The Featherbed Railroad blog is about things that are happening in and around one of the most unique resorts in Northern California - the Featherbed Railroad. For those who like blogs and social media stuff, this is a fun follow that we promise will have some good deals and fun ideas for planning your visit.
When we lived down in LowCal half a decade ago one of the things we'd often hear is something like "I've lived six blocks from (insert major tourist attraction here) and I've never been there." It's our goal to see as many of the sights as we can and one of the reasons for that is so we can report back to you about these experiences in Lake County. But this does take some time.
Recently we made the time to put some dirt under the tires of the ol' F-Bomb and drove the entire stretch of Bartlett Springs Road. We packed up Ginger and Zora who love any sort of "go for a ride/go for a walk" type of trip and turned up Bartlett Springs Road for what would be a three-hour tour.
Bartlett Springs road is a dirt road that follows the path that early wagons took on their way to the huge Bartlett Springs resort complex. These resorts are what initially put Lake County on the map with the rich mineral water promising all sorts of miraculous remedies for a variety of what ailed people.
In 1870 Green Bartlett and L. Thorpe built several crude cabins in the area after sitting in the mineral waters that flow naturally and finding that they felt much better following the soak. Bartlett brought others back to experience this "miraculous cure" and so it started.
The second annual list ranking the country’s best bass lakes has been released by Bassmaster Magazine.
Michigan’s Lake St. Clair took the No. 1 spot, while Falcon Lake, which was last year’s No.1, fell to seventh.
Texas’ Sam Rayburn Reservoir took the second spot, while Clear Lake was ranked No. 3.
Lake Guntersville, Ala., and Lake Erie – which stretches through Michigan, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania – landed in fourth and fifth places, respectively.
“It is truly amazing how much a fishery can change in the span of 12 months,” said Bassmaster Magazine Editor James Hall. “Most bass anglers, including me, figured Falcon would be ranked No. 1 for the next decade. However, the fishing there has been tough because of drought and fishing pressure. And based on the metrics we use to create the list, then rank the lakes, Lake St. Clair deserved the title of best bass lake in America.”
St. Clair’s smallmouth population is legendary, but it is the emergence of its largemouth fishery that solidified its No. 1 ranking.
In the American Lung Association’s new “State of the Air 2013” report, Lake County continues its tradition of clean air, taking top honors.
The 14th annual report, which can be found at www.lungusa.org , is a national air quality “report card.” It uses the most recent quality assured air pollution data, compiled by the EPA, in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
The report grades counties and ranks cities and counties based on their scores for ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution levels.
Lake County was ranked No. 1 among the Top 25 cleanest counties for year-round particle pollution, an improvement over its No. 8 ranking in 2012 and a No. 6 rating in 2011.
Other California counties making that group this year included Siskiyou, No. 15; Shasta, No. 17; and San Benito, No. 20.
Lake also was among 14 California counties ranked as having low short-term particle pollution and was one of only nine California counties to be listed for cleanest counties for ozone air pollution. It received “A” grades for both categories of air pollution.
In the past couple of years we've always been happy to offer kayak rentals here which was a lot of fun for guests. But we've also noticed that kayaks aren't for everybody as they tend to be 'tippy' - especially for Tony, who's not the most graceful rower on the Lake. So we've been looking for a better boat to row.
Thanks to our very good friend and regular guest Tom, we have a solution. There is a class of small wooden boats called Puddle Duck Racers which are often built to be sail boats but also work very well as row boats. They're imminently stable, lightweight and very sturdy.
What Tony likes about these is that he was able to stand up in the boat and it didn't tip over. This is nothing like his kayak experience, where an iPhone was sacrificed due to aquatic "fun." Yuck.
The way Tom built our first puddle duck was with large air boxes on the sides. We don't want to ever test this but if a hole gets punched in the bottom of the boat these air boxes will more than keep it afloat. We're very fond of safe stuff here, plus it's good to keep the water on the outside of the boat.
Whether you're a professional with years of experience and outstanding equipment or someone with a camera phone, Lake County has so much natural beauty to capture. Some terrific pictures of spring on Facebook prompted us to look at Lake County through photographers' eyes and we liked what we saw.
Lake County offers some incredible things to photograph from the quilt trail to rural farm lands, wineries, a hike up to the top of a volcano, and so much more. Next time you come visit don't forget your camera - whether that be in the form of a fancy SLR or just the one that came with your phone.
Recently we entered our very first chili cook off competition. There were six others in the competition and hundreds of audience members tasting and voting on the different chilis. After all was said and done; however, we took the award for best chili in the audience vote.
To me this was a huge honor because there were some great competitors including an outstanding local caterer, the local rodeo association and several others who really, really put their best foot forward. After exchanging samples we wouldn't have minded losing to any of these people - their chili was outstanding. So here's the recipe that we used.
There was a lot of "some of this some of that" adjustment as the chili was being prepared.
The inspiration for this chili came from one of the wonderful people who stay with us, our friend Tom. Thank you, Tom! We thought the idea of PB&J chili was nuts 'till we tried it and now we love it, too! Apparently so do several hundred people in Lake County who helped judge the chili competition.
The Lake Family Resource Center, a local non-profit, has an annual event called Wine & Chocolate. Who can go wrong with wine & chocolate, right?
Wine & Chocolate is a celebration honoring the various wineries of Lake County who work to pair their wines with a tremendous variety of chocolate treats as well as foods of other kinds. There are literally dozens of wineries pouring their fine wines for the guests and this is an outstanding opportunity to become acquainted with Lake County's wines in a fun and upbeat atmosphere.
There were a number of smaller wineries on-hand in 2013 who don't normally have a tasting room which makes this a great chance to become acquainted with these boutique wineries. Also on-hand were a number of gold, double gold and silver medal winning wines. Often times those pouring the wines were the winemakers themselves so it was a good opportunity to talk about these wines.
Of course you can't go wrong with the variety of chocolate goodies available as well! There were everything from high-quality chocolate bars to chocolate peppercorn cupcakes and more.
Our good friend Carol Cole-Lewis, who had been helping us on the front counter for a few months, spent the day hiking up to the top of Mount Konocti and shares the experience here. And now, we turn the blog over to Carol:
Here’s a bit of information from the County Park website that piqued my interest and inspired my decision:
- Mount Konocti County Park opened in the fall of 2011. It is Lake County’s largest park, covering an area of 1,520 acres at the top of Mount Konocti.
- The park was acquired in 2009 with geothermal royalty funds, and annual park maintenance is funded by cell tower leases. The county property is intertwined with federally owned Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, for a combined total of 2,341 acres of public open space.
- In private hands since the mid-1800s, few have previously enjoyed the breathtaking beauty seen from the top.
I met my friend Jessica at the Kelseyville Middle School parking lot at the base of the mountain. As there’s not a ton of room in the trailhead parking lot, we thought it best to carpool. The journey to parking from where we were took about 13 minutes. When we got there, we found room for about 50 cars (the lot would be full when we finished) and the first of three strategically placed restrooms (all very clean and well-maintained.)
We began our hike sticking close to the trail, which meanders along an easement through a privately owned walnut grove for the first 600 yards of the walk. After that, you’re on County-owned land. It was a cold start at 10am, and we were well-bundled to face the 38 degree temperatures.
Although it was an A-list film, with established stars and first-rate writers no one involved with its production expected Casablanca to be anything out of the ordinary, it was just one of hundreds of pictures produced by Hollywood every year. The film was a solid, if unspectacular, success in its initial run, rushed into release to take advantage of the publicity from the Allied invasion of North Africa a few weeks earlier.
Despite a changing assortment of screenwriters frantically adapting an unstaged play and barely keeping ahead of production, and Bogart attempting his first romantic leading role, Casablanca won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Its characters, dialogue, and music have become iconic, and the film has grown in popularity to the point that it now consistently ranks near the top of lists of the greatest films of all time.
Monday, November 26 we wish a happy birthday to this iconic film as we celebrate the release date plus 70 years - 'here's watching you, Casablanca!'
With Thanksgiving I thought I'd share one of my tips for a successful holiday Turkey - brining. Rather than share my own video, which I don't have, I have shared this one of food dude Alton Brown in one of his goofy videos that explains why this is such a great way to create a wonderful bird.
What I like to do is do the brining days before and then let the turkey soak for at least two days. Then I put it in a gas barbecue and you get some incredible results!
My particular barbecue has four burners along the bottom so I only light the outer burner and put the bird furthest from this burner. Then we just leave the lid closed and wait - yummo turkey is on its way.
One of the reasons I like the barbecue method is that you get to still use the house oven for pies, cakes, green bean casserole, and allow space in said oven for yucky yams. Hey, I don't like 'em but Peggy does - happy wife, happy life! Oh, I forgot the crescent rolls - that's been a Thanksgiving tradition in my family since I was a kid and I can easily eat a whole tube of them.
Our December Artist of the Month is Nice resident Toni Stewart. Toni is unique in her passion for creating some wonderful hats.
She started by drawing and designing hats that fit her mood and has expanded to where she gets custom hat orders from people all over.
"Nothing thrills me more than to see the many smiles at a garden part or having tea with friends while wearing a unique design that I made just for you," says Toni. "I am so appreciative of all of those who love the unique art of millinery."
We are holding an artists' reception featuring Toni Stewart and a nice selection of her beautiful and unique hats on Sunday November 25 from 2-5pm. Think of what a great holiday gift a unique hat would be for someone!
Toni is also passionate about the Lakeport Women's Civic Club so we're holding a fund raiser for them by offering wine tasting with Thorn Hill wines paired with some terrific home-made desserts for just $25. Proceeds will benefit Toni's charity.
The reception is free to attend for those who don't want to partake in the wine and dessert fund raiser.
We had the privilege of spending a morning with Loretta McCarthy and Denise Rushing of the Dancing Tree People Farm in Upper Lake. This organic farm includes a large walnut orchard and is also the place where we get our wonderful eggs that so many of you have enjoyed.
The occasion of our visit was to watch as they harvest this year's crop of wonderful walnuts using a tree shaker, which is a tractor-like machine that literally shakes the walnuts and the dead branches right out of the tree.
We actually created a little video of our visit to the Dancing Tree People farm - it's a fun look and Loretta explains how the walnuts go from the trees to your table. Oh, and some of the walnuts you've enjoyed here at the Featherbed Railroad have come from the Dancing Tree People farm.
Some of the eggs you've enjoyed are extra good because their chickens get these wonderful organic walnuts too!
Our October artist of the month is Michelle Price. Michelle is one of those people who exudes sunshine wherever she goes. Her bright, wonderful personality is exemplified in her work as well and you can't help but love her French accent.
We invite you to celebrate our first artist of the month reception on Sunday, October 28 from 2-5pm. This event will be indoors so we're good rain or shine.
During that celebration of local art, Michelle will be on-hand to answer questions and share her vision.
Wine tasting will be available thanks to our friends at Vigilance Winery who will bring their terrific wines to taste.
We also have the privilege of having a South American barbecue dinner available with roasted pig, three kinds of salsa, salad, rice, beans and fresh tortillas. There will be 50 barbecue dinners available and we do encourage you to reserve yours. Prices are $25 for the dinner and they are incredible and well worth the price.
Michelle has a passion for our furry friends and has requested that the Clearlake All Breed Animal Rescue join us with a few of their clients who are looking for a good home. As such, we are asking for a $5 donation for wine tasting which will be given to the Animal Shelter. You get wine and a lonely pet might find a great home - what better situation could there be than that?
Once again we celebrated Wine Adventure in Lake County where 28 wineries participated in the County-wide tasting experience, opening their doors to the estimated 2,000 guests. With great food at each stop along with music at some and fun everywhere this was a great celebration of our high-elevation wines. You can click on any of the pictures below to get a closer look or scroll through our photo gallery. Have fun joining us, virtually, at the 2012 edition of the Lake County Wine Adventure!
Like other businesses, the Featherbed Railroad is asking you to vote for us in this program that Chase Bank and Living Social have put together. The competition's tough, but we also really appreciate your consideration.
To vote visit the website for Mission: Small Business and search for Featherbed Railroad in the search field. Then just click "vote." That's it - and thank you so much for your consideration.
You have to be a Facebook user to accomplish this and we sincerely appreciate your telling your Facebook friends and family about our little piece of the world and this competition.
Our vision is to put more people to work in Lake County which has an unemployment rate of 19%. The funds that this provides, assuming we are awarded them, will go directly to projects that provide employment opportunities for more positive, upbeat local people who are having a tough time finding work in Lake County.
Update: we've reached over 250 votes. At this point it's up to the judges and we will know some time in September what the results of their decisions are. Thank you one and all who voted.
As part of this vision we hope to turn a Southern Pacific caboose on the property into a 10th guest room. This room would feature an outdoor soaking tub and private outdoor area so that guests could bring their dogs and let them relax as well.
Our tandem bicycles have always been a curiosity for guests. While many people think about taking one out for a ride, they are a bit intimidating for people. After all, they're about twice the size of a regular bicycle and there's always a chance that the person on the back is just relaxing with their feet up not doing any pedaling.
A combination of wear and just being outdoors had taken its toll on our tandem bicycles so we weren't really proud of them any longer. We had had them worked on very recently and the results were less than spectacular. We had actually considered just donating them to a charity - maybe they would make a great conveyance for a couple of deserving folks.
Then we stopped in at a new bicycle shop on Main Street in Lakeport. Main Street Bicycles is a really, really cool shop with lots of bicycles, of course, but also lots of paraphernalia from little tootie horns to energy bars to bicycle seats, lights and much more. The nice thing is that when you get something there they'll make sure it's installed and working properly - take that, Internet.
Our partners at Downlight contacted us again and told us about some great new featherbeds in their catalog. Since we're the Featherbed Railroad we couldn't refuse and so a whole shipment of brand new Downlight genuine goose down featherbeds arrived on our door step a short while later.
These new featherbeds are even nicer than the ones we had before. Of course they're 100% genuine goose down and they've got pockets sewn into them so that the feathers stay in one spot rather than bunching up in the corner. This means that incredible relaxation you'll feel when you first bed down will remain throughout your night.
We've had so many guests tell us that they have never had a more relaxing night sleep than when they come here which is such a huge compliment. But we're also quick to remind them about these wonderful featherbeds. Er, the even more wonderful ones we've got now!
The best part is you can get one of these or a variety of other styles of featherbeds right in your own home direct from Downlight. Over the past few years we've come to appreciate the quality of Downlight's products, but we also like their pricing. We realize this sounds like a big sales pitch but when we find something we like we tend to be pretty enthusiastic about it. Plus, combining these new featherbeds with the new beds that we have means you will really get a great night's sleep at the Featherbed Railroad.
On a clear day, you can see forever. That’s what the musical claimed way back in 1965. Apparently they had been to the top of Mt. Konocti. I had the chance to enjoy the view of forever this week, and it is as breathtaking and spectacular as I had heard.
Mt. Konocti County Park opened last fall, and we’ve had a few guests make the trek and tell us how wonderful it is. So when I got an invitation to accompany a county co-worker to the top, I jumped on the chance!
Expect a good workout. The trail to Wright Peak is 3 miles, and part of it is decidedly steep. And don’t forget, you have to turn around and get down from the top, too. The elevation increase over those 3 miles is over 1,600 feet. In the interest of time, I skipped the historic side-trip and the super-steep and slippery path to Howard Peak, which means I’ll have to go back. Soon, I hope. There is a fire tower at the top of Wright Peak, which fascinates me in a way I don’t entirely understand. Maybe it’s like Tony and his love for lighthouses; I just have a thing for fire towers. I’ll call ahead before my next trip; if a docent is available, I want to climb up in that tower!
The American Lung Association (ALA) released its annual State of the Air 2012 Report. State and local area air quality are graded on an A through F scale by comparing local ozone and small- particulate concentrations with the federal air quality standards. Although many areas, especially within California, were given failing grades, Lake County passed with flying colors.
Lake County received an “A” grade for Ozone, a “B” grade for short term particulate pollution, and is ranked the 8th cleanest county in the Nation for annual particulate average concentrations. Out of California’s 58 counties, Lake County is 1 of only 9 that did not have any days of ozone air pollution levels in the unhealthful range. This impressive record has been documented by continuous air quality monitoring from 2008 through 2010, which showed that ozone in the air never exceeded allowable levels during that time and small particulate only exceeded the allowable limits during the 2008 wildfires.
The wildfire impacts have affected Lake County’s rating for several years as the grading is based on three years of data from 2008 through 2010. Even with the wildfire impacts, Lake County is the only county in California to place in the top 10 cleanest counties in the country for small-particulate levels, with Shasta and San Benito counties being the only other counties in California to make the top 25.
I usually try to write blog posts about fun stuff in the area or things of general interest but this time we're going in a different direction. This post is about social media. I can see all the normal people clicking away from this page already and wondering where the recipes are.
So why focus on this today? Simple - I've been listening to recordings from the most recent innkeeper's conference and it's amazing how many of the workshops weren't about things like better breakfasts, happier guests or cleaner rooms - they were about social media.
Like all small businesses innkeepers face the reality that we, too, are business people as well as hosts, greeters, computer techs, maintenance specialists, chefs, painters, decorators, housekeepers, chauffers and dog sitters. And that's just before noon! While making guests happy is always our first priority, all that other stuff has to get in there too and it better be done with the same level of enthusiasm.
But this focus on social media only reflects the importance of this aspect of our business reality to our little mom and pop operations.