Important Information About The Georgetown
Georgetown: Mountainside Heaven
BY LYNNE FRANK (Reprinted with permission from AOPA Pilot, January 2002.)
Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and a 15- to 20-minute flight from Sacramento, there's a little piece of heaven known as Georgetown, California. Off the beaten path, Georgetown is located just north of Placerville and south of Auburn, towns on the two highways leading from the San Joaquin Valley to Lake Tahoe. To date, this small town has escaped the influx of people and the attending suburban sprawl associated with population growth. Anyone seeking to "get away from it all" need not look further.
Georgetown's history goes back to the days of California's gold rush of 1849 and, though a quaint small town, the spirit of the forty-niners is still present. This part of Gold Country is locally known as The Divide, encompassing the area from the South Fork to the Middle Fork of the American River. Any California fourth-grader can tell you that the South Fork is where Sutter's Mill is located, and this is where James W. Marshall first discovered gold in 1848, setting the gold rush in motion. A faithful reproduction of Sutter's Mill is open to visitors in the town of Coloma.
Ask devotees of four-wheel-drive off-roading where Georgetown is and they'll tell you, "Right at the end of the Rubicon Trail." Each July, the Jeep Jamboree, the largest gathering of Jeeps in the nation, is held in Georgetown, with the goal being to move man and machine across the grueling trail that leads to the Lake Tahoe basin. The event lasts about a week and provides participants with some of the most spectacular views of the rugged outdoors available in the state.
Rugged outdoor types are not the only ones privy to the beauty of nature. Georgetown is home to The American River Inn, a world-class bed-and-breakfast (telephone 530/333-4499). The ambiance of the turn-of-the-century Victorian home is reason enough to plan a trek to The Divide. On the other end of the spectrum, camping on the west side of the Georgetown Airport is encouraged. The campground is quite civilized, providing hot-water showers, flush toilets, picnic tables, barbecues, and serenity. A grassy area is available to tie down your airplane next to your campsite. Bullfrogs serenade you at night, and the bluegills in the airport pond are fun to catch and release in the daytime. A few motels in the area round out the lodging options (contact the Pine View Motel, telephone 530/333-4359; the Hilltop Motel, telephone 530/333-4141; or the Georgetown Hotel, telephone 530/333-2848).
Popular activities in The Divide include white-water rafting on the American River, kayaking, fishing, gold panning, and hiking (contact Folsom State Recreation Area, telephone 916/988-0205). Hikers will be happy to know that a couple of trails start at the airport. Those who don't want to work so hard will enjoy visiting the historic sites, buildings, and many antique stores in the area. The City of Folsom is a nice place to visit, so long as you're not at the prison, and it has an interesting old-town section in addition to its historic dam and powerhouse, for which tours are available. Rental cars are available in Auburn and Placerville, which are only a five- or 10-minute flight from Georgetown.
Some of the best activities in The Divide happen right at the Georgetown Airport. Every Labor Day weekend for the past 14 years, people from all over the state have flown in for the annual "Gathering of Taildraggers and Swine Tasting." Hosted by the Friends of the Georgetown Airport, the event welcomes all types of airplanes it's a time for getting reacquainted with old friends and making new friendships. On Saturday night, a feast of freshly roasted pork (swine tasting), barbecued chicken, and all the ©ccoutrements is served up along with good old-time music and dancing. In June, the airport puts on the Moonlight Fly-In Dance, and in October it's the Chili Cook Off.
The airport at Georgetown is easy to locate as it sits atop a hill and is literally cut into the forest. At an elevation of 2,623 feet, most airplanes will have no trouble using the 2,989-by-60-foot lighted runway but watch out for the density altitude in the summertime. It is also a good idea to look out for wildlife on the runway when on downwind; the occasional deer could ruin your day. The FBO at Georgetown is Skyways Flying Service/Blacksheep Flying Squadron and is run by Trish and Steve Cimmarusti (telephone 530/333-0810). They can arrange ground transportation to town as well as provide 100LL for your fuel tanks.
Having a campground on the airport with a full-service FBO offers a unique opportunity you can mix airplane maintenance with pleasure. If you are so inclined, an owner-assisted annual for your airplane can be scheduled with Steve, and a camping vacation is part of the deal. A stopover at Georgetown also is a good time to get some dual instruction in mountain flying techniques. The mountain flying course offered by Skyways also serves as a flight review, sort of mixing pleasure with more pleasure. As a side note, if you forget something needed for camping, check with the FBO; it carries many items in its pilot shop.
This year, my plans include driving into Sacramento to mix some business with sightseeing. My suspicion is that the best part of the trip is going to be "coming home" every night to Georgetown.