LOVE FOR TREES, DOLPHINS, SKY: Nature is all around us -- no spoiler alert required -- but some places make connecting to the hills and rivers and flora and animals something of a passionate way of life. Look to the northern slice of California's Gold Country, up around the Yuba River, where showing up at pretty much any restaurant in a worn pair of hiking boots or warm fleece is kind of the day-to-day look for many residents. The area is an ideal place for the Wild & Scenic Film Festival to land each year, which it typically does in the heart of wintertime. And it shall again, in the middle of January 2016, when filmmakers and fans gather in Grass Valley and Nevada City to watch a full and multi-topic slate of cinematic works exploring our natural world, the issues, the challenges, and the moments full of hope.
JAN. 14 THROUGH 18: Make for the two side-by-side towns over the third weekend of the first month for a series of shorts and full-length features that run the gamut from animated to strikingly photographed in some of the most remote and sublime places on earth. For something on the quick 'n cute side look for "Adventures of Olivia & Max and the Channel Island Seabirds" -- "habitat restoration projects" are the theme of this three-minute treat -- while "Voyagers Without Trace" looks back at a trio of French travelers adventuring around the Colorado River in the 1930s. Like other large festivals -- and Wild & Scenic absolutely qualifies here, given its 700 or so volunteers and wide, two-city breadth -- there are a number of special happenings during the five-day run, including books signings, fireside chats, and eco tours (look for a Soundscape Ecology Walk, some paddling on the Yuba, and gratis yoga sessions). And will the famous Wild & Scenic fish mascot be out and about, posing for photos and pleasing everyone who passes by? Film fest spokesfish truly do not come more charming.
AS FOR THE OUTDOORSY OUTFIT... that's often seen around Nevada City and Grass Valley? You don't need to run out and buy fleece or a parka or boots if you don't have them. But having a nature-forward film fest land in the area, year after year, is a fine reminder that the wilder world is the center of many personal worlds around the active, alfresco-lovin' region.