Twain Country

“The charming landscape which I saw this morning is indubitably made up of some 20 or 30 farms. Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. But none of them owns the landscape. There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, that is, the poet.” – Emerson

(July 28, 2009)

We’ve left wine country and are heading to redwood country, with a plan to visit Yosemite during our stay. Back in the car, We pass tiny small towns, more vineyards, and the occasional farm as we make the three hour drive to Angel’s Camp… Mark Twain country. This region is where Twain’s collection of short stories, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, is set. I feel more like I am in the hills of Colorado, than California. This is so completely different from Southern California.

Calaveras County

We stop at a local grocery store, or market I should say, collect the food for the next four days and check-in to another time share. They’ve decorated it appropriately for the area…and I feel like I’m in a cabin. Across the street is nothing but nature; groves of trees, a couple moving herds of cows, the sporadic fox, and a couple deer sightings at night. It is so peaceful up here…and SO quiet. What a great getaway.

The first day, we head into an adorable old gold-mining town, not far from the giant sequoia park, called Murphy. This town still looks like I imagine it did back when the gold-miners settled, only with newer store fronts of course. There is one “Main Street” with not a single commercial business to be found…only local stores. We wander a bit admiring the history. I learn that the Murphy’s hotel is one of the oldest continually operating hotels in California and both Ulysses S. Grant and Mark Twain spent times staying there. We enjoyed some ice-cream in a 1950’s malt-shop, browsed an old book store, an old-school toy store and proceeded to the famous caves on the edge of town.

Murphy Hotel

While waiting for the guide to take us down into the caves of Mercer Caverns, the kids enjoyed practicing gold mining. Finally a mini-group was assembled and we ventured down into the dark, damp caves. The guide was full of interesting facts about the man who discovered them, Mercer, and how the stalactites and stalagmites develop over hundreds of years. Down at the bottom, the lamp was put out and we experience true darkness. I can see how someone could go blind after a significant time in that kind of darkness. Now even a hint of light for your eyes to find. It was crazy. I really enjoyed our hike down into the depths of the caves and learned all kinds of stuff. If you find herself in this area…you should definitely check it out.

Mercer Caverns



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