Mother Lode-Yosemite

September 11-20, 1981

Enthusiastic participants, interesting natural features, historic sites and buildings good weather, bus, hotels, and food contributed to make the Mother Lode-Yosemite bus tour, Sept. 11-20, a memorable one. Our introduction to gold began with a fabulous display at the Siskiyou County Courthouse, Yreka. Then we went to Castle Crags State Park to see the tremendous granite spires. A HELLO dinner at Redding’s Red Lion Inn helped us get better acquainted.

Highlights of the second day were visits to the William B. Ide Adobe State Historical Park on the bank of the Sacramento River near Red Bluff, the 1868 Italian villa Bidwell Mansion at Chico, the Oroville Chinese temple built in 1863 to serve a community of 10,000 Chinese laborers, and the Oroville dam that stores water from the Feather River.

Sunday morning’s walking tour of historic Old Auburn was one of many Gold Rush towns visited. We even found an antique shop open and the purchase of souvenirs began. We took a side trip on our way to Grass Valley and Nevada City to Dutch Flat—a small town nestled in the hills that is one of the few mining towns not destroyed by fire. At Nevada City we expected to take a walking tour; instead we watched the Shriner’s parade—with camel, sheiks, bands, clowns, etc. Grass Valley was seen from the bus, and at Coloma we visited the Marshall Gold Discovery Park with a replica of Sutter’s Mill (constructed in 1848) and exhibits of Gold Rush days. We visited the Gold Bug mine at Placerville. Then to Indian Grinding Rock State Park that preserves an outcropping of bedrock used by the Miwok tribe to pulverize nuts and berries, a ceremonial roundhouse and recreated village. Also on the itinerary were Volcano that is not in a volcanic area and Columbia, a partially restored gold mining town (remember the candy shop?). Then over the hills by way of Coulterville to Mariposa, our “home” for three nights. Baxter really impressed us with his driving skills on this section of the trip.

In Yosemite Park’s Mariposa Grove we rode the tram and had awe-inspiring views of the majestic giant sequoias. We had a delicious buffet lunch at Wawona Hotel and later visited the Pioneer Yosemite History Center. Then to Glacier Point with its breathtaking panorama with domes, pinnacles, waterfalls, the Merced River, and Half Dome dominating it all. We also had a “picture stop” at Sentinel Dome Viewpoint before driving to Yosemite Lodge. The next day we returned to Yosemite Lodge and had our choice of places to visit until noon. Some took the double decker shuttle bus to Yosemite Village and visited the Ansel Adams Studio; others took the shuttle bus to the Mirror Lake trailhead and hiked about a mile to Mirror Lake and were surprised to find it completely dry. Yosemite Falls was also dry. In the afternoon we drove to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir impounded behind O’Shaughnessy Dam (built 1914–23, raised 1938) that has backed up the Tuolumne River and flooded Hetch Hetchy Valley. The water is used to produce hydropower and then sent 172 miles by aqueduct to San Francisco for use by the city. We had a spectacular drive over Tioga Pass (9,945') the next day. We stopped for a brief look at troubled Mono Lake (read about it in Audubon Magazine, September 1980 and National Geographic, October 1981). Our next stop was Bodie State Historic Park, a genuine California gold-mining ghost town; now maintained in a state of “arrested decay.” It was named after Waterman S. Body who discovered gold there in 1859. The spelling was changed to insure proper pronunciation of the town’s name.

We hurried to the Ormsby House in Carson City to receive our casino packet. Some lost and some won. We had a delicious buffet dinner that night. Next morning we visited Virginia City, a restored mining town, with its historic business district, homes, museums, mine, churches, and cemetery. In the afternoon we drove to Lake Tahoe for a dinner cruise on the M. S. Dixie. Saturday was a leisurely day, so Baxter gave us a bus tour of Reno and pointed out many places of interest. At Alturas we had the opportunity to visit the delightful Modoc County Historical Museum before checking in at our motel. We had a special farewell Basque dinner at the Brass Rail Restaurant.

Special, thanks to Ruth Hopson Keen whose frequent geology lessons increased our interest in the areas we visited, and were greatly appreciated; to Ken Horton and Lois Schreiner who led us in song, enjoyed by the travelers; to Mary Mallery who devised a seating chart that worked; to Jane Hilt, chairman of the Bus Trip Committee for her helpful suggestions; to our hostess, Doris Frese who took such solicitous care of us; and to Baxter Shaw, our terrific bus driver; and to Leisure Time Travel, Unlimited for arrangements made for the tour.

Enjoying this ten-day tour were Beulah Barker, Margaret Block, Buck and Grace Carter, Virginia DeMers, Doris Frese (Hostess), Bette Hack, Vera Heidenreich, Jane Hilt, Maxine Hobbs, Betty Holeman, Kenneth and Virginia Horton, Helen Howard, Art and Lillian Johnson, Al and Ruth Keen, Helen Lynch, Jean Maxwell, Jennelle Moorhead, Daisie Niccolls, Larry and Virginia Pagter, Al and Lila Smith, Grace Smith, Myrtle Smith, Lois Schreiner, Dorothy Stewart, Marty Sullivan, Virginia West, Freda and Harold Young, co-leaders Frances Newsom and Mary Mallery, & bus driver Baxter Shaw.

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