Visiting the Gold Country

When deciding where to stay during our last week in California, I wanted an RV park not too far from the home of our daughter, son-in-law and grandkids and also in a place with some atmosphere. I decided on a week in Plymouth in the Sierra foothills. For years I have been intrigued, entranced with the historic mining towns along the area of Highway 49 in the Sierra Foothills. Driving the length of 49 takes you to many of these small towns which have interesting historic buildings and streets to explore as well as pretty hill country scenery.  I have explored pretty much all of them through the years and have my favorites such as Sutter Creek where I love to attend the yearly Ragtime Piano Festival.

Today after a substantial breakfast at a local diner we decided to have a day of exploring an area we hadn’t been to in many years – the Shenandoah Valley right outside of Plymouth.  We did some wine tasting during our first trip here way back when but today we mostly drove all the back roads admiring the beautiful wineries and miles of vineyards covering oak studded hills burnished gold with late summer grass. We stopped at one winery for a visit and I couldn’t help wandering into the vineyards to look at the clusters of ripe purple grapes hanging from the grape vines.  Yes, I couldn’t resist sneaking a few (only two) grapes to taste as I wandered – ripe and sweet.

My favorite stop though was Fiddletown which I think gets the award for the most clever and fun name in the gold country.   A historical plaque noted that Fiddletown was settled by Missourians and the name was suggested because the residents were always “fiddling.”  The town has a fiddle festival each year and this year will be the 65th festival!  It will be held September 16 and I am disappointed with myself that I have never attended this festival.  I have known about it in the past, but since I haven’t made a point to remember the festival when the time comes and make plans to attend, I have missed it every year.  During our visit today the town was eerily quiet along the one Main Street – nobody was out and about and only a few cars passed along the street.  We had the place to ourselves and I really enjoyed looking at the historic buildings, soaking up the atmosphere and taking pictures.  The town had a Chinatown and several buildings remain from the 1850’s including the Chew Kee Store which is now a museum.  It was locked up tight today with a sign noting Saturday hours and another sign on the door, “Sorry, too hot.”  This Chinese herb store was built of rammed earth adobe in 1851 and has the iron shuttered windows which I love in these old mining towns.

The community center boasts a giant fiddle on the roof, perfect for this little town!

My favorite building though is the Schallhorne Blacksmith and Wagon shop built in 1870 and surrounded by lots of junk and wagon wheels propped on the porch.  I would love to have walked around and looked more closely at all the junk, but the yard area looked off limits.

I love seeing historic churches and schools and Fiddletown has a historic one room school house on a side street which was built in 1862.  Grade 1st through 8th were taught here for one hundred years before it closed and children in the town began attending a modern school elsewhere.  Efforts have been made to renovate the school building but I am not sure where they are in the process.  In the back of the school the old outhouse still stands.

We had a quiet day in the gold country and it was nice to explore this beautiful area for several hours.

4 thoughts on “Visiting the Gold Country”

  1. Great photos! That part of the back country is so well preserved. You will find many festivals on your journey and looking forward to hearing about them.

    1. Thanks! Yes, I look forward to catching some festivals in the various states. I hope there are some interesting ones!

  2. My Fourth Graders would have loved seeing all these gold mining towns. I remember the name “Fiddletown” !
    Sounds as if you are having a great time!!

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