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Directions: Take I-80 east, exit at Newcastle Rd. and make an immediate right. Stay on Newcastle for 4 miles until the road turns into Rattlesnake Rd., and proceed to the guard kiosk (passes cost $10). Veer right at the fork and up a dirt road to a parking lot.
An apology to the lovers of hops, grapes and grain: Rattlesnake Bar to Horseshoe Bar isn’t a pub crawl. Instead, this picturesque lake-hugging section of the Pioneer Express Trail is the perfect excuse to get out and enjoy some easy-access exploration. And the good news about this trail in the fall: Lake traffic declines and the voluminous powerboats are scarce. Head out on the well-marked trail (shared with horses that will occasionally leave their mark, but no mountain bikes are allowed) that dips into shaded tunnels of oak, butterscotch-leaved cottonwood and pine trees before crossing the first of several quaint wooden footbridges. As you pass thick patches of blackberry bushes and emerge into a grassy meadow, look left and you will be struck with an incongruent image: palm trees dotting the shoreline, giving the area a fleeting tropical feel. The trail then travels back into the woods. Head up the steep-but-not-strenuous path and savor the elevated views of the lake’s islands and shores afforded with multiple breaks in the intense foliage. About two miles in, the path splinters. Not to worry; it’s virtually impossible to get lost. The bank around Horseshoe has narrowed because of high water, but therein lies a valuable lesson: Oftentimes, it’s the journey, not the destination, which ultimately provides the most satisfaction. parks.ca.gov —T.S.
Not many restaurants throw their creative energies into milkshakes, malts and freezes, but Taylors in nearby Loomis sure has. In fact, they’ve concocted more than 116 flavors that range from the hedonistic to the head scratching—pancake, s’mores, chocolate bacon and bubblegum, to name a few. The creamy beverages complement their charming no-fuss burgers (which seem to be derived from an In-N-Out varietal). And don’t miss the house-made potato chips that are both crispy and chewy with every salty nibble. 3636 Taylor Rd., Loomis. 652-8255