We finally scratched the itch and headed north to find more historical markers (…and enjoy some lovely scenery, picturesque sites, and great weather). Our intention was to view sites in Madera, Mariposa, and Toulounme counties…we ended up also in Calaveras and San Joaquin counties. In all we took out 48 sites as we continue to fall in love with this area of the state.
In typical fashion, we only booked the hotel for the first night (the Yosemite Sierra Inn -a very comfortable and reasonable hotel) and tried our luck for the rest of the trip, which put us out in Salida, CA. There we stayed at the Hilton / Hampton Inn which came through for us, not because of our status with their rewards program, instead out of a very real commitment to customer service.
I think it here apropos to explain why we had a hard time finding a hotel in the counties of Calaveras, Madera, Mariposa, and Touloumne: it was the annual Calaveras County Frog Jumping Contest. THANK YOU one “Mr. Mark Twain” who wrote the The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. If you visit Angel’s Camp (in Calaveras) the streets are lined with plaques honoring the annual winner since 1928.
These counties are considered the “gold-rush” and “gold-camp” counties of 1849; the number of ghost towns was amazing and history was alive and well as the tradition set in motion by
Mark Twain brought everyone out. Bear Valley and Agua Fria where interesting (quick tangent: Christine made friends with a seemingly wild horse as we explored a desolate, but well kept, cemetery), but the kids and I left our hearts in Hornitos. Oddly, Hornitos was not a “gold-rush” town-site, it was an established Mexican town well before that.
This former town-site is known for being the first site of Ghirardelli Chocolates (the factory is not just a set of ruins) and St. Catherine’s Catholic Church, better known as Ansel Adam’s The White Church. Here I met up with some locals that pointed out the tunnel that Joaquin Murrieta used to escape an attempt on his life.
Another amazing, and really (REALLY) moving site was the monument to Reuel Colt Gridley in Stockton. The monument is in the middle of a cemetery, with headstones placed as concentric circles around the statue. In front of the monument is his wife’s headstone and final resting place. The rest of the headstones where service men from WWI and WWII. Upon closer inspection, many of the buried in the closest circle to monument fought in SPAM…I sadly admit that it took Christine and I some time to figure out it was the Spanish-American war. This was the first time that we had come across buried servicemen for this war.
One of our final stops was the Columbia California State Park, another ghost town that is now used to stage historical reenactments from the Old West. Here we rode in a horse-drawn carriage, got held up by a road-side bandit in said carriage, panned for gold, and walked around a “historic portal.” Needless to say, we had a lot of fun here exploring, climbing and pretending.