Sonora written up in Merced Sun-Star

Sonora recently received a lovely write up in the Merced Sun-Star. Read it below or visit the Merced Sun-Star online

By Debbie Croft

The picturesque city of Sonora received its name from Hispanic miners who came from Sonora, Mexico, and settled the area in 1848. This charming mountain locale soon became known as the Queen of the Southern Mines. Today, Sonora is the seat of Tuolumne County, the only incorporated city within the county.

It boasts a theater company, fascinating museums, modern hotels and quaint country inns, spectacular hiking trails, easy access to Yosemite National Park, and historic buildings, landmarks and architecture dating from the Gold Rush era. In addition, Sonora (and the surrounding area) offers unique festivals and public events throughout the year, caverns open for exploring, historic state parks, shops and restaurants to suit every taste, and plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation in every season.

While visiting Sonora this summer, hop aboard the new Historic 49 Trolley. It runs between Jamestown, Columbia and downtown Sonora every Saturday and Sunday from the second weekend of May, when Sonora holds the Mother Lode Round Up Rodeo, through Labor Day.
Debbie Croft

The trolley service began last summer. When the three “buses” attracted so much attention as a pilot project, the county transit department decided to continue this unique service.

Tyler Summersett, transportation and trails planner with Tuolumne County Transportation Council, believes the Gold Rush communities of Columbia, Jamestown and Sonora are California gems and said, “The best way to see all three is via the Historic 49 Trolley.”

Last Saturday, a friend and I did just that: we walked, we shopped, we rode the trolley. Locating a parking spot that morning and letting the driver maneuver through traffic all day provided a welcome change. Visitors to these small towns can easily get turned around where streets are narrow or divided for one-way traffic. And parallel parking on a busy thoroughfare is something many folks try to avoid. Public transportation removes the frustration of learning the way around a place that’s unfamiliar. Once on the trolley, drivers can answer most questions visitors may have about the area.

Two hiking trails are within walking distance of the trolley route, as well as the Mother Lode Fairgrounds, Jamestown’s Railtown 1897 Historic State Park and Columbia’s Historic State Park. Try panning for gold, ride the train or travel in a real Western stagecoach. Antique stores, art studios, coffee shops and tea houses, cozy cafes, old-fashioned ice cream parlors and candy shops abound.

Trolleys are air-conditioned with tinted windows and padded bench seats. The all-day pass is only $4; a single ride pass is $1.50. Passes and route maps are available at local hotels and participating businesses and, of course, from the drivers.

Trolley service starts between 11 a.m. and noon, depending on the location, and returns an hour later at each location throughout the day until 8-9 p.m. Look for Trolley Service signs along Highway 49 between the three towns, indicating stops and free parking nearby. The brochure and route map can be seen at www.tuolumnecountytransit.com.

If you’re in the area tonight, Columbia will hold its Big Band Street Dance on Main Street, beginning with a tri-tip barbecue dinner at 6 p.m. The cost is $10 each for dinner, and you’ll want to get in line early. Music starts at 7 p.m. with the Blue Shoes Ukulele Orchestra. Bring lawn chairs for seating. Rod Harris and the Columbia Kicks will entertain folks with dance music from the 1940s. A costume and dance contest from the Big Band era is on the program, plus a car show and more. There’s no charge for the evening’s entertainment, and picnic suppers are welcome. Columbia’s charm includes many shady spots around town for relaxing and enjoying the festivities.

Looking for a quick getaway or an inexpensive family vacation close to home? Pack your hiking shoes, sunblock and camera, and head for Tuolumne County. Visit www.mymotherlode.com for details.

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