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Valley history and shade just off Interstate 5.

Valley history and shade just off Interstate 5

Land easier to cultivate than to praise--level and featureless, but fertile and welcoming to the plow. That's what William Micke found in the San Joaquin Valley when he came in 1916 to plant his Flame Tokay grapes. The vineyards are still here, surrounding his legacy to the valley: 120-acre Micke (pronounced mickey) Grove Regional Park, 4 miles south of Lodi and 9 miles north of Stockton.

Cool, shady, and studded with old oaks,this is one of the county's oldest parks, but it has recently seen major new developments. You might want to plan an early-fall outing, when days begin to be brisk but remain generally sunny. Or make it a stopover if you're headed through the valley on Interstate 5; the park is just a short detour off the freeway.

Here you can stroll through one of thevalley's two largest native groves of valley oaks, their dark gnarled limbs twisting to nearly 100 feet tall. Park planners are reestablishing other California native plants here--coyote brush, blue-eyed grass, wild grape, and wild rose--in hopes that the park will someday resemble the valley of 150 years ago.

You can also get a sense of valley historyby visiting the newly expanded San Joaquin County Historical Museum here. A new gallery re-creates the 1890s home of a key family in local history--that of Charles Webber, Stockton's founder.

Outside are exhibits of period farmingequipment, an 1866 one-room schoolhouse, a re-created harness shop and working smithy (demonstrations on weekends). Nearby are a few 70-year-old vines from William Micke's original vineyard. Out back, you can take a gentle 1/4-mile walk on the Sunshine Trail, planted to show progressive changes in vegetation from the valley up to the Sierra foothills. Museum hours are 1 to 5 Wednesdays through Sundays; admission is free.

You'll also find shaded picnic tables, asmall zoo (free), and children's play area. Allow extra time for the beautiful 3-acre Japanese garden, lush with some 400 camellias, 200 azaleas, Japanese maples, and a variety of bonsai. Built and funded shortly after World War II by members of the area's Japanese community, the garden was landscaped by Ngao Sakurai, once landscape designer at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Garden hours are 9:30 to 2:30 weekdays, 8 to 2 weekends.

The park is open daily, dawn to dusk.Entry fee is $2 per car on weekdays, $2.50 on weekends. To reach the park from Interstate 5, take Eight Mile Road and head east about 6 miles; turn left on Micke Grove Road to the entrance.

Photo: Elegant 1890s parlor (above) has beenreconstructed in historical museum; below, music box plays a zinc-coated disk

Photo: Old farm equipment, such as 1930s crawler tractor, is displayed outside museum

Photo: New pavilion in Japanese gardenfaces placid, koi-filled pond
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Micke Grove Regional Park
Date:Oct 1, 1986
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