Wanted: Intrepid, privacy-loving innkeeper to run the Riverside Inn in Downieville — preferably an anti-yuppie who promises to keep its funky, homey charm intact. This is one of those places we come back to every year because it’s the perfect hideaway from the world. If you haven’t been to Downieville before, you’re not alone — it’s way, way off the beaten track. Unless of course you’re a daredevil mountain bike aficionado, in which case you know it well for it’s steeper-than-steep single-track routes perfect for the risk-addicted to prove their mettle on. (The Downieville Classic, held every July, takes full advantage of the old mine roads that leap rugged peaks and ford deep dark river canyons.)
So here’s what makes the Riverside Inn so great. First, it lives up to its name. Located on a triangular split where the Yuba and Downie rivers come together, it literally leans over the boulder-strewn rapids. At night, the sound of the rushing water lulls you to sleep.
The knotty pine rooms have fireplaces, TVs, free wi-fi, and — most important of all — refrigerators. This is key because Downieville is tiny and in winter and early spring the town closes up tight after 8 p.m., so having your own refrigerator means you can take advantage of the local grocery store and deli and not be dependent on the whims of local restaurant owners.
The current owners, Mike and Nancy, are incredibly friendly and hospitable, despite a Harley-riding tough veneer. They keep an enormous supply of DVDs on hand, so plan your weekend here as a movie marathon. In winter they loan out snowshoes for free, in summer they have plenty of outdoor gas barbecues available. And they serve an enormous free breakfast complete with bagels and lox, so you don’t have to pay for breakfast either.
In summer, you couldn’t ask for better swimming than the Yuba’s many deep, swirly holes, and the pristine lakes (Gold Lake, Sardine Lake, Salmon Lake, and Sand Pond) of the high Sierra are only 45 minutes away. In winter, there’s great cross-country skiing, sledding and snowmobiling at the Yuba Pass snow park just half an hour up Highway 49. (And yes, snowmobiles are limited to one side of the highway, so the cross country folks have the other side in silence to themselves.)
In other words, for $200 and change for two nights (with AAA discount), you can have a complete high Sierra getaway weekend with all creature comforts and dinner your only additional expense.