Date: May 27, 2012
One of the things to do in Sacramento area is to explore the so-called Gold Country, where a lot of the gold mines were dug up during California Gold Rush. That’s where we headed on the 2nd day of the Sacramento road trip (read about first day here). Out of several places of interest, we chose the Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park.
The park’s description in the guidebook was quite appealing. It mentioned a human-made canyon, a ghost town, and great mountain views. Unfortunately, it failed to mention the difficulty of actually getting to the park. The last 20 miles of the route turned out to be on a rough gravel road, which had our tiny Mazda 2 crawling for almost an hour at snail-like speeds. Fortunately, the beautiful scenery compensated for the unexpected delay.
The ghost town turned out to be pretty small, consisting of several preserved buildings with some furniture and artifacts from the Gold Rush Era inside. Unfortunately, they were closed to the visitors (probably due to the almost-bankrupt nature of the California State Park system). We paid the park fee at the unmanned visitor booth (maybe our payment would let them afford staff for the park?) and went on to explore the man-made canyon.
The remains of the gold mine turned out to be pretty impressive. At Malakoff Diggins, they used hydraulic mining technique – washing away entire mountain sides using highly pressurized water and looking for gold in the washed out sediment. This method produced large cliffs in the mountainside, further sculpted over the years by natural erosion. The place reminded me a bit of the Bryce Canyon in Utah, only on a smaller scale. Sometimes human greed and folly can produce beautiful places, apparently.
We took the trail that circled the bottom of the mine pit. While hiking the trail, we discovered a lot of old rusted mining equipment which was abandoned there when the mine shut down. We also discovered the effects of the erosion on the exposed soil of the cliffs – the bottom of the pit filling up with silt and sand. As you can see on the picture, the layer of sand almost completely covered the wooden poles that the park had installed for marking the trail, only the newer poles and tiny yellow stubs of the old ones were still visible.
This completed our tour of the Malakoff Diggins Park. On our way back to the hotel we also stopped by an old mining settlement going by the name “Nevada City” (not to be confused with state Nevada!). The town was cute, with pretty buildings, small streets, and pleasant cafes. We quickly walked around the small downtown, which consisting of 2 or 3 blocks. Old mining equipment was on display on almost every corner. Some of the architecture was also noteworthy (and photoworthy )
Stay tuned for the next day’s story, where we visit the birthplace of California state flag.