Monday, June 13, 2011

Heart of the Gold Country

Thursday …

Well, guess what? Here we are in Jackson, the heart of California’s Gold County, and we cannot connect to the Internet! Our wifi says we have an excellent signal, but we cannot connect. So we are writing in MS Word, and as soon as we can, we’ll connect with you folks! We are parked at the Elks’ Lodge in Jackson, beneath a huge old oak tree, with this kind of view from our site. The lodge charges $12 a night for a 30 amp site with water. Hard to beat!

We traveled only 45 miles today, from Pollock Pines to Jackson, with a stop in Placerville for gas (with a 20 cent discount at Safeway, thank you!). Most of our journey was along California State Highway 49, the “Golden Chain Highway.” Highway 49 is cherished by California and Californians as one of the nation’s most scenic highways, and rightfully so. However, it is not cherished by drivers of medium to large RVs, as much of it is narrow and twisty two-lane highway with little-if-any shoulder! (Suzy says, “That’s true,” as she just got done driving that route!) And in a couple of days, she has more of Highway 49 to travel).

Our plans for Friday include a car trip back along 49 to the little old gold rush towns of Sutter Creek, Amador City and Drytown. Hold on, folks, and our Magic Carpet will take you along with us!


We did travel down to the three small towns mentioned, and had a great Friday. The three towns are about 2 – 3 miles apart on Old Highway 49. The very names evoke images of the past. If you ever watched the movie “Paint Your Wagon,” that’s California’s Gold Country.

Sutter Creek is the biggest of these small communities, and the Knight Foundry is one of the main relics of the past. Mr. Sam Knight established this foundry in 1873. Mr. Knight had developed a seven-foot-diameter, high-speed cast iron water wheel to operate the main machinery. His water wheels also powered the first hydroelectric dams in California.

The sign on the door reads" Office & Bar."
At the time the California Department of Parks and Recreations put their sign up, Knight Foundry was the last water powered foundry and machine shop in California in continuous operation for that long. Alas, it is no longer in operation. The Knight Foundry is rusting its way into oblivion, and we were there to watch it rust.

In Sutter Creek we also visited the local Catholic Church, surrounded as it is by its historic cemetery. I found a number of children’s graves, one stating that the deceased was age one month and one day at the time of his death. Probably not unusual in those days.

In Amador City, the Keystone Mine, reaching a depth of 2680 feet below ground level, operated from 1851 to 1952, employing as many as 100 men at a time and producing $24 million in gold. These weekends there are porch sales throughout the town, producing their own share of the “gold.”

The smallest of the three towns, Drytown, was where we ate lunch at the Old Well Café and Motel.

Drytown Club. They claim to be "The Only Wet Spot in Drytown."
Drytown in its heyday had a population of 8000 white and 2000 Chinese, enjoying 26 saloons and a number of brothels. There is a legend that about $80,000 in gold bullion is buried ‘neath the swimming pool of the motel. Three bandits were chased into the basement of the old hotel and killed. It is said that they may have buried their gold in that basement. In the meantime, the hotel has been razed, and the motel pool is in its place. Anyone for serious scuba diving?

So now it is Friday evening; we’re grilling kielbasa on our George Foreman for dinner, and tomorrow morning we’re picking up and leaving for Groveland, the access point on Highway 120 for Yosemite National Park. Let’s see what happens tomorrow, along… Our Life on Wheels.


  1. What - you didn't find any gold to take with you? How sad. Great stories of the towns.

  2. You just took me down memory lane - I lived in Placerville and Pollock Pines, and worked at a slate mine in Placerville. That's such a beautiful area, and there's always something going on that's fun. When I come in off the road, that area is where I'm hoping to live. Thanks for the great photos! :)

  3. Nice post! I think I will put Highway 49 on my itinerary.

  4. Enjoyable tour today, glad you were able to connect and push all of this great history and photos out to the rest of us. Interesting story about the $80,000 in Gold bullion beneath the swimming pool. History is replete with such stories throughout the world, I guess in an odd way it keeps the knowledge of an event alive in all of our imaginations. Thanks for the fascinating post!


  5. Great Pictures! Too bad they weren't giving out samples of Gold!

  6. That is really beautiful country. I love driving Hwy 49, but have never done it in an RV. Amador County produces some of the best red zinfandel in the world!

  7. Thanks for the interesting tour. Great photo of Suzy outside the Old Well Café. Hope you are both enjoying Yosemite.

  8. That header picture is amazing! It looks like you had a fun few days!

  9. Thanks for a great tour and terrific pictures! Like you, I've always found old church cemeteries to be interesting places to visit.


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