By DENNIS WYATT
VOLCANO — Amador County’s 140-year tradition marking the arrival of spring is now in full bloom.
Daffodil Hill opened on Friday. It is some 12 miles east of Sutter Creek and just north of Volcano nestled among Sierra foothill woodlands mixing pines with oaks at 3,000 feet. The blooms are expected to stay around until the first few weeks of April.
Two things that you will like about the sea of roughly 300,000 yellow and white blooms on the rolling terrain springing up from a now lush green carpet: It’s low-key relaxation and it is free.
I’ve made six trips over the years to Daffodil Hill — one with my mom, one bicycling solo, three bicycling with friends, and one on a date.
The place was perfect each time.
My mom had long heard about Daffodil Hill but had never got a chance to go. So when she was in her late 70s, I convinced her to take a Saturday ride.
The terrain was a nearby carbon copy of where she grew up in Nevada County. As we negotiated the paths — while it’s not all flat there is nothing steep per se plus there are plenty of resting spots — we talked about her childhood and how beautiful the simple things in life, such as daffodils, are.
The trip there from Sutter Creek got my attention. It was a nice steady climb out of Sutter Creek.
So my next trip involved parking in Sutter Creek off East Gopher Road and hopping on my bicycle. It’s about a net gain of 1,200 feet over 12 miles so it isn’t easy on the quads but you’re not going to bust them either. Daffodil Hill is a perfect resting point even if you just pause for a few minutes to gaze at the yellow and white flowers. I then headed into Volcano— a short jaunt to the south — before as short climb up to Highway 88 then through Pine Grove to Highway 49 and back south on Highway 49 to Sutter Creek. It’s about a 40 mile loop.
The date trip went well. Daffodil Hill is arguably one of the most unique settings to just wander and enjoy a picnic afterwards. Sure there are people around but it is definitely low key.
No pets of any type are allowed. You also must stay on paths at all times and are barred from picking blooms or disturbing planting areas.
Daffodil Hill boasts the original 1880s barns and a handful of critters from peacocks to chickens. You will also come across a mixture of Gold Rush era mining equipment, farming implements, and old truck and even wagon wheels.
Known as the McLaughlin Homestead, the descendants of the Arthur and Lizzie McLaughlin plant upwards of 16,000 new bulbs a year.
The McLaughlin family settled there in 1877. They bought it from Peter Denzer, a Dutchman who had planted some daffodils to remind of his native Holland. It served as a stopping place along the Amador-Nevada Wagon Road that today has been replaced by Highway 88.
The McLaughlins expanded the daffodil plantings to help add color to the landscape.
Given that admission and parking are both free and that is a family funded operation donations that are made help fund bulbs for next year’s planting.
The drive in itself is worth it given how the rain and snow has set the stage for one of the most colorful springs in years. There is dining in Sutter Creek plus Jackson Rancheria casino is nearby.
Daffodil Hill can be reached from Sutter Creek and the trip is about twelve miles. Sutter Creek is located on Old Highway 49 in Amador County. From Main Street Sutter Creek (Old Highway 49), turn East on Gopher Flat Road. Drive approximately 3 miles, and turn left at the third stop sign, which is Shake Ridge Road. Drive about 9 miles on Shake Ridge Road to Rams Horn Grade. Parking is to the left.