by Jan Cox, 2011

[media-credit id=53 align=”alignleft” width=”300″]IMG_5738[/media-credit]

2011 – fHidden away near Sierra City, California, there lays a tranquil and beautiful valley known as Big Springs Gardens. Imagine taking a trip to Claude Monet’s Giverny Gardens without ever leaving the United States. That is just what you can do when you visit these gardens. Across a beautiful pond stands a replica of Monet’s famous bridge; while surrounding the ponds, iris and other beautiful flowers render a painting ready made for the photographer to capture.

Within this beautiful wooded parcel lie 23 acres of natural growth and 7 acres of plantings created to enhance the natural beauty of the area. A backdrop of the Sierra Buttes adds further definition to the surrounding land.

Over two miles of trails are open to the public. Several loops of self-guiding trails along the hillside eventually lead the hiker to The Source, where water from an artesian spring sends 1000 gallons per minute cascading down the hillside and into Paradise Pond or to a waterfall on Highway 49. The trails pass by old growth trees and numerous varieties of native plants and flowers often surrounding pools, rocks and cascades.

The steward of these beautiful gardens for the past 47 years is Don Phillips. During the last 20 years, he tells this writer that he gardened intensely and about 10 years ago had a revelation to open it to the public. This year Don is particularly excited to have live music at both the Friday BBQs and at the 1:00 pm seating on Saturdays. He has been asked many times if there are separate tours without the meals, but says that it is a package deal—exploring the gardens and eating the delicious gourmet meals. And well worth it!

As we walked on the hillside trail, the tops of the umbrellas that mark the dining area could be seen shading the round tables on the outdoor patio below. Eating on the patio feels like the ultimate elegant outdoor picnic with all the trimmings.

On Friday at noon, visitors sit down to a scrumptious buffet luncheon of gourmet offerings at 12:00 noon or can come a little earlier for a good seat and hors d’oeuvres at 11:00. This delicious luncheon consists of imported cheeses, a salad bar, pasta and other salads, poached or smoked salmon, chicken, and desserts for $37.

Friday evening’s BBQ dinner includes live music, a happy hour at 4:30, complementary hors d’oeuvres, baby back ribs and chicken, salmon and choice prime rib along with a delicious selection of desserts for $39 per person.

Saturday presents an early afternoon BBQ buffet at 1pm with the same fare as the evening before for $37. Live music from local musicians is a part of this meal.

On Sunday, buffet brunches take place at 10:30am and again at 1pm. This buffet includes scrambled eggs, pancakes, French toast, potatoes, bacon sausage, grilled asparagus, fresh fruit, imported cheeses, pasta, salmon, and a salad bar along with desserts for $37.

No matter which meal you eat, you may spend as much of the day hiking the trails as you desire at no extra cost. Altogether, a top quality gourmet meal along with some wonderful hiking makes a day not soon forgotten.

If you are not a hiker, there are many benches along the paths on flat land, where one can sit and breathe in the mountain air, soak in the sun, and surround oneself with beauty. Public restrooms are available along with regular and handicapped parking. Artists are welcome to bring their own chairs and settle down beside the beauty they are drawn to paint, while photographers will delight in what they see at every turn.

When arriving, you may want to wander the grounds until time for your meal or go to the dining area where you can pay for your dinner and find a table for a good visit with your friends and family. Please note that Big Springs Gardens does not accept credit cards. Please pay with cash or a check. There is no smoking allowed. Pets are neither allowed on the property nor in parked cars.

Many people have discovered that this is a great place for weddings, special birthdays, anniversaries, or reunions. Groups often meet here such as garden clubs, book clubs, photography or art groups, auto and travel clubs. For more information on planning your wedding at Big Springs Gardens, go to Inquiries can be made to Don Phillips at P.O. Box 192, Sierra City, CA 96125 or call him at (530) 862-1333. Maps for your trip can be found on the website as well as excellent directions for getting there. Or ask for further directions when making your reservation.