At the age of 18, just months after graduating high school, Michael packed his bags and moved to Denver, Colorado to pursue a relationship with his pen pal from summer camp. The two had been talking for months and Michael knew this was his chance to take a leap of faith and see where it would go.
Michael took a final look at his log cabin, his stand-alone bedroom and self proclaimed bachelor pad of the last four years. Growing up in a family of 10 had its perks, one of which was graduating to a cabin 70 ft from the main house once you started high school. Michael would miss Auberry and the friends he had made in the small, mountain town just an hour south of Yosemite National Park, but he would go back to visit again soon.
Michael is my husband. He was gracious enough to share his memories of Auberry with me to kick off my “Growing up in…” series. Continue reading below to discover Michael’s favorite attractions in Auberry, California, and why he loved growing up in a small town.
Auberry’s hidden gems
Michael: “Being located at the base of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, there were plenty of cool places within driving distance. Shaver Lake may be the most touristy attraction in the area that many people travel through Auberry to get to. I think a better kept secret is Mono Hot Springs.
To get there from Auberry, you take what the locals call the four lanes (Highway 168) to Huntington Lake, then exit onto Kaiser Pass Road, and proceed on the slow, gravel, one way street for just over 18 miles, which takes roughly an hour. This road is closed for the winter season, but I believe you can rent snowmobiles to make the trek.
Plan accordingly, there is a campground across the San Joaquin River that you can rent out at around $27/night. If you are not camping, parking is tricky. There is room for about 6 cars. When you arrive, follow the foot trails down the river to the natural hot springs. It’s an unforgettable experience to soak in natural hot springs under the stars while listening to nothing but nature.
If you are the outdoorsy adventurous type, I would definitely suggest making the trek up to Lake Edison, ferry across, and go backpacking for a few days in the John Muir Wilderness. From the water taxi landing you have access to countless trails and peaks to hike. I have personally made the 13 mile out and back trek to Mott Lake, and have nothing but good things to say about it.
Every year my little brother, my dad and I would get season ski passes to China Peak Ski Resort. We tried to make it up to the mountain to go skiing every weekend. Some of my best memories of California were made during our ski days. It was fun to play in the snow, or go in our hot tub while the snow was falling.”
Where to grab a drink in Auberry
Michael: “Stonehouse Tavern and Eatery is a classic bar. It is located just off Auberry Road at the junction of SJ and E Road. They have excellent drink prices and good bar food. There is also a large patio area, great for the summer. It has a pretty strong biker bar vibe to it, and it’s so rare for locals to see out-of-towners, so you may get a few odd looks. However, The people are very friendly and will welcome you with open arms and plenty of in-town recommendations.”
Where to eat in Auberry
Michael: “There are only a few restaurants to choose from. Velasco’s Mexican restaurant was always my favorite. To this day, their Chile Verde Nachos and Ground Beef Chimichangas are the best I’ve ever had. There are now two locations, due to their growing popularity, one in Auberry and one in Prather (20 minutes south of Auberry). The Prather building is a little bigger and more updated.”
Update: As of 2/5/18 the Velasco’s in Auberry has closed. The only open location is in Prather.
Auberry, CA vs. Denver, CO
Michael: “Auberry definitely has a small town, country feel to it. That could have something to do with being an hour from a big city, or that the population was just over 2,000 compared to Denver’s 693,000. The climate is fairly moderate in Auberry. I lived at 4,000 ft up in the mountains so it was a little more extreme than the foothills, and definitely colder than the coast. In some ways, the weather in the California mountains is very similar to the weather in Denver. The summers averaged around 90 degrees. The first snow was sometime in December and the winter would last through mid May. In Denver, you expect 30 degrees to be fairly warm, in Auberry, 30 degrees can feel bone-chillingly cold due to the humidity.”
Michael has two older brothers who still live near Auberry and he visits them every couple of years. The mountains still feel like home and he hopes to one day move to an area that allows his children to grow up in a similar environment: with plenty of room to run, play and build two story tree forts.
Interested in learning more about Auberry, CA? Comment below! Michael is happy to answer questions about where he grew up.
Thanks for reading,