Gold Country–Auburn and Lake Tahoe

24 Apr

Having been fortunate enough to get into Yosemite and avoid the snow we thought we could push our luck a little and arrange a visit to Lake Tahoe. One of my knitting friends and blog readers Liz lives in Auburn CA so we arranged to combine a visit to her and husband Ron and all take a week end trip to the lake.

For our route to Auburn we chose to use highway49 the gold route where many of the towns still show signs of buildings from the gold rush hey days. The Columbia State Historic Park has renovated and preserved the old town to capture what life there would have been like around 1850 shortly after gold was discovered.


The renovated buildings house several museums and some commercial premises too. A ride on the stage coach around the town is an ‘extra’ but entry to the park itself is free. It was fairly quiet while we strolled around, perhaps as it was a little cool and rain was forecast.

Rather than campgrounds along highway49 we had chosen to stay at 2 Harvest Host sites. The first of these was Twisted Oak near Vallecito, we arrived mid afternoon after passing through the small town of Angel Camp which is famous for its frog jumping competition. The origins of this come from a story by Mark Twain ‘ The Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County’ . We had spotted a group of people sitting in a stream on camping chairs and speculated that either they were looking for the champion jumper or maybe had frogs in training!  I now must look on Amazon and find the book to read!

We enjoyed our tasting session and conversation with the young lady who served us, purchased a couple of bottles of wine and retired for the evening in the lovely surroundings of the winery.






Promised rain began to fall that evening so the following morning we left and drove the next part of the twisty 49 in heavy rain. It was a shame as there were a few places we may have investigated had it been a little drier.






Our second Harvest Host was Chateau Rodin near Placerville – We stopped to fill up with gas in Diamond Springs then followed directions we had for the winery. Whether it was our directions, ineptitude of following them or the inconvenience of the rain I am not sure but, 2hours, 2 phone calls and 32 miles later (by the direct route it should have been 6 miles) we arrived in pouring rain on the hill top premises!

As always our host was very welcoming, helped us get into position and began pouring the wine. The rain was soon forgotten as we spent a pleasant hour or so tasting. It rained all night and was still pouring when we said our good bye next day.

Again the scenery on the 49 would have been so much more enjoyable had it been dry and clear to see. The road drives right through the State Park where Sutter’s Saw Mill stands beside the American River. This was the first place gold was found in the west P1260147sparking the influx of hopeful prospectors to the area. We were amazed at how steeply the twisty road descended into the canyon of the south fork of the American river then rose again on the opposite bank before many more miles had passed the road dropped even further as it entered the canyon of the north fork.

The rivers were full with the surface water that had drained into them over the previous two nights. We thought it was brightening a little, at least now the rain was lighter.

We met Liz near Auburn and she guided us to her home a short distance from the town. There Ron was ready to help Robert set up beside their house while Liz and I made our way indoors and out of the cold and rain.

We could not believe that the following morning it was still raining and also rather chilly. Our trip to lake Tahoe looked like being a wintery one but we were all still ready for the challenge. After a morning with Liz and I doing a little spinning we all took a drive out to Empire Mine State Park, another legacy from the gold mining days. Arriving at the museum we noticed remnants of snow in the car park, the ranger informed us that earlier  they had had a fall of several inches. This area was not a great deal higher than where Liz and Ron lived. Lake Tahoe being much higher we were beginning to wonder if the roads would be open.


We looked around the museum  where a model of the mine fields with an audio explanation of what we were viewing helped to orientate us. Empire Mine is famous because of its many deep shafts, some of the deeper shafts in this mine field were thousands of feet below ground. The miners were transported down into the mine on a inclined sledge. I can only describe it as a cross between a lift and a train. On open seating tiered one above the other the miners crammed onto this contraption then speedily descended into the depths of the mine. Who needs fairground rides when you get to your place of work like this? I wondered about all the young boys going into the darkness for the first time and how scared some of them must have been. We then went into the outer buildings one of which has stairs leading you down towards the mine shaft, here we saw the remains of this rudimentary passenger transport. The wet weather meant water was dripping into the mine area which helped to add to the feeling of what an inhospitable environment this would have been.

Driving back to Auburn the rain finally stopped a weak sun tried to warm the air. Ron drove us to the old part of town where we had a look around the small stores which lead down to the ravine where another discovery of gold was made.




This giant statue of a prospector sits close to the site of the gold discovery. The exact location has been covered over by the modern road construction.








Despite the weather forecasters telling us that better weather was on its way it just did not seem to be arriving and Saturday morning when we were due to leave for our lake trip the sky was till very grey. The road climbed continually from Auburn to our first stopping point to observe the water.


Snow on the mountains had grown thicker the higher we rose but fortunately the roads were clear. Travelling in Liz and Ron’s big 4 x 4 truck we were able to enjoy the views but observed the low clouds and obvious precipitation at the south end of the lake, exactly where we were heading for the night.


With a little of the day left before we needed to check in to the hotel Ron took us over to a side lake off Lake Tahoe called Fallen Leaf. To get to the parking area at the head of the lake we had to negotiate a narrow windy road made even narrower by the snow on either side. This pretty lake was much less commercial than the town of South Lake we had driven through just before. Property along the quieter lakeshore ranged from old much loved cabins to modern elegant mountain houses.


Finally here at the head of the lake the sun broke through to reflect on the water and add a sparkle to the end of our day.

The town of South Lake straddles the State line, part being in Nevada part in California. The Nevada section contains several casino. A large shopping centre as well as smaller stores and hotels make up most of the rest of the ski resort. We ate in one of the casino restaurants then over a drink in the bar Liz and I did a spot of people watching, observing some very ‘interesting’ characters.

Sunday morning was cold, crisp with blue sky above. At last the storm had left us to enjoy our return journey along the western side of the lake. Liz and Ron had explained that this would be the prettier, less commercial route and we were glad we had chosen to leave this for the second day, it was so pretty with the sun shining on the water.


Several stopping places along the road allowed for photo opportunities. The parking areas were wet and in places very icy but well worth stopping at to enjoy the scenery.




We stopped off  in Tahoe, here the Truckee river exits the lake, the turnover of water in the lake is very slow, so slow that we were told the water we were seeing exiting could have been in the lake 700 years.


Piles of snow several feet high which had been ploughed from the roads made our walk a little tricky. While crossings for the road had been provided the road clearance had ‘thoughtfully’ stacked snow at the edge of the footpath right across our route!

As often happens the road back seemed a long one, the anticipation of the visit no longer kept us glued to the scenery. A downhill gradient of over 40 miles, with other returning week enders, who had been skiing, snow boarding or just like us sight seeing, made the road busy.

IMG_1622We spent a few more days with Liz and Ron. Liz and I visited some local yarn stores and looked around the area while Ron and Robert ‘pottered’ and chatted. On one of our excursions Liz took me to a local place to eat lunch not realising initially the relevance of the place name!

Newcastle (upon Tyne ) England is the big city closest to our home – it does not look as quaint as this however!







IMG_6875Look closely (zoom in on the writing)at the signs above the store in this picture.



Our evenings were spent helping them with some arrangements for an upcoming trip to Europe including a visit to England. When we came to say our Good Byes we all knew it would be to hopefully meet again in September in England but it did not make the parting any easier. We had had a great time together, Robert and I, grateful for the local knowledge and input had got so much more from our visit than if we had been alone.



2 Responses to “Gold Country–Auburn and Lake Tahoe”

  1. pamela April 25, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    Emerald Bay, and snow drifts, oh you’re bringing back some more favourite memories for me:)

    • elainethehill April 26, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

      So pleased I could bring back happy memories for you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: