As part of a photography group, I recently visited the tulip gardens at Crystal Hermitage, which is part of the Ananda community located about 15 miles northeast from Nevada City (California) in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
While my initial fear was that the gardens were inaccessible to wheelchair users or people with mobility challenges (due to the many sets of stairs used to access the garden terraces) I’m glad to say I was wrong!
Ask the Gardener
I spoke with Kerry, who has spent more than 30 years working in the gardens. He told me that his wife, Nancy, is responsible for most of the design, and that they and many members of the Ananda community work joyfully to maintain its beauty.
When I inquired about accessibility, Kerry walked with me to show me all of the ways a wheelchair user could access and enjoy the gardens. While there are a few places that can only be reached by stairs, a large percentage of the grounds can be enjoyed if you know where to enter.
Let me show you the way.
The Lower Gardens
The blue curb shows disabled patrons where to enter the lower gardens. Benches are available to use while waiting for your driver or shuttle bus, and there is an accessible Porta Potty-like toilet nearby.
A gently-sloping path leads past the gazebo and into the lower garden area, where you can continue down to the gated Shrine of the Masters . . .
. . . enjoy the blossoms of the cherry tree and tulips . . .
. . . roll or stroll around the pool area . . .
. . . or follow the path through the gate to one of the terraced gardens.
The cascading waterfall and colorful round of tulips is a peaceful place to quietly find the beauty within.
The Middle Path
For a different perspective of the garden, backtrack up the path (past the gazebo) and go up the road a few yards to another gate.
There’s a gravel path that leads to one of the paved landings and this beautiful view of the gardens . . .
The Chapel and the View From Above
Retracing your path and going up the road another few yards brings you to the gated entrance to the Chapel, with its wide and well-paved walkway leading to the courtyard outside the front door.
Guests are welcome to enter the Chapel and enjoy the stained glass, simple altar, and quiet reverence.
The view from the courtyard . . .
Although the gardens are not 100% accessible for wheelchair users or others who cannot climb stairs, I believe there is enough access to make it worth a visit.
Carrieanna uses a motorized wheelchair, so she would be able to easily navigate the gravel paths and slight incline to get to the middle and upper gates.
Someone using a manual wheelchair would need reasonably good arm strength and/or a strong and healthy companion to assist over the non-paved areas.
About the Garden | A Few Other Details
This year nearly 17,000 tulips have been planted, along with over 8,000 pansies and forget-me-nots, in 150 beds in the upper and lower gardens. In addition to traditionally shaped tulips there are many unusual varieties, including parrot, fringe, peony-tulips (double), lily flowering, and multi-flowering.
The bulbs are planted from November to February by 3 part-time gardeners and many community volunteers.
Garden hours vary depending on the season, so visit the website and/or follow on Facebook for hours and other important information
There is an entry fee of $6.00. Frequent visitors might want to purchase the annual pass for $12.00.
While cell reception is limited and a GPS system may not be reliable, the directions on the website are easy to follow
A Spiritual Community
Virtually all the elements of Crystal hermitage gardens come from the design and creativity of Swami Kriyananda, a disciple of the yoga master Paramhansa Yogananda. He founded several Ananda communities for the purpose of helping people find inner peace and Self-Realization through the deeper teachings of yoga and Christianity.
Swami Kriyananda left his body in 2013, but those who live and serve in this Ananda community continue to be inspired by his teachings, books and music, and especially by his friendship, kindness and his example of personal dedication to Yogananda.
“It is to honor him and to share the joy he shared with us that we offer to you the beauty and peace of Crystal Hermitage.”
The symbol seen throughout the Ananda complex means “Joy is within you” – and when looking at all the beauty on these grounds, it’s easy to feel that joy.
And a Few More Photos to Entice You to Visit!
Interested in purchasing any of these images? Leave your contact info in a comment below, or email JeriMurphyPhotography@gmail.com for further information.