Monday, September 30, 2013

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

I did not do justice to the city of Auburn in my last posting.  It is one of the few mining towns which has thrived and prospered, even after the gold rush days ended. The town has had several fires over the years, but it has manged to keep and restore some of its historic buildings, one of which is a Victorian firehouse.

We enjoyed walking in the older section of town which has many quaint shops and art galleries. Restored old town has buildings from the mid-19th century. Another reason for the town's success is that in 1851 it became the Placer County seat.  The courthouse, built in 1894, is pictured below.  It is a rather impressive building and towers over the historic section of Auburn.

Over this past week-end John and I visited his cousin Christine and her husband Bill in Nevada City.  With them we attended the Grass Valley Celtic Festival on Saturday.  Irish tunes were played fairly continuously on a couple of stages.  We especially enjoyed Molley's Revenge and 1916.  On Sunday we left our wonderful hosts and drove to Malakoff Diggins.  John was interested in the hydraulic method of mining gold.  As I mentioned in a previous posting, placer gold ore was difficult to mine and, in the long run, not very profitable.  Toward the end of 1860 large-scale hydraulic mining began.  That particular type of mining involves blasting at mountains with powerful water cannons- to wash the ore free and uncover the gold-laden ore quartz underneath.  One mining company mined $3 million in gold leaves, but their expenditure was $3 million for capital improvements.  Unfortunately, farm lands and whole towns were consequently flooded when the resulting tailings began to build up.  Lives were lost.  Appeals were made to the State Legislature, and, by 1884, restrictions were placed on the mining companies.  They could no longer dump the tailings in the surrounding rivers, and it was no longer profittable to continue hydraulic mining.  In the park we saw the gouged hillsides which stand next to a massive pit.  There are now 3,200 acres of second-growth forests comprising of pines, cedars, oaks and firs growing in the upper slopes.  We hiked along the edge of the pit where manzanita bushes are growing profusely.  Despite the beauty of the trees and plants growing back, the gouged hillsides still speak to the expensive price for retriving gold by hydraulic mining.  It was truly a rape of the land.

Auburn and Coloma, California

On our way home from Lake Tahoe we stopped in Coloma, California.  The American River flows through Coloma, and the river is where the California gold rush began.  There are a few businesses left in the town, Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park encompasses most of it.
 It was January of 1848 when John Marshall discovered a few flecks of gold in the tailrace of the saw mill which he and John Sutter owned.  Word soon got out about the gold in the American River and young men from all over our nation came in droves to California.  We took a tour of the park with a docent who had lots of information to share with us about life in the town of Colona during the early years of the gold rush.  The lure of gold also drew people from China.  Still standing in the park are two buildings where the Chinese citizens of the town could purchase needed items from their home country.  The Man Lee was a trading, banking, and hardware store.  The other store, pictured below is the Wah Hop.  In the latter building has been placed merchandise which use to be sold in it.
 Some of the tour was a bit boring for me, especially when our guide discussed the various methods by which gold is mined.  Different mining equipment is located in the park, and that was part of our tour.  We learned how placer gold ore is mined by either a wet or a dry method.  Initially miners simply used a pan to separate the river gravel from the gold.  That proved to be a slow arduous process and many of the young men who traveled to California with hopes of getting rich never achieved the wealth they dreamed of.  Today people still pan for gold in the American River, and some are successful.  Our guide purchased a nugget from a person who found gold in the river several years ago.  He claims that the value of the nugget is around $4,000.00.  That was the most interesting part of the tour for me, to see that piece of gold!
From Coloma we drove to Auburn, where our home is currently parked.   Auburn is another historic gold mining town, founded in 1849.  At the Native Son Park, which we discovered while wandering around in the older section of town, we found a plaque honoring Claude Chana who found gold in the North Fork of the American river in May of 1848.  He camped in what would later be known as the Auburn Ravine.  
There is also another marker in the park which honors “all the Gold Miners throughout the Mother Lode”.  The memorial concludes with the comment that without the ingenuity and perseverance of the miners, California would not have become the “Golden State”.



Friday, September 27, 2013

Lake Tahoe

 On Tuesday we moved from the western part of the state to the eastern foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, which is about in the central part of California.  One of our goals while here has been to visit Lake Tahoe.  We took a two day car trip to visit that area on Wednesday. 
 A cool front came in Monday from the coast, so I guess we should have realized that there was going to be a change in the temperature, especially around Lake Tahoe which has an elevation of 6,000 feet.  It is hard to believe from the picture above, but our first day at the lake had periods of grey clouds overhead with occasional brief snow showers.  Actually, we were not sure whether to even call it snow, but it was not rain.  It can only be described as small pieces of ice which melted as soon as they hit the ground.  After each brief spitting of ice the sun would come out again.  Our trip the first day took us by Donner Memorial State Park..  We stopped there to view the memorial dedicated to the ill-fated Donner Party, 36 of whose members died in the Sierra Nevada Mountains when trapped by a snowstorm in 1846.  Our other stop for the day was at Vikingsholm, a Scandinavian stone castle built in 1929 by Mrs. Lora J.Knight.  The only way to reach the home is either by boat or by hiking about one mile down a steep mountain slope.  We chose the latter, and the walking path led us to the back door of Vikingsholm.  The front part of the house, facing the lake, is pictured below.
We found the history of this home to be quite fascinating.  Mrs. Knight's second husband came from Ladue, Missouri.  While in St.Louis she met Charles Lindbergh, who, a few years later, flew her over Lake Tahoe to assist her in finding a site for her home.  She chose Emerald Bay on the lake because the setting reminded her of  the fjords she had seen in Norway.  She fell in love with  the rugged mountains, waterfalls which cascaded down granite cliffs, and the tiny island in the bay.   On this island she had built a small tea house.                    
The house has many Scandinavian features, which can be seen in the picture below.  In the cozy living room are two intricately carved “dragon” beams which hang from the ceiling.  A corner fireplace is present in the room, which is characteristic of Scandinavian architecture.  Also in the room is a brightly painted bride’s table, a piece given to a Swedish peasant girl customarily by her parents at the time of her marriage.  A peasant's chair sits in front of the table
 A craftsman, of Scandinavian descent, was responsible for the elaborate wood carvings around the doors and the dragons on the roof's peaks.  Another interesting feature of the stone castle is the sod roof which covers the north and south wings of the courtyard.  Mrs. Knight did not keep a goat on the roof, but yearly had native wildflowers planted on the sod roof when she came to stay for the summer.  After leaving Emerald Bay we drove down into South Tahoe city for the night.  On that drive we came over a very narrow ridge where a beautiful vista of mountains and lakes opened up before us.  Tahoe Lake was off to our left and also in front of us, and Crystal Lake was off to our right.  The sun shone brightly over the mountains in the distance.  The road was quite narrow here, with no guard rails- John described it as "white-knuckle driving", but I sure enjoyed the view!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Muir Woods National Monument

As I had written previously, our home is now parked across the San Francisco Bay north of the city itself.  This has proven to be a good place to park as it has given us a different experience from the other times when we have visited this area.  Here we are surrounded by the Marion Headlands, or coastal hills.  Grassy hills slope down to valleys which sit next to the shoreline, we find it to be a very beautiful area even though we are still dealing with the hectic pace of city life.
One of the larger hills, which we can see from our home, is Mount Tamalpais.  Friday we drove over to the state park of the same name, where Muir Woods is located.  The coastal redwoods in this park are the tallest trees in the world, their height may be up to 368 feet and diameter of 20 feet.  Looking up into the canopy of this forest I could not help but be filled with awe at their majestic height.
The coastal redwoods are closely related to the giant sequoia and dawn redwood.  There use to be 40 of the species which once lived in a warmer, wetter climate- now there are 15 of the "ancient relics" remaining, most of them living around the Pacific Rim.  The trees in this park draw people from around the world.  We were there on a weekday, it was a bit cool and wet.  However, nothing seemed to deter the crowds of people who were there, a parking space was difficult to find and about 6 large tour buses came and left during the time we were there.  
Pictured above is a section of the woods called Cathedral Grove.  Here there are many signs encouraging the visitor to walk quietly through the cluster of trees.  There is also an brass plaque along the trail  commemorating a time in 1945 when world leaders came here after meeting in San Francisco to establish the United Nations.  They visited the woods to honor President Franklin Roosevelt who had died a month earlier.  Organizers of the event hoped "that the profound beauty and serenity of Muir Woods would inspire the delegates to pursue the President's program for world peace as they met to establish the United Nations".  Quotation was taken from the memorial plaque in the woods, which marks the spot where the world leaders stood on May 19, 1945.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Cable Car Day

As I had mentioned in the previous post, we are presently parked within walking distance of the ferry landing.  So our trip yesterday to San Francisco first started out on a 40 minute boat ride.  It was early afternoon then and the sailboats were starting to line up for the American Cup races.  The races were all the topic of conversations yesterday, and we saw a few people wearing tee shirts with the words " New Zealand" printed on them.  We talked to those people and it was their hope that their country would finish up the races that day with a victory.  We later learned that it did not happen!  As you may note from the title of this posting, it was all about cable cars for us yesterday.
We bought all day passes for the cable car and certainly had a great experience feeling the hills of the city, as well getting great views of its various sections; primarily Nob Hill and Chinatown, as well as San Francisco Bay.  In the Nob Hill area we got off to tour Grace Cathedral, an Epicopal church.

The church is the third largest of America's Episcopal cathedrals.  It was built from 1927 to 1964, its construction being inspired by French cathedrals.  We were not going to spend a lot of time looking at the church, but a docent offered to give us a tour. That proved to be a good thing, as without his guidance we would have missed a lot of the artistic and historic features of the church.  In the picture above is the statue of St.Francis, his face having the likeness of Buddha.   The sculpture was chosen as a perfect symbol for the church- a welcoming house of prayer for all people. The circles on the floor to the right of the statue is an indoor labyrinth for prayer and meditation.  The murals on the wall depict the history of the church, the first building was destroyed in the earthquake of 1906.  The blue and red ribbons above the nave are part of the 2013 art project which is entitled "Graced with Light".  On the blue ribbons people have written their hopes and prayers.  Leaving the church we walked over to Chinatown.
What a colorful, vibrant shopping district!  In the store windows and sidewalks are beautiful displays of jewelry, as well as a variety of souvenirs.  There are also large carvings of wood, ivory and jade.  The streets are currently decorated for the Moon Festival, which will be in a couple of weeks.  From here we boarded the cable car to Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square.  After partaking of Ghirardelli ice cream, we boarded one of the last two cable cars of the day.  The first one, the Powell-Mason line is the most popular, consequently we waited about an hour to board.  A cold breeze was blowing off the bay by then, but John was insistent on waiting for the car as it was the only line which we had not ridden on.  The second one, Powell-Hyde Line is also popular because it goes over one of the steepest hills in the city.  I guess I enjoyed the experience- problem was that John and I were standing on the edge of the car, hanging over the street as we went down that steep hill!  Also, I had to flatten myself against John as another cable car coming up the hill whizzed close by us.  I must say that we had a complete San Francisco cable car experience!

Thursday, September 19, 2013



We are now parked north of San Francisco, near the bay of the same name and within walking distance of the ferry which can take us into the city.  We may take the ferry in today.  After his experience with driving around in Oakland yesterday, I am sure that John would gladly give up his wheels today!  There is no courtesy from the drivers in this state, they are all in a rush and would rather go around us in any manner possible so as not to take the time to let us into a lane.  Other than having to deal with the hazards of driving, we did enjoy our time in Oakland.  We first drove down to the harbor, in an area dubbed Jack London Square.  As perhaps you may know, Jack London was an Oakland native son who wrote The Call of the Wild, Sea Wolf, as well as other adventure-type novels.  He lived from 1876-1916.  Some of his life was spent prospecting for gold in Alaska from 1897-98.  An avid fan of the author found the cabin in which London lived while there, dismantled the building and used the wood to replicate the cabin.  The cabin was built on the wharf in Oakland.
London got the material for his novels from his life experiences as a war correspondent, miner and longshoreman.  He also found the characters for his novels in the seafarers he met at Heinold's Last Chance Saloon.  The pub opened in 1883 and has been in continuous operation since.  Its location insured that for travelers on the wharf the bar was either the first or last chance to purchase a "nickle beer" or a "dime whiskey".  A more current name for the building is "Jack's Rendezvous".  Other notable visitors to this saloon included George Sterling and Robert Louis Stevenson.  A mural has been painted on the side of the building in honor of the author.

We also saw at the waterfront the boat the USS Potomac, President F.D. Roosevelt's yacht which he used  through his presidential years.  We still had some time to kill before meeting up with John's cousin Lois, so we drove over to Willett Lake which has botanical and bonsai gardens.
The park  also has an aviary and enclosed pond where many ducks and other birds hang out.  We were surprised to see that one black-crowned night heron let us get quite close to him for his picture. 
Maybe the bird does not know it, but he should be roosting in a tree!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Eureka, California

Tomorrow we are moving on, with our eventual destination being San Francisco.  We have enjoyed Eureka immensely.  The town lies in the heart of  the Redwood Empire, famous for its coastal redwoods.  The history of the town goes back 140 years when miners, loggers and fisherman made their fortunes in the wilderness.  One lumber baron built a home which is probably the most photographed in the country.  In just the short time I was standing in front of it several cars stopped to take pictures.  Carson built this Victorian Mansion at a slow period when he needed to keep the millworkers busy.  He is said to have employed more than over a100 craftsmen to do the intricate, decorative flourishes.  Eureka has maintained many of its Victorian mansions which hearken back to the early days of the town.  Currently some local club has possession of the building.
There are over 1600 historically-designated and beautiful examples of Victorian homes all over Eureka proper.  John and I spent Saturday morning walking through the old historic business area of the town, and we could easily find at least one Victorian building on every street.  We came to appreciate the skill which is required to keep those buildings restored when we toured the Blue Ox millworks.  Antique equipment is used there for making custom doors,windows, turnings, and Victorian gingerbread that is shipped nationwide.  When we started our tour of the building, the owner, master craftsman Eric Hollenbeck, demonstrated cutting a small piece of wood on one of his scroll saws which was made in the late 1800s.   Another saw was  made before the Civil War.
Fourteen years ago the millworks took on another project, a Community School where high school students could not only learn the craft of restoring old buildings, but also try their hand at weaving, ceramics, shingle making, blacksmithing, to name a few of the other skills which they could learn at the Blue Ox.  Our tour took us outside where Eric has added more buildings for those crafts.  Some of the buildings demonstrate the millwork done by Blue Ox.  One is pictured below, in front of it is a charcoal rick.  We seemed to find many interesting objects while touring the grounds!
In our tour of the main building we found an antique printing room where the students even print their own yearbooks.  It was interesting perusing through those books and getting to know the students whose lives have been changed because of their time at the Blue Ox.  Before closing I would like to mention something else interesting which we found in Eureka.  In the historic section of town is the Romano Gabriel Garden.  The "garden" can be seen from behind a windowed wall.  The artist, a carpenter and gardener, spent close to three decades during the mid-20th century carving the whimsical art from vegetable crates, originally they decorated his front yard.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sequoia Park Zoo

As Arcata, Eureka has a redwood forest.  The 105-year old zoo, park and gardens all sit adjacent to the forest.  There is a small garden next to the zoo, which we walked through first before entering the zoo.  Since we have been here the sky has been overcast with the sun occasionally peeking through.  However, the moist temperate climate here certainly produces some beautiful flowers.
Just inside the entrance to the zoo there is a small pond with Chilean flamingos.
It was John who noticed the baby flamings, a least a couple of them.  He is not in the picture, but a larger young one still had the grey feathers.  We are not sure when they turn pink.
Pictured above is a red panda.  In his homeland of China, and other parts of Asia, his coloring works  for him as he blends in well there with red moss and white lichen.  There was another animal in his pen, the cavy.  Also called "maras" that animal is the largest rodent in the world.  He can run up to speeds of 20mph and jump as high as 6 feet.  Argentina is his homeland.
Except for a cage of monkeys, a yak, two grey fox, and a building with snakes, fish and frogs, that was about all for the zoo.  They are in the midst of a big construction program.  The farmyard, however did have a variety of animals, including a bee house and a cage of mice in the barn.  We were intrigued by the size of a couple of the goats, one of which stood at least 4 feet tall.  The zoo keeper informed us that the taller goats are dairy goats- the shorter ones are used for their meat, as well as for eliminating brambles and brush.  Oddly enough, we were also told that sheep are milked.
After hiking through the redwood forest we stopped at the playground in the park to get a good look at a most unusual piece of playground equipment.  The slides, pictured above, are built off a platform which is located on the top of a stump.  That stump was the mother tree for about 12 redwoods which encircle what was once the original tree.  Children were certainly enjoying playing there!  After our visit to the zoo we toured Fort Humbolt, where Ulysses Grant served as a young captain in the 1850s.  There is only one original building left of the fort. The historic area of Eureka is also interesting, I will save that for another posting.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Arcata, California

We had planned to move from Grant's Pass to Redding, California yesterday.  It had been quite warm in Grant's Pass so we checked the temperatures for northern California, and learned that the climate would be the same there for another week.  We made a quick decision to return to the coast, where the temperatures are about 30 degrees cooler.  It was a beautiful drive down here on the Redwood Highway, Highway 101,  what with the beautiful redwood forests as well as the coastal scenery. 
We had a chance to get a bit closer to the redwoods today when we hiked in the Arcata Community Forest.  This lush green forest of 600 acres lies within the city limits.  It was logged in the late 1800s and then allowed to grow back naturally.  What was fascinating to us were the stumps of the trees which had been cut over a 100 years ago.  There is a very tall redwood growing out of the above stump!   The sustainably managed forest is owned by and maintained for the citizens of Arcata.  It was a very busy place when we were there today.  A family with two little boys were biking the trails, a jogger ran past us, and a class from nearby Humbolt State University were measuring the trees.  Some of the tree stumps have sculptures carved into them.  However, the main reason we were in Arcata today was to visit the studio of Laura Skye.  Her house is a mosaic art showcase.  Pictured below is the entrance to the studio portion of her house.  That is not a real person sitting on the mosaic bench in the picture below!
Skye and her daughter were finishing up their lunch, but were very gracious to us and offered us a tour of the place.  Almost everything is covered in some type of bling, including the mug she was drinking from.  The floors, walls, dishwasher, skulls, crutches, and even the toilet are decorated with everything from bicycle chains to gold to imported Italian glass.  Ever heard the expression of "throwing your money down the drain"?  She has done it in her toilet!  Pennies cover the bowl.
Classes and workshops are held in her house.  We caught her at a time when she is packing for a trip to Italy, she will be conducting a workshop on portraiture in Tuscany.  Leaving her house we toured the town which has large Victorian homes, colorful gardens and whimsical shops.  It is a small but very active university town where we saw (what seemed to us) a few oddities, including vans and campers painted with flowers.  Maybe we should say quite Californian.  It is good to be back in this state, the midwest seems a bit dull in comparision.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Crater Lake

We have unfortunately now moved inland from the costal areas.  I say unfortunately because here, in Grant’s Pass Oregon, there is a heat wave going on.  It is a bit much to take because we are now 20 degrees hotter!  However, it does cool down at night.  We did not have any plans to visit Crater Lake as we had seen it in years past.  John was considering returning there, and once I saw that area’s weather report, I needed no convincing to head north to the lake.  Grant’s Pass sits in the Rogue River valley and our trip followed a scenic byway along the Rogue River.  One of the important spots to see along that highway is the Rogue River Gorge.  We hiked on an overlook above the gorge and an interpretive sign along the way noted that the gorge was likely formed by the collapse of lava tubes and the force of the river as it followed fractures between layers of lava.  The river gorge is quite narrow and the river follows a very rocky and wild course as it tumbles down into the canyon.
 At the end of the overlook our trail abruptly ended and the river above the canyon cascades down in a series of waterfalls.
That was a beautiful sight, but Crater Lake topped the beauty which we had just seen.

The deep blue color of the lake was what immediately caught our eyes.  The lake is the deepest freshwater lake in the United States, no streams empty into it.  The clarity of it goes down 143 feet deep, which is a world’s record.  The history of the lake goes back many years when Mt. Mazama sat where it is sitting now.  The park’s brochure explains very succinctly what happened when it errupted: “ it blew, it fell, and it filled".  The volcano created a caldera, which became a lake that filled after centuries of rain and snowfall.  We hiked along the rim, soaking up the lake’s beauty from every angle.  Douglas firs and hemlocks frame the scenic picture, as well as precipitous rock walls.  
 Off in the distance in the lake we could see Wizard Island, pictured above.  It is a cinder cone which formed after the eruption.  During the summer months the park offers boat rides to the island, and it is possible to hike to the top of it.  We drove further southwest along the rim where we got a closer look at other features of the lake.
The explosion of the volcano created massive grey cliffs; we stopped to view two of them, one of which is named by Native Americans as Llao Rock.  After the eruption the area became an important ritual site for the tribes of the area, they perceive that spirits inhabit the volcanic terain.  We did not complete our drive around the rim because it was getting late in the day.  There is much more to see at Crater Lake, but we wanted to see the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway before it got dark.  The road took us through a pumice desert and offered us stunning views of large rock pinnacles, as well as the rushing Umpqua River.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Newport, Oregon

The town of Newport is spread across a peninsula which located between the Pacific Ocean and Yaquina Bay.  It has been a resort community for over 100 years.  Certain Lohrmann family members may remember it from our family reunion several years back when they boarded a boat from its port to do some deep sea fishing.  During the time John and I spent wandering the Bay Front, I must say that many of our senses were completely engaged, primarily in a pleasant way.  We had learned that seal lions hang out at the waterfront, and as we approached that area we heard them before seeing them.  What a ruckus they were raising, and it seemed that the noise was all about the issues they had with each other!
An interpretive sign at the wharf informed us that only the male sea lions migrate north, the females stay back in California.  Maybe that explains all the hostility between the lions- just too much testosterone in one place!  They hang around the wharf because of the large fish processing plants that are present at the Bay Front.  What a fishy smell that hangs over the area!  John did not let that stop him from checking out the machine which was dumping out shrimp refuse.  Most of that pink garbage is shrimp shells
Beautiful murals have been painted on the outside walls of the buildings in historic Newport.  Also on the buildings are myriads of gulls who, like the sea lions, are hoping to nab some fish scraps.
If you are not into fish, sea lions and gulls, there is plenty of opportunity for shopping on the Bay Front.  Wood carvings, blown glass and a variety of other souvenirs can be found in the many stores.  And there are also plenty of restaurants here where it is possible to experience the taste of fresh seafood.