Adventures In Sierra Valley
In the high meadows around Portola and Clio, above Lake Tahoe, ranch lands expand over 130,000 acres known as the Sierra Valley. Foothills, rock outcroppings and cottonwood lined streams give way to small villages and several high-end resorts for ultimate getaways.
Connected isolation is the common uniqueness around these parts which Van Batchelder, Director of Golf at Grizzly Ranch Golf Resort, embraces. The former winner of the Arizona Open has that cowboy pioneer spirit. It showed while playing a round of golf with us donning his cowboy hat and boots, no spikes needed. His demeanor is as balanced as his game. Fields of dainty, blue flax flowers, purple lupines and yellow mule ears are the awe-inspiring June blooms at Grizzly Ranch blending with the vibrant green fairways and woods where deer and other wildlife thrive. Every hole of the Bob Cupp designed course is pretty, but the best is the grand finale 18 that leads to a lake, with cascading waterfalls and a covered bridge by the small green. It is a beauty and a beast to par. The adjacent Lake House is where golfers begin and end with this view and entertainment by anyone trying to master of one of the most difficult holes we have ever encountered.
If you are a Frank Lloyd Wright design fan, then the Nakoma Resort, outside the sleepy town of Portola, will fit your bill. A massive rock fireplace extends to the ceiling of the intimate, yet expansive domed dining room. The 360-degree architectural design is mesmerizing, and the cuisine served is delectable. Not to be out done by the famous architect, Robin Nelson designed the Dragon golf course to play off the Japanese motif. You might believe you were in a fight with a samurai after playing this course, perched above the wild and scenic Feather River which you can glimpse along with the railroad bridge from one of the greens. The Dragon has confounded many a golfer whom either love or hate it, depending on if they slayed it.
The newest addition to this resort community which lodge guests love is the Altitude Recreation Center. It is a bistro, a sports bar for adults and has a rec room designed for wee little ones with a rock climbing wall, miniature basketball hoops and tiny toilets. There is an outdoor lap pool for all, conference rooms, indoor theatre and fitness center with steam room, showers and jacuzzi.
Every season brings a new adventure to the Sierras with altitude and attitude enhancing the atmosphere. Our adventure was topped off by a bonus after our early morning departure. In the dim light of sunrise, a dark spot on the lonely highway turned out to be one of the famous cinnamon bears, named for the reddish tinge of color on the brown bears in the region. He lumbered across the road, out for a morning stroll foraging for breakfast. It was a fitting ending to an extraordinary journey, combining natural beauty, artistic designs and first-rate golf in the high meadows splendor above Tahoe.