thank you God Alta Sierra Biblical Gardens Trail


A Rare Beauty with Meaning for All

On the slopes of the Sierra foothills, nestled among aging oaks and soaring pine trees, the forest unveils an inspiring beauty -- California’s most unusual scenic attraction. Auburn Road, a historical wagon trail near Grass Valley, played an important role during the Gold Rush days of the 1860’s. Now, where horse-drawn freight wagons and stagecoach drivers once traveled, pausing to water their teams in the stream, modern day visitors can find their way to the Biblical Gardens. There, the forest setting overlooks a peaceful 90 foot cascading falls and a variety of blossoms blanketing the landscape, changing with the passing of each season. Herbs, fern, camilia, rhododendron, azalea, and dogwood intermingle with fragrant wild flowers. Lupin paint the mountainside in soft shades of blue early in May, followed by the all-white blossoms of buckeye and sweetbirch, providing an ideal setting for a garden wedding. A small waterfall cascades into a natural basin and may be reserved for baptisms. The garden was opened in May of 1976, the result of the inspiration and dedicated effort of John and Verna Sommer, a Christian couple. Development had started several years earlier when John began creating the stone statuary scenes and wooden hand carvings bringing to life the dramatic story of Christ, which transpired nearly 2,000 years ago. John’s vision to bring the light of Jesus to the mountain began after a sunset in June of 1971. Early that morning he felt an inner desire to leave his home in Sacramento and to go to the foothills near Grass Valley to look for a parcel of land. He traveled all day but saw nothing that met his expectation. As he was heading home something urged him to stop at a real estate office along the way, where a young man was just closing the office. John apologized, saying he was sorry to be so late, when the man said, “I’ve been waiting for you.”

In John’s words…”I was startled but felt this Christian was God’s contact for me to find. I told him I was seeking a parcel with mountains, trees, a stream and a valley. ‘I’ve got it,’ he said, and graciously showed me the property. Later, as the night shadows were fading, I returned to the top of the mountain alone. The final fulfillment of seeking and searching were yet unknown to me as I stood on the bank of the rushing stream midst the blackberry brambles. I felt the peace and tranquility of God’s creation-seasoned with the serene sound of the forest, the babbling brook, and the joyous sound of the birds. It was so peaceful; I could hear the mountain breathe. Filled with awe, I lifted my eyes to heaven to thank God just for the privilege of being there. At that very moment, like a bombarding mystic flash, the scene was changed. I felt a lifting power as the glories of God surrounded me. Now, the forest was all quiet -- the birds hushed their singing. God spoke -- I listened with shaky and trembling composure, as the spirit of God was made known to me -- and I was not afraid but peaceful within. God’s spirit joined the spirit within me giving me his commission. ‘John, follow me, on this mountain you are going to build a garden portraying the passion and life history of Jesus Christ. This ministry is for all to see and hear about.’ I asked, ‘Dear God -- how will this all come about? I feel so unworthy standing here in your presence -- bless me -- I will be your servant.’ God said, ‘Ask, it will be given you.’ (Luke 11:9). With God, all things are possible.’ Soon the spirit of God departed, and I was filled with power to move mountains. This task was to be difficult -- day by day -- hour by hour-long into sleepless nights I wrestled in tears with problems that were not yet to be solved. Not until I placed my faith fully in Jesus’ care and trusted Him implicitly, yes even the seemingly impossible to mind, I loaded all on Christ -- depended on, and now expected from Him in prayer -- that’s when things began to happen. I had to do a lot of dying to self before I began living.

Through the many years, alone on the mountain, in developing this garden, I’ve had the privilege of walking closer with God and being blessed, instructed, and reprimanded by Him -- granting me a little more of the light of God which is now visible in my character as I move about speaking (ministering) to the many thousands of visitors who come every year from coast to coast and many from foreign countries. A bishop from South Africa expressed his joy of visiting here stating that this is like living in the Garden of Eden, busloads of the Golden Age-group -- express it this way: ‘Oh, the blue sky -- see the moss on the trees -- haven’t seen a wild buttercup since I was a child -- hear the rushing sound of the brook -- the song birds. What a place to live in this spiritual atmosphere.' A motorcyclist came breezing off the highway -- I saw him in the chapel, kneeling, helmet laying beside him, head bowed in prayer, alone with God, to be filled with his love and strength. Standing in the chapel before the stained glass altar, I encountered a woman in tears, seeking God’s peace for her tormented soul. I rested my hand on her shoulder to comfort her as she related to me that her teenage daughter died of an overdose of drugs. An elderly lady visitor said, ‘It’s so rewarding to be here. I feel spiritually lifted -- seems just like a few more steps up that I could touch heaven.’ I’ve seen the heartfelt expression of spiritual joy -- with outstretched arms praising God, while standing in the main stream, just baptized. Who comes to Alta Sierra Biblical Gardens? Cars full of people, busloads of school children, Scout troops, church groups, Christians and seekers, garden clubs, and artist painting groups. All enrich their lives spiritually. Some people come seeking Jesus when all else fails, and I’ve been asked to ‘Teach them how to pray.’ Many have found Jesus here on the mountain, and many return to praise God because this mountain is the pinnacle of their life. We can do most for men when we go away from man to a quiet secret place with God. Let us all remember that we are but a mere mist that appears for a little while and that vanishes. In our pilgrimage here reach out and leave a mark on someone so that they will know that Jesus lives, that Jesus forgives, and that Jesus loves even the worst of sinners. Be an ambassador for Christ -- NOW is the appointed time. God’s loving grace -- He loves you too, even though you may feel unworthy and the worst of sinners. I believe in Jesus, therefore I have spoken -- so that the world may know of his love.”

Go to the top of this page

Go back to "About the Gardens" page.