Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What's New - More Treasures to be found in Oregon

For our treasure hunter friends, Kathy has dug up a few nuggets on possible lost treasures and mines in Oregon. From a pirate treasure to the Lost Forest Mine, who knows, maybe you'll be the one to discover the legends are true! Check it out now at Legends of America

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What are you searching for?

I'm always intrigued to find out what our readers are searching for on Legends Of America. So far this summer, Route 66 has been our most popular search term. And there's plenty to read about too. Legends of the Mother Road abound in page after page as we carry you through the entire route, write about the forgotten stops along the road, and tell tales of yesteryear when it was the super highway of the American West.

Other popular searches on Legends Of America include Jesse James, which has remained in the top 5 search terms on our site for over a year. Guess that outlaw spirit remains alive in a lot of us! Come read all about Jesse in our 10 page article "Folklore Hero or Cold Blooded Killer". And while you're there, don't forget to check out Legends Photo Print shop!

Dave Alexander- Legends Of America

Friday, August 07, 2009

Thumbs down to Governor Hollywood

Ok, having finally finished blogging our wonderful trip to California, I have one great big ole' gripe I've got to get off my mind. California Governor Arnold Hollywood (Schwarzenegger), has made a proposal to shut down as many as 80% of California's state parks. This would close some 220 of the state’s 279 state parks. Now, I realize that when you've got budget troubles, there have got to be cutbacks, but this appears to be a very short-sighted solution.

So, let's do some math. California state parks have an estimated 75 million visitors every year. On our recent trip, we spent an average of $1,500 per person for a one week visit and toured 10 state parks during that time. Had these parks been closed we would not have gone to California. Assuming we are "average" travelers and I think we are -- not staying at a Motel 6, but then not staying at the Hyatt either, California's loss of tourism dollars would heavily impact numerous businesses.

If only one half of the 75 million visitors to these state parks come from out of state and say, spend only $1,000 during their visit, they would spend over $37 billion during their stay in California. If they don't visit, because the parks are closed, that's a huge loss of tourism dollars for the state.

Now, I see, that in July, California's state park system escaped an immediate, almost-total dismantling by the California Legislature. Instead of 220 parks closing, a final budget gap of about $8 million spared most parks, but this does not avoid all closures and this topic remains high on the list of further budget cuts.
At a time that the news is filled with California's wasteful spending on items such as social programs for illegal aliens, excess spending in prisons, over the top travel expenses for politicians, and other inefficiencies, this potential budget cut idea appears rediculous.

Though I'm not a very political person, it appears from this outsider's point of view that California's left-wing extremists have damn near buried the state. Though this article is a bit dated, I couldn't say it better than this: "California Liberalism: Out Of Fashion?"

If interested, these are the state parks we visited during our trip.


I saved the best for last!!! For years, I've wanted to visit Alcatraz and about a decade ago I was in San Francisco and planned on doing it. What I didn't know then is that you have to have your tickets days in advance. I went home disappointed that time. But, not this time! Up and early in the morning we stroll along the pier taking lots of pictures and picking up souvinirs for our family. Plus, we all have to buy a jacket or a sweatshirt, cuz it's freezing. Ok, not exactly freezing, but it is 58 degrees and we've only brought summer clothes. Then, it's time to get in line -- a long line. I'm obviously not the only morbid person who's fascinated with visiting this island, with its long history and ghostly legends.

Sitting like a beacon in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, between San Francisco and Oakland, California, is Alcatraz Island. Though most prominently known for the years it served as a maximum security prison, the “Rock’s” history stretches far beyond those infamous days, and its legends and stories continue to find their way into American lore, complete with a number of ghosts who are said to remain upon the island.

Long before Alcatraz became home to some of the most notorious outlaws in the country, it was known as a place to be avoided by Native Americans who believed it to contain evil spirits. These Native Americans, called the Ohlone (a Miwok Indian word meaning "western people"), often utilized the island as a place of isolation or banishment for members violating tribal laws. Despite the legends of evil spirits, Alcatraz was also used by the Indians as an area for food gathering, especially bird eggs and sea-life.
There's lots more to the story, check it out.
Alas, it's time to start making our way back to a hotel in Sacramento. Then, a very early day tomorrow. Flight at 6:00 a.m. Though traveling is always a blast, there's a lot to say for going home.

Let's go get scared at the Winchester Mansion

Up early and ready to explore the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. This very bizarre place was under construction 24/7 for 38 years and is reportedly haunted. It once was the personal residence of Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate William Winchester. Deeply saddened by the deaths of her daughter Annie in 1866 and her husband in 1881, Sarah consulted a psychic. She was told that there was a curse upon the Winchester family because the guns they made had taken so many lives. The psychic went on to tell her that the spirits of those killed were seeking vengeance and that in order to save her own life, Sarah was to build a home for herself and the spirits -- a home that would never be finished. Sarah soon bought a farm in San Jose and began to guide numerous workers in building a mansion, that continued without interruption, from 1884 until her death in September, 1922. The cost for the construction has been estimated at about $5.5 million. Lacking no specific plan, other than those she received from the spirits, the beautiful but bizarre 160 room mansion includes stairs and doors that lead to nowhere, more bedrooms, kitchens and fireplaces than anyone could use in a lifetime, and in numerous places, the number 13 occurs in window pains, chandeliers, trees, and more.
We then make our way westward so we can take Highway 1 up the Pacific Coast. Kim and Terry have never seen the Pacific Ocean, and though it's beautiful, we don't spend a whole lot of time looking at it as we are ill prepared for the temperature drop into the high 50's.

We then snake our way to San Francisco, our last stop on our week-long California adventure. We make our way to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a very large group of National Parks that surrounds the San Francisco Bay area. Here, can be found a number of great sites including Muir Woods National Monument, the Presidio de San Francisco, several old military posts including Forts Baker, Barry, Cronkhite, Point, Mason and Funston, and the coup de gras -- Alcatraz. But, that's for tomorrow. We spend quite a time checking out the sites and taking bunches of pictures before we finally get up the courage for the dangerous task of weaving through downtown San Francisco to our hotel.

California State Parks and Ghost Towns

Leaving Sonora, California, we quickly make our way to the old mining town of Columbia, today preserved as a state historical park. Columbia got its start in March, 1850 when prospectors made camp near here. In just two days, they hit a bonanza and the gulch yielded more than $4,500 in gold ore. News like that doesn’t take long to spread and the area was soon flooded with thousands of miners hoping to find their fortunes. Within no time, a tent and shack city was formed called Hildreth's Diggings. The site was later called American Camp before it was changed permanently to Columbia. Within weeks, the town boomed to a population of over 5,000 people. Between 1850 and the early 1900s, about $150 million in gold was removed from the hills surrounding Columbia.

Today, the state-preserved historic park and a National Historic Landmark preserves the original, gold-rush-town flavor of the town. The historic district features dozens of restore buildings that now feature shops, restaurants and two hotels. Key buildings include the Wells Fargo Express office, built in 1858, the City Hotel, which was established in 1856, the first public high school building, one of the oldest in California, and many more. A stroll along the tree lined Main Street, which is blocked to automobile traffic, visitors can view an old-time pharmacy, newspaper office, and a working blacksmith shop. Tourists can also ride a 100 year-old stagecoach, pan for gold, or tour an active gold mine.

Then we're off to see some really, really big trees at Calavares Big Trees State Park. A California state park since 1931, the site preserves the North Grove of giant sequoias that includes the "Discovery Tree", the first Sierra redwood noted by Augustus T. Dowd in 1852. These are the biggest trees on earth, some of which we could walk through. You used to be able to drive through them.

Then onward to a couple of old mining camps -- Sheep Ranch and Mokelumne Hill before making our way westward to San Jose, for the night.