The Tarantulas of Coarsegold

A Gold Country town fetes the hairy arachnid.

EIGHT-LEGGED FEST: California is rife with astounding animals, beasties very often known by their first names -- we're thinking of the San Diego Zoo pandas and sloths -- or their heroics or their beauty or their wildness (thank you, sanctuaries, for doing all that you do). But sometimes a critter just owns a season or a certain time of year. Think Monarch Butterflies in October or migrating whales at the height of winter. We'll give autumn to spiders, because that's truly their season to shine (shine by the light of the moon, of course). Mount Diablo heads out on a few spider walks when the temperature dips, and a certain village in Gold Country turns over a full Saturday to all things tarantula. If you're wondering if it is the Saturday just before Halloween, because that would be perfect, you'd indeed by right. The Coarsegold Tarantula Festival is set to skitter into the Madera County town on Saturday, Oct. 26.

AND WE DO MEAN SKITTER: Tarantula races are part of the day's fun, oh yes they are, which brings to mind the springtime frog-jumping competition in nearby Angels Camp. If it is small and full of character, it may have its own competition somewhere in Gold Country, is the message here, we think. Other thematic to-dos, from pumpkin decorating to a parade to a "tarantula poem contest & reading" are on the schedule, too. Poetry? Charming. And very fitting, too; Mark Twain once called Gold Country home, and we almost feel certain that he'd enjoy arachnid-inspired poems, especially if "hairy" rhymes with "merry" or "scary."

MARVELOUS MADERA: If you're a wine-loving tarantula fan, you're in luck: Madera County is home to a number of great wineries. Want to get a few tastings in while tarantula-ing it up? Keep the Madera County Wine Trail map within arm's -- or eight-legs' -- reach.

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