It’s been incredible to receive so many responses to last week’s Out and About article.  My husband and I have truly valued our 12 day road trip through the Mother Lode Country, gold rush belt, stretching through the Sierra Nevada foothills in central California.  The scenic country is dotted with scores of old mining camps and ghost towns bearing relics of their past. Some, including Amador City, Auburn, Chinese Camp, Columbia, Donnieville, Grass Valley, Jackson, Nevada City, Placerville, San Andreas, Sonora, and Trudeau, have been designated state historic landmarks.

As we drove historic Highway 49, we stopped and visited ten of these historic landmarks.  One of my favorites was Columbia, known as the “Gem of the Southern Mines”. The town has dirt roads, wooden sidewalks and friendly townspeople dressed in 1850’s period attire. The population is 2,297.  We stopped in the saloon and had a bottle of ice cold Sarsaparilla.  It was so refreshing as it was 99 degrees outside.  We spoke with the owner of the Clothiers and Emporium for quite a long time.  Like other small store owners we spoke to, she concurred that sales have been brisk this summer due to tourism. A highlight of our visit to Columbia was the stagecoach ride we took through the town

Another unique destination was the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown.  This is an intact and still-functioning steam locomotive repair and maintenance facility, portions of which date back to 1897.  We boarded the vintage passenger coaches pulled by an authentic steam locomotive.  Still a popular Hollywood location site today, Railtown’s 1897’s has been called ‘perhaps the most widely seen locomotive in the world.”  One of my favorite television shows growing up, Petticoat Junction, was filmed there.  Our train ride took us by the water tower seen in the TV series, as well as the facade of Hooterville.

Another highlight of our trip was the Roaring Camp Mining Company located in Pine Grove.

This camp was once a camp for Forty Niners, but since it was so inaccessible, most of the gold still remains.  On Saturday nights they host a big cookout. We were loaded onto the back of an old Toyota pickup.  There were three bench seats built into the bed, with 8 of us seating on each bench seat. We traveled on a curvy dirt road, dropping two thousand feet in altitude.  The camp was beautiful. We were provided a guided tour of the museum and the Placer Gold mine operation.  There were 180 guests at this cookout.  We listened to a band and had the opportunity to meet so many people from across the United States.  I was sad to learn that the two individuals sitting next to me were from Paradise.  One lost everything in the fire last season and the other said she felt blessed that her house was spared.

As we traveled from Pine Grove to Lotus, we stopped in several small towns.  I enjoyed our stay in Sutter Creek. We strolled the stores of main street which were a balance of old and new.  It was a beautiful town. I fell in love with one particular store and I am so thankful it is 396 miles away!  I know I would be a frequent shopper if I lived there.

Our final stop on historic Highway 49 was Coloma, a settlement established in 1849 and named for James W. Marshall, discoverer of gold.  In Coloma we did something I thought I would never do in my life….whitewater raft.  We did a four hour trip of the South Fork American Gorge.  What a blast!  Throughout this trip, we had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world.  As we rafted together, we laughed, we shared stories of our home towns and we experienced a great sense of teamwork.

The past 12 days on historic Highway 49 were indeed memories created for life.  I can’t wait for next summer’s adventure!

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