GOLD COUNTRY GOES EIRE: So many spots around the Sierra Foothills have ties to heritages found further afield and even far across the oceans, thanks to the many globetrotters who arrived in the area, around the middle of the 19th century, in search of the shiny stuff. Murphys, which is tucked in along the road up the Sierra to Calaveras Big Trees State Park, has that storied, tale-tall Gold Rush history, thanks to the two brothers who founded it, Daniel and John Murphy. (The colorful reason why the town name lacks an apostrophe can be found at the town's internet HQ.) Remembering its past, and doing one of the things Murphys does best -- which is celebrate, as you'll know if you've ever gone wine-tasting along the main stretch -- all adds up to a very convivial St. Patrick's Day celebration. Which actually isn't called St. Patrick's Day, nor is it on St. Patrick's Day, at least in 2015. Rather, Irish Day unfurls, with a parade and bagpipes and cheer, on the Saturday following St. Patrick's Day.
THAT'S SATURDAY, MARCH 21... and the "Celebration of the Irish" is free to all. That means you get to enjoy the music-nice parade and the art-packed booths and the jugglers and the singers and such. You'll want to bring some cash for eating (there's a pancake breakfast) and all of those wine-tasting rooms the burg is known for. And will there be pony rides for the young merrymakers? Indeed. And other small-town sweetnesses that come with a Sierra-style laidback-a-tude, one that reflects Murphys ye olde Gold Rush-y roots? A big yes. And that laidback-a-tude is one of the reasons that the town remains a must-visit on Gold Country maps and drives.
SHOULD YOU ADD A CALAVERAS BIG TREES VISIT? Of course -- it really is not too far up the road, all told. Angels Camp is nearby, too, and Sonora isn't far. But being in Murphys on St. Patrick's Day, or, scratch that, a Saturday close to St. Patrick's Day is to summon that small-town spirit and match it with a bit of shamrock-y high jinks.