Empire Mine, etc., Monday, 9/24/12

Sunday was our day of rest, which we needed.  I say rest, although we did walk 4 miles on the Cascade Canal path ("The Ditch") in the morning. In the afternoon we drove into Nevada City to check out some of the beautiful Victorian homes and the businesses -- preferably on the shady side --on Broad Street.  It was another hot afternoon.  Jimmy grilled chops for dinner.  We ate well!

We hit the road again on Monday, off on another Explore, as Pooh would say.  Jimmy and I had never been by Mount St Mary's Convent and Academy in Grass Valley, which served as the first orphanage of the Northern Mines from 1866 - 1932.  The Rose Garden on the grounds was lovely, still full of fragrant roses.

Anne and Rus in front of the church.

Not roses, but very pretty en masse.

Original gate:  Mount St. Mary's Academy, Founded 1865.

Next we drove several blocks to the Northstar Mine Powerhouse Museum located by Wolf Creek in Grass Valley, another first for Jimmy and me.  Uh-oh, the Museum was closed, it being a Monday -- seems like all museums and barbershops are closed on Mondays.  However, we were free to look over many of the large gold mining artifacts which sit outside, and walk across the tree-shaded bridge to the picnic area on the other side of spirited Wolf Creek.

Jimmy and Rus investigated quite a few of the machine workings on the museum grounds. From the bridge, Anne and I enjoyed the cooling waters of Wolf Creek.

Rus and Anne in front of a Stamp Mill (ore crusher).  Stamp mills operated 24 hours a day when the mine was open.  Oh, the noise they would've made - yeow!

Since the Northstar museum was closed, we drove on up the hill to Empire Mine, a site Jimmy and I had been to before.  We were rewarded by the mine shaft being open.  Really hard to describe the mine shaft, how steep the ride down would have been, how deep the miners went ... so glad I wasn't a miner.

These two pics relay the ride miners took when descending to work.  The first pic above is my photograph of a photograph showing how the miners sat in the skips.  Jimmy is sitting on a lower rung (seat) of a skip, ready to plunge!!  Not really.  It's for show 'n tell.  Enlarge any photo for a better look-see.

A replica of the headframe. 

I took this picture, so I know how steep the decline was - maybe 45 degrees?  However, when I look at this picture now, it looks like the rails are slightly inclined. Optical illusion - go figure.  I shudder when I feature the miners descending a mile under the earth's surface.  Gives me the creeps.  A lot of gold came out of the Empire....  I understand Empire is going to open for a full underground immersion tour, now pushed back to 2014, I believe.  Jimmy would like to do this; I don't know if I can overcome enough claustrophobia....

The flip side of a hard-rock gold mine such as the Empire,
is the lovely home and gardens of the mine owner.

Nice little place the mine owner built.

Rus and Anne, me and Jimmy ready to order dinner at Cirino's in Grass Valley on Monday evening -- a very nice parting gift from my brother and sis-in-law.  The ambiance was terrific (window view), the food was excellent, and the company ... well, the company was The Best.

Tomorrow (Tuesday), is packing and "other stuff" day.  On Wednesday, we'll drive Rus and Anne to San Francisco to catch their flight back to Boston.  We enjoyed their visit very much.  They offered to return every other month.  Well...........!!! 

Malakoff Diggins redux -- Saturday, 9/22/12

Humbug, you say?  Yes, you're partially correct. Remember this is historic gold country!  The town of Humbug, settled in 1852, became known as North Bloomfield in 1858.  Located 10 miles northeast of Nevada City, California (as the crow flies), it was originally named Humbug after the creek of the same name.  North Bloomfield is a well preserved mining town, now a state park, and it was home to hydraulic gold miners and their families from Malakoff Diggins The world's largest hydraulic gold mine.

 A section of the restored Smith-Knotwell "Drugstore" - circa 1880 - on North Bloomfield Road.

 Rus and Jimmy posing at the wood stove in the drugstore. (hurry up, take the picture, already!)

 Ready for lunch from the goodies we bought earlier in the day @ the Grower's Market.  Brother Rus, Jimmy, and sis-in-law, Anne.

After a Ranger's tour of historic North Bloomfield, we tried our hands at gold panning in Humbug Creek.

 Rus appears to be standing on the log (but isn't).  Notice the empty gold pan....

Jimmy picks a site further downstream to pan.  The water level is obviously very low (end of a very dry summer).

Jimmy is showing how much gold he found in, ahem, Humbug Creek: Zero. Humbug!  This is how the creek got its name in the first place!

Exploring further:  The North Bloomfield School - built at a cost of $3000 in 1872-73.  It served the community until it closed in 1941.  We walked around it; couldn't get in.

The school and St Columncille's Catholic Church are across the street from LeDu's Diggins.  As strange as it seemed to us, the church was formerly a Union Guard Hall and used in 1860 to train men for the Civil War under Capt. Frank Coffey of nearby French Corral.  Strange because you don't think of the West Coast as being involved in the War Between the States. 

Anne and Rus on Malakoff Diggins loop trail.

Jimmy (holding a non-gold-bearing rock!) and Rus (standing on a non-gold-bearing rock!).  

Okay, so we didn't find any precious metal, but we did spot an unusual bee "hive" in this ground hole the size of a basketball.  The bees seemed to be rebuilding their paper-like nest after something (perhaps a bear) exposed it - the ground all around the hole had been disturbed.  Bees were all around the area....

And then there's this foot-long guy.  He seemed to resent me almost driving over it, and when I got out of the car to examine it, including touching its tail, it reared up and gave me the evil eye.  Go ahead, it seemed to say - Make My Day!

Although we all thought  today felt pretty durned hot, we enjoyed being outside exploring this historic area.  It was Another Great Adventure!

Lake Tahoe on a Friday! 9/21/12

In our effort to avoid weekend crowds, we missed our last opportunity this year to ride the gondola from Squaw Valley @ 6200' to High Camp @ 8200' - it would only be open this coming weekend for its final runs in 2012.  Oh well.  We were all dressed to hike the high country, but twas not to be.  Instead, we ate our picnic lunch in Squaw Valley in full view of the gorgeous mountains.  Looked like a mountain bike race was being held, as evidenced by bikes careening down slopes usually associated with downhill skiers in deep snow pack, à la the Winter Olympics held here in 1960.  The bikers were wearing numbered bibs and extra-protective helmets.  The day was warm, the mountain air dry and crisp.  After eating, we strolled around the Village before driving to the Truckee River Dam.

The gondola heading down, back to the barn. 

Anne and Rus in Squaw Village; the gondola tower vaguely seen on top of yonder mountain.

Dam at the mouth of Lake Tahoe's single outlet:  the Truckee River.

Truckee River rushing under Fanny Bridge as it emerges from the lake.
Unretouched photo - the water really is turquoise and as clear as tap water.

From the Dam, we climbed back into the car, heading south along the lake, and checked out various state campgrounds.  Anne suggested we drive down to Emerald Bay to look at the Vikingshom Castle.  She read that the castle, built in 1929, was considered to be the finest example of Scandinavian architecture in the U.S.  The parking lot was nearly full when we pulled in, so summer may end tomorrow, but people are still out and about on a Friday!  We discovered the castle could only be accessed by a one-mile hike down to the water and the same one-mile STRENUOUS hike back up to the parking lot.  We elected to view it online!  Inspiration Point vista afforded us wonderful lake views.  The emerald-blue water sparkled in the sun.

Emerald Bay.  Can you see Jimmy?  The distant shore is in the State of Nevada.

Rus and Anne; me and Jimmy at Inspiration Point.

Fannette Island - Tahoe's only island, and site of Vikingsholm Tea House.
Kayaks paddle to it.  Wish we'd had kayaks, too!

In 1861, Mark Twain wrote of Lake Tahoe:  "So singularly clear was the water that when it was only twenty or thirty feet deep the bottom was so perfectly distinct that the boat seemed floating in the air!  Yes, where it was even eighty feet deep.  Every little pebble was distinct, every speckled trout, every hands-breadth of sand...."

We continued driving around the lake and got caught up in road construction and traffic in South Lake Tahoe, which was no fun.  However, we figured as long as we'd gotten this far, we may as well circumnavigate the whole lake (Lake Tahoe has 71 miles of shoreline).  Once we broke thru the jam, we enjoyed the rest of our drive.

On the opposite shore, Rus climbed the boulder for the best view.
This was taken near Sand Harbor State Pk in Nevada.

And finally, at the northern reaches of the lake we reached Hwy 267, which would take us to Truckee, where we hoped to eat dinner!  Recommended by [my son] Matt, and starving, we drove to Jax Diner at dusk.  When we were seated in a booth, the signed photo below is what Jimmy and I would see on the wall behind Anne and Rus while we ate! We were unaware till now that Jax had been visited by Guy Fieri, of Food Networks popular show:  Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  We also give Jax at the Tracks a thumbs-up!

Dunno what time we arrived home; maybe 10 pm - very full day, very good day.  We certainly know how to use up a day!!!


9/19/12 -- Sonoma and Napa Valleys

So, the next morning (see previous post), we drove east from Novato searching for a breakfast place, and all we spied were fields and cows, but no restaurants.  Rounding a corner many miles later, we passed a diner on the left that - while it wasn't exactly what we were looking for - was deemed acceptable.  I mean, it wasn't Dunkin Donuts. Jimmy made a quick U-turn and pulled into The Fremont Diner in Sonoma.  We were hungry and this place looked like it would fill us up!  And it did, and how!  Turns out we picked a famous diner.

Notice the decal on the old truck.  Oink-oink!

After stuffing ourselves, the four of us continued on our way to Napa.  We stopped at the Welcome Center for info and walked across a Napa River bridge to the Oxbow Market.  Glad we were still full, so we didn't buy anything... like candy.  Back in the car, we traveled on the Silverado Trail toward Calistoga, passing quite a few fine wineries; many of their entrances showcased by beautiful flower gardens. 

At Rutherford Hill Winery in Napa with its great valley views, we walked around the grounds examining their gardens and olive trees.  Here are Anne and Rus in the olive orchard.

The olive trees were loaded.

The above two pics were taken at Sterling Vineyards.
The vines were laden with grapes.  Picking had begun.

Nearing Calistoga, we saw this cool sculpture.

In Calistoga:  Of course we posed for a photo here!

Calistoga is a quaint Western town.  After a delicious outdoor lunch sitting under the trees at Pacifico Restaurante, we walked along the town streets and lucked up on a museum, that was really interesting and full of local history and artifacts.  My brother Rus and I enjoyed a quiet moment outside on a bench.

And then, as the afternoon waned, we stopped at Beringer Vineyards in the heart of Napa County, mainly to look at this "house" with its stained glass windows and tour the lovely gardens.  Quite a place.

Time to head toward home, a three-hour drive on winding roads, over the hills, till we hit Sacramento and then freeway to Auburn.  By that time we needed a break and In-and-Out Burger was in our path.  Good burgers!  Arrived in Nevada City around 9:30pm - the good ol' Prius added a slew of miles in this one 24-hour-plus period.  She now has over 100,000 on her odometer.  Best car ever.

Likewise, we packed a lot into this San Francisco trip and had a terrific time.  Rus and Anne enjoyed their introduction to California!


9/18/12 -- It's a nice place to visit...

...but I wouldn't want to live there!  Or, Alcatraz and all that Jazz.  After picking up my brother, Rus, and his wife, Anne, from San Francisco Airport on Tuesday afternoon, 9/18/12, we made fast tracks to catch the 3:20 ferry to Alcatraz.  Just made it, too.  R and A had a nice nonstop flight from Boston, and they'll spend the week with us in Nevada City.

 Ready to climb aboard the ferry to Alcatraz Island, located in the heart of San Francisco Bay.

The Rock! Salt-laden, cold and windy with a scarcity of fresh water -- what a place! 

Welcome to the Penitentiary? Hmmmm.....

 San Francisco sights and sounds, only a mile and a quarter away -- so close, but sooo far away.

 Yikes! -- Ruthie and Annie IN JAIL.

Dislike the accommodations.

Even the island plants look like an escape deterrent.

Returning to San Francisco, we moseyed on down Fisherman's Wharf till we stumbled upon Bubba Gump's Shrimp House.  Since we were all starving, we stepped right in.  Anne and Rus at a scenic view table, waiting to order.

 We enjoyed a shrimp feast -- shrimps this way, shrimps that way, shrimps every way.

After dinner and the sky long since grown dark, we drove north across the Golden Gate Bridge to our hotel in Novato for an overnight stay.  This Courtyard by Marriott was relatively expensive and to our dismay served no continental breakfast.  Strange!  So I will leave you with that distressing comment and tell you tomorrow what we did for breakfast the next morning.

And isn't this new Blogger editor special?  I seem to have no control over what I want and where I want to put it.  Thanx, Blogger, for another new learning curve (sigh....).