Bright and early, Miss Kimmy, who never eats more than a bananna for breakfast - hence nice skinny legs, is craving what she calls pammy cakes. Denny's -- here we come and fortified, we are on our way. Who would guess, it would take us six hours to cover 27 miles. Well, mebbe, that's not so surprising. Anywho, drives through two more "non-ghost-towns" that are; however, historic mining camps -- Colfax and Grass Valley. Picturesque for sure. Then on to the highlight of our day -- the Empire Mine State Historic Park. What a wonderful stop and a great history.
The Empire Mine was the richest hard-rock mine in the State of California producing 5.8 million ounces of gold in its operating history of 106 years (1850-1956). George Roberts, the original discoverer of the gold soon sold his interest and by 1869 William Bourn Sr. owned controlling interest. The Bourn family maintained control of the mine until 1929 when it was sold to Newmont Mining. It ceased operation in 1956. In 1975 the State purchased the surface property as the Empire Mine State Historic Park. The Park draws thousands of worldwide visitors each year and is noted for its historical tours of the Bourn Cottage, the mineyard and "living history" events.
This was an absolute wonderful stop. We watched blacksmiths doing what they do best, and one very informative gentleman made both Kim and I a small salt spoon out of railroad nails. Then, we got to meet an origianl decendent of the owners, who shared with us a giant and beautiful gold nugget.
You can bet this will be one of the first places to get written up on Legends of America. Sadly, we also learn that California's Hollywood governor, in the midst of a financial panic, is looking to perhaps close down some of these wonderful state parks. Terrible! Very glad we are here now, as the future of these historic places is uncertain.
We then tour through a "real" ghost town called Rough and Ready (what a name!) before making our way to the Yuba River and the old townsite of Bridgeport. Though there is nothing left of the town today, a historic and incredible surprise awaits as at the Bridgeport Bridge. Built in 1862, the bridge is the longest single span bridge in existence. Down below dozens of people splash and float in the crystal blue waters of the Yuba River.
Then on to another "real" ghost town -- North San Juan before making our way to the Malakoff Diggings State Park, another historic site that Mr. Hollywood is threatening to close. However, before we get there, Dave spies a UPS driver (female) who has broken down on the side of the road. Now, Dave, probably the most conservative and cautious man in the state of California at this time, decides to stop and give her a hand, while Terry, Kim and I insist it's probably some kind of scam - disguised drug runner or worse. In the end he agrees to play "UPS man" and deliver a package for her while she waits for help that's already on the way. Come to find out, Dave has a "thang" for brown uniforms. He caught a lot of grief for the rest of the day from the rest of us. Hehe.
On to the Malakoff Diggings State Park where our good smaritan delivers his UPS package to the museum. Good deeds do return good deeds and we are delighted when the ranger, thankful for receiving her package, says we can take the tour for free. Good job Dave.
The park is the site of California's largest "hydraulic" mine. Visitors can see huge cliffs carved by mighty streams of water, results of the gold mining technique of washing away entire mountains to find the precious metal. Legal battles between mine owners and downstream farmers ended this method. The park also contains a 7,847 foot bedrock tunnel that served as a drain and the visitor center has exhibits on life in the old mining town of North Bloomfield. Another great stop.
We then wind around for miles before finally making it back to "civilization" and find a good road to make up some time. Ahhhh, here we go -- Interstate 80. Only 54 miles to Truckee, then we're on our way to Tahoe. Huh!!! Not so easy as we thought. Gotta say, California has set an all time record for these travelers, who have been virtually everywhere in the United States. A four mile construction zone takes us one hour and 15 minutes to get through. Yuck, yuck, yuck. Finally, we peel off the other thousand or so vehicles to make our way to the Pioneer Monument, also referred to as the Donner Monument, situated near the site where the fateful wagon train of 1847-48 was stranded at the edge of the Sierra Nevada range.
On to South Lake Tahoe. Beautiful drive, lots and lots of people. It’s definitely summer season at Tahoe. Couple of stops for scenery pics – especially at Emerald Bay. Then off to Harrah’s -- maybe four feet over the Nevada state line. Wonderful friends, Terry and Kim, got high status with Harrah’s and get us two huge comped rooms. Very quick loss of our gambling budget, dinner and bed.