Bay seniors who think they already know how beautiful the Sierras can be should turn off 80 and drive toward Downieville on Highway 49 for a eye-filling surprise. Nothing will quite prepare you for the dazzling beauty of Big Springs Gardens with its 118 acres of natural and landscaped woodland gardens – a California arcadia with endless rhododendrons, azaleas and water irises all surrounded by the dark pines of the Tahoe National Forest. Enjoy the ponds, hiking trails, even a replica of Monet’s bridge at Giverny. The $37 entry fee also covers a fairly elaborate meal – brunch, lunch or dinner. No credit cards, cash or check only. Don’t put this treat off. It closes for the season the last Sunday in September.