public groups of up to 14.