SPRINGVILLE — Cheerily we asked directions to Annie's Bed and Breakfast.
"Oh yeah, the pig lady's place," was the matter-of-fact reply. "Pigs?" muttered my wife, Meredith. I winced. Annie's had been my pick from AAA and the California Bed & Breakfast Inns guides.
We turned onto a country lane just outside Springville (population: 1,540), 174 miles northeast of Los Angeles in the foothills of California's Sierra Nevada mountains. Ahead, we saw a pink pig silhouette welded atop a mailbox in front of a house with a pig weather vane on the roof.
"I wonder if this is the place," my wife said dryly.
Eucalyptus trees lined the road. The house and sweeping veranda were shaded by maple trees, along with fruitless mulberry, wild plum, California laurel, white birch, nectarine, plum, apricot and apple. The veranda was fringed with lilies, snapdragons, petunias, pansies and roses.
A woman in her 40s waved. She wore a T-shirt with "Hog Heaven" printed underneath a pig munching grass.
Yep. It was Annie.
Annie Bozanich and her husband, John, live in a remodeled bunkhouse. Our bedroom was attached. The main house contained two more guest bedrooms, dining room, kitchen, parlor and television room. Golfers can play at the nearby River Island Country Club under Annie and John's membership.
Annie guided us past a 40-by-20-foot, kidney-shaped pool and Jacuzzi bordering a horse-training ring. A billboard-size wood sign read: Bozanich School for Horses and Riders. Later, we watched John (nicknamed Boz) train his white Arabian stallion for an upcoming show.
Annie handed us a door key dangling from a leather pig key ring, and explained about the pigs. "I've got three. Mister Magoo and Boo are potbellied pigs and Fanny is a Heinz 57. Guests don't see them unless they want to. They're pets in back with us. We built them a doggie door."
I couldn't resist: "Does this mean no sausage for breakfast?" Annie laughed. "Sure we'll have sausage. We just won't tell the pigs."
We had arrived in Springville early on a June afternoon, having left Los Angeles at 10:30 a.m., with a planned lunch 100 miles later at a Bakersfield Basque restaurant, the Pyrenees. Although temperatures were in the 70s that day, they often soar above 100 degrees in the Sierra foothills during July and August. (It'll be 80 or cooler in the surrounding mountain parks.) Springville cools to the 80s in September, the 70s in October.
The lightly traveled two-lane route from Bakersfield to Springville is 67 miles, first through oil fields, then citrus groves. Annie's was four telephone poles off California 190, on Globe Drive about two miles past Lake Success. We unpacked, snacked on addictive homemade oatmeal cookies, and headed for Balch Park in the Mountain Home State Forest 24 miles north. The road was a narrow switchback climbing through stands of black and mountain oak, ponderosa and sugar pine, cedar, red and white fir, dogwood, buckeye and redwoods. Purple, yellow and pink wildflowers lined the way. When we reached the crest, the valley, about 6,000 feet below, was hidden under a blanket of clouds. At the next bend, the sun vanished under a shadowy canopy of giant sequoias 20 or more feet in girth, jutting 200 feet into the sky. Campfires flickered and lanterns glowed inside tents in the gloom cast by the huge trees. We wandered among the sequoias, took pictures, gaped and collected cones dropped by the giants. At dusk, I caught a 15-inch trout from Hedrick Pond for breakfast.
For dinner, we chose the Springville Inn, opened in 1912 with 12 rooms ($40-$60 per night). Its restaurant features an 18-foot rock fireplace, a bar paneled with weathered barn wood, and live music on weekends.
That night we fell asleep to crickets, an occasional bullfrog and the lone hoot of an owl. We awoke to a distant rooster and the chatter of orioles, finches and robins in Annie's trees.
Annie cooked breakfast on a turn-of-the-century cast iron and nickel wood-burning stove. We had fruit, fresh orange juice, fried potatoes, homemade blueberry muffins and an omelet of snow peas, onions, yellow zucchini and yellow crookneck squash--all picked from Annie's garden--and served in individual iron skillets. First on the agenda was Lake Success, where we rented a double-deck houseboat for $60 (boats range from $50 to $90 a day and can seat 12 to 20 people). The marina also rents small fishing boats and jet skis.
Lake Success, fed by the Tule River and created by Success Dam, was big enough for privacy and small enough to cross in 10 minutes or so with our 7 1/2-horsepower motor. The boat was roomy and easy (even for me) to operate. But I quickly rediscovered that lowering the anchor also means pulling it back up. Hour by hour, dropping anchor seemed increasingly unnecessary.
We cruised for about five hours, hooked three trout and returned to Annie's.