Last fall, Steve and I took a couple of very fun weekend trips, first to Monterey and then back to Gold Country.
In August, we drove down to Monterey for a three day weekend. Of course, no trip to Monterey is complete without a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It is a really impressive place and Steve and I spent our first day there. We saw lots a pretty fishies, and some funny looking ones, too. Here are a couple of our favorites.
On the second day I town, Steve and I took a walking tour of historic downtown Monterey, then went into a cool little Museum, where we found our true selves.
That evening, we went to a British pub called The Mucky Duck. The tour book described it as a cool place that the local college kids go to on the weekends. It was that. The DJ played great 80’s music and the young people had a great time. Unfortunately, this little excursion only served to remind me that I was no longer such a young person. I could totally see me there in college with all my friends: Jose, Mandy, Dave, Jae, Zack, Mang, Monica. . . But we weren’t there and I felt oddly out of place. So, Steve and I grabbed our walkers and headed back to the hotel.
The next morning we set out for home by way of Salinas, home of John Steinbeck. We spent several hours at the National John Steinbeck Center, walking around the displays and reading about Steinbeck’s life and works.
Steve was giving me a hard time about going there, saying that it would be just like Disneyland, with a little animatronic statue of Steinbeck. We laughed about it, but it turned out to be true. There was a statue that was motion activated. As we walked by, John, himself, started speaking to us. It was a bit odd, but overall, a good experience.
Gold Country. Again.
There is nothing as addictive as the possibility of striking the Mother Lode. What else can explain Steve and my endless fascination with driving out to Placerville and beyond? Well, for one thing, we always seem to find something new. This time, we drove further east, out to Auburn and Grass Valley. We visited the North Star Mine and browsed through an interesting museum. The guide there was an interesting character. For those of you who watch The X-Files, he was very much like Duane Berry. It was surreal. While at the mine, Steve also made me pose with an old water cannon. It became painfully clear why as soon as I saw this picture.
From there, we drove on to the Empire Mine where we were able to go a short way down into the mine shaft. Here Steve is on the manskip.
It’s hard to imagine it, but these manskips used to drop thousands of feet into a mine in just a few seconds. Apparently, miners quickly learned to duck their heads and to keep their arms and legs inside the car at all times.
Besides gold, Gold Country is also the site of some pretty spectacular scenery. Here Steve is at the Yuba River.
Auburn is also the home of a pretty amazing, and prolific, artist. It seems a local dentist passes his time creating enormous concrete statues. Those located by his office are truly breathtaking in their depictions of naked Ancient Greeks. Scattered about the town of Auburn are the statues he donated to, and were accepted by, the city. These are much more in keeping with the theme of the area and show various gold miners in pursuit of the gleaming metal. Here I am communing with the Big Guy, hoping some of his luck will rub off on me for the big panning expedition the next day.
And so, the next morning, Steve and I set out for the Marshall Gold Discovery site in Coloma and the lure of panning. I think we have gotten a little too good at the technique. The park employee at the panning trough was more than a little grouchy with us and really watched the time closely to be sure we didn’t stay any longer than our one hour allowed. Of course, for the amount of time we spent helping children with their pans, Steve and I should have been the ones being paid. At any rate, it was another successful day at the panning trough.
Once we were shooed away, we made our way up to the Marshall monument and cabin. These are things that we never knew were there before. I guess in the past we always panned until sunset and then had to hurry home. This time, we had a little more time to explore. Up the road a little bit is the cabin where John Marshall used to live and the family graveyard. There is also a great monument up on the hill in which Marshall is pointing to the mill trace where gold was first found. I’m fairly certain this monument was not created by the dentist.