California Trip 2006

Day 8

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

It's a cooler 50 degrees and scattered clouds this morning. We decided to extend our stay here at Skyline Wilderness Park for another night there is just too much to see and do in the Napa area.

Being a wilderness park we were greated by wild turkeys this morning on our way out of the park.

Wild Turkeys
Wild Turkeys at Skyline Wilderness Park

They were interesting with the beard hanging down from under their necks.

We started out heading for Calistoga about 30 miles north of Napa. Along the way we spotted the Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park and decided to check it out.

Bale Grist Mill

The sign said that the inside of the grist mill was closed week days so we were disappointed but went ahead anyway. As luck would have it there was a school class having a field day at the grist mill.

School Class
Bale Grist Mill historian speaking to school kids

It was all open and we got to see everything as well as have a nice tour.

It is one of a hand full of waterwheel driven grist mills still producing wheat flour, pastry flour, bread flour and cake flour. It was fascinating to not only hear about the process but actually get to see it working.

The gears that drive the grinding stones

The flour comes out here, the grinding stones are inside the wooden boxes

The waterwheel is 35 feet in diameter and is capable of turning out 350 pounds of flour during the four hours that it was run per day. The water would build up in a reservoir for twenty hours and then dump for four hours to run the mill.

Bale Grist Mill
The Bale Grist Mill

Bale Grist Mill Painting
This painting is from the Sharpensteen Museum

If you plan to visit the mill I'd call ahead to see what their days of operation are. It is really interesting to see it actually working from inside the mill.

Our next stop was the town of Calistoga for lunch. We visited the Hurd Candle shop, a honey bee candle shop that had really nice candles that were very expensive. They don't make them in the shop so we didn't get to see how they are made. They have a bee hive hanging on the wall so you can see the bee's in action so to speak.

We had lunch at a little Mexican restaurant and then visited the Shaprsteen Museum.

Sharpensteen MuseumThe Sharpensteen Museum

The museum was donated to Calistoga by Ben Sharpensteen who was an animator, director and producer for Walt Disney for many years.

Ben's display
Ben's Oscar and other memorabilia

We learned that Calistoga was and still is famous for it's hot springs and mud baths.

Early Health Resort   Early Calistoga
The early days of Calistoga and the health resort

Health Resort Cabin Bedroom   Health Resort Cabin Livingroom
Inside one of the health resort "cabins".

It was what we'd call today a wellness center. You can still find many places that give mud baths and hot spring baths. There is even a geyser just north of Calistoga. It's really an interesting little town and worth a visit. If you are ever in Calistoga I'd suggest stopping at the museum for a visit.

The sun came out again and the temperature reached 70. Just another perfect day in Napa Valley.

We had traveled north on highway 29 which is the main road north from Napa. It has most of the major wineries located along the way. On the east side of the valley is the Silverado Trial road which is much more scenic and has more of the smaller boutique wineries. We stopped at one of the bigger ones that has a tram to take you to the winery.

Sterling Winery

Entrance where you catch the tram

Sterling Vineyards is a beautiful winery that is only accessible by tram.

Tram Ride
Tram ride from the valley floor to Sterling Winery

It costs $15 to ride the tram but it also includes tasting of six of their wines.

They have a self guided walking tour thorough the winery and it is very well done. You get to see where the wine comes in on big trucks and where it gets stored during the fermenting process.

Grapes ArriveFermenting Tanks
The grapes arrive in large bins, get crushed and then stored in large tanks

AgeingMpre Ageing
The wine ages in different size barrels

The Gift ShopThe Winery
They have a lovely gift shop and from the outside you can see the bell tower.

We didn't get to see the bottling but it was still a lot of fun.

The tasting was done at nice little tables out on a deck overlooking the valley.

It's an absolutely wonderful setting. We did purchase a couple bottles of wine and then headed back down the tram.

We drove by many interesting wineries traveling down the Silverado Trail back to our campground. It was a really nice day and highly recommend the Napa Valley as a tourist destination.


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