This year for winter break we headed out as a family to one of our (admittedly many) favorite places to be: Nevada City, California. There are many reasons that we hold it dear, not the least of which is the fact that we called it home for about 5 years while my husband was flying U-2s for the Air Force, or the fact that our son was born there. It also happens to be extraordinarily, remarkably, beautiful, and I don’t think it’s just my bias that makes me think so.
It’s located about an hour from Sacramento and about 45 minutes from North Lake Tahoe, and it’s at a point where the foothills of the Sierra Nevada are past that level of elevation where there are only oak trees and the deep, dark forest of the evergreens begins. When we first moved there, we bought a house up on Banner Mountain, and every day as I headed down the mountainside I got a glimpse of the snowcapped mountains that surround Lake Tahoe. It was close enough to Sacramento that if I needed to shop at Costco or Trader Joe’s, I could (with some planning) but far enough away that I really didn’t want to. Not to mention that the place is dripping with local farms and more natural foods markets per capita than any other place I’ve ever seen that I rarely ventured further afield- who needed to? (and I LOVE Trader Joe’s, so me saying that is a big deal). But the produce during the summer! And fall! It grew so abundantly in that climate and soil that downtown there was a stand where people could leave their extras to share with others… Goodness, I miss that, people sharing vegetables out in front of their houses. This little place had such an incredible sense of community.
Oh, and our church! Nevada City United Methodist Church– I get teary-eyed still, ten years later, when I think of what we left behind. Situated up on the top of the hill that comprises downtown Nevada City, it is a white clapboard monument to historic preservation done right. But more importantly, as its doors stand open to let the music happening inside pour out into the streets, it is a welcoming place, even to the scruffy crowd of vagabonds that inevitably wind up, at some point during the service, in the back rows of the church. I have yet to find another church that so firmly embodies, at least for me, what Christ meant when he said to love one another.
Nevada City itself is also a feat of historic preservation, partly thanks to the fact that after the gold rush had run its course (it’s on Hwy 49, as in 1849, as in this is a gold rush town- check out its history more here) nobody had any more money to spend on chopping or changing this gorgeous little Victorian town into something more “modern.” And so it stayed pretty much exactly the same, even surviving the eras of the 50s and 60s when “modernizing” things was all the rage.
Thank God for small miracles.
And thus it is still one of the prettiest little towns you will ever see, in an authentic, lived in and loved-well sort of way. I adore this about it; I love the quirky old Victorian buildings and interesting shops, and equally quirky and interesting people who are the locals there. I share their fervor for protecting our beautiful planet and for holding on to the beautiful structures and heritage from our past. I love locally sourced, well prepared food, which is clearly another passion for the people in this town. I also love the opportunity to stay in a bed and breakfast rather than a hotel (did I mention that there are no chain places of any type allowed in Nevada City’s limits?), though I have yet to do this because my husband has family here that we always stay with. But they are numerous and all of them look so charming that some day I will have to take advantage of one, without a doubt.
But wherever it is that I end up staying, I will keep going back to this little treasure of a town nestled there in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. It, like only a few other places I’ve had the privilege of spending significant amounts of time in, has a piece of my heart.