Most wildflower lovers set off on foot to find blooms along trails during spring in California. But those who travel to Gold Country near Sonora will have the option of hopping a vintage steam train to see blooms in style.
Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, which houses vintage trains and rail cars as well as a historic roundhouse, is offering Wildflower Train Rides on April 13 and 20. Rides are aboard the "movie star locomotive" (so named because it's been in so many films) called Sierra No. 3 on a six-mile journey that lasts about an hour as the train winds its way through the Sierra foothills.
Park rangers from nearby New Melones Lake will be on board the train to point out the meadow foam, gold fields and other plants along the way. Passengers may sit in open-sided cars that provide good views of the landscape. During the two Saturdays, master gardeners will be on hand to show visitors how to grow native plants.
Wildflower trains set out at 4:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased in advance online; they cost $24 for adults and $10 for children 6 to 17; children younger than 5 years old ride free. (Trains run regular excursions between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at a cost of $15 for adults, $8 for youths 6 to 17.)