Posts Tagged With: Columbia


Columbia State Park is a great place to visit with kids.  A basic description is that it was a surviving old gold town that had burned down when it was wooden buildings. Rebuilt using brick, it survived. The gold petered out, the town was abandoned. An enterprising real estate person advertised the whole town for sale, without success. As the town continued to deteriorate, locals tried to get the state to step in and turn it into a historical park, which they did in 1946. In the 1980’s, as a journalist I interviewed the last remaining resident of Columbia, Geraldine McConnell. True living history.

The kids liked peeking into the open doors and windows of shops with “weird” stuff in it from the old days. But the Ten Pin Alley is a favorite.  Alyssa takes her turn to bowl…

Dad helps her reset the pins. The ball is returned by setting it on the slot and gravity brings it back for the next bowler.

Amanda really got into it, while Angelo watched.

At the black smith shop, Dad showed his skill untangling those metal pieces that defy you to pull them apart.

Hand dipping candles and learning about how they are made and understanding the dependence on candle light, is always a fun place to stop. The park during various seasons has festivals, music, a Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn fence painting contest, watermelon seed spitting contest, pie eating contest and so on. The old jail, outdoor toilet, chicken pen and other necessities of the old days amaze children.  The artifacts of the Chinese are exotic.  And the hardscrabble life of the Native People who lived here are on display, along with the activities of temperance groups and Fraternal Organizations; banks and hotels.

When the stage rolled into town, the kids got to pet the horses. A daring first for them.

And, a ride on the stage that got robbed when they approached a sharp turn near a huge boulder.  “Can you imagine how scary Aunt Mary?”

Probably the best fun was panning for gold. While even small flakes are scarce, each filled their tube with tiny gem stones in the sand and water. They got garnets, amethyst, turquoise, peridots, crystal, quartz and a few other stones that gave them “color”.  And the fun lasted for hours. They quit for awhile to climb the boulders or just walk around, then came back to it and kept cool until we were all surprised how late the day.

And since it was late, we ate dinner at the saloon where the waitresses and waiters  wear a holstered pistol. “Is that a real gun, Aunt Mary?”  Yep!  Their packin’ ” I told them in my best western drawl.

For information about Columbia, click on the following link:

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Both the boys and Grandma are delighted every time we have occasion to visit Stories In Stones, a local business in Angels Camp owned by Pam and Russ Shoemaker.
Its Owen and Theo’s favorite store.

From the giant grizzly bear skeleton to giant trilobites, the fossils here of all kinds fascinate them. What’s nice is that Pam and Russ are so willing to inform and educate the kids about everything in the store as well.

A giant geode taller than a ten and eight year old is like an old friend. Worth a small fortune, they are always glad it hasn’t sold and they get to see it one more time.

Their favorite room is the wholesale room even though they have to pay more for their purchases than the listed “wholesale” price. They understand wholesale and retail pricing. Theo came away with a geode pocket in a polished wood base and Owen bought an emerald sphere on a small tripod stand. Such treasures.
We bummed around town a bit before going to Moaning Cave. They’ve been to Mercer a couple times but never Moaning. Theo shuddered a bit at the hand winder that at one time lowered people into the unknown depths in a half barrel “bucket” holding a candle. And, at the skull of a 12 year old girl who fell into the cave during a  distant, unknown past. We enjoyed watching the rappelling while waiting for our walking tour.

The winder-

The skull and other human bones and artifacts. It is now against the law to remove remains from caves. After taking the cave tour, we proceeded to the little gold mining town of Columbia, which is also a California State Park.

A cool way to spend the hot afternoon, playing around in the gold panning trough. No sign of any gold, but they found little pieces of gem stones that are almost as pretty as gold, while the boys were as good as gold. Nope, better than gold.
Before breakfast this morning, Theo picked plums from the tree on the deck with Aunt Dawn. He hopes his mom will make cake with them.

Its a wild plum that just grew. Tasty but small. Just right for little boys.

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My Plans Are Changed By A Little Yellow Light…

Jim says:

When I started the motorhome engine yesterday morning, my plans were to have a very pleasant drive along a little used highway about 150 miles to Spartanburg, South Carolina. I was going to spend the night at an American Legion.

However…once I started the engine all the lights went out the way they’re supposed to …except the little yellow ABS warning light. I started the engine another five times hoping the light would go out…nope!

The little yellow light that changed my plans. The red light is my parking brake light.

The Workhorse Chassis Manual says the braking system is made up of two parts. When the yellow light comes on, the manual says it means one portion may not be working properly…the vehicle can still be driven…but drive carefully and get it to a service center asap. Great!

I drove about 60 miles and the light remained lit. No signs of leakage and the brakes seemed to be just fine. As I approached the state capital of Columbia, I stopped and looked up the Workhorse Service Centers online, hoping there would be one in Spartanburg. Nope…just two in the entire state and one happens to be in Columbia.

So, instead of driving on to Spatanburg, I ended up parking under some shade trees behind a shopping center where I spent the night. Oh by the way…yesterday was 90 degrees with about 90% humidity. Yuck!..said the Weather Wimp (that’s the name my life-partner Mary has given me because I gripe whenever the temperature is not within the 65-75 degree range).

The service center is a Chevrolet Dealer about two miles from my overnight parking location. I plan to be at the service center door when they open at 8:00 AM. I’m about 150 miles away from where I need to be to pick up Mary at the Asheville, North Carolina Airport on Tuesday (tomorrow).

If I where just driving on flat land, I would have driven on…however…I’m headed for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and cannot take any chances when it comes to possible brake problems. I’ll let you know what happened in tomorrow’s Blog.

All original material Copyright – Jim Jaillet 2010
For more information about my three books, click this link:

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My daughter and grandchildren came to play and one of their favorite places is the old historic gold town of Columbia. It amazes me that I can go there once or twice a year and always come away with something new.
Having a fourth grader along helps. Owen is studying California History; the gold rush, the Missions, etc., so that much of what we saw was related to his school work and a good review for adults.
A bumpy, authentic stage ride reminded us of how the west was won, often at gunpoint. The faux robber grabbed the driver’s poke and wanted the kids candy. Turns out he didn’t like their particular treats so we were allowed to pass.
We enjoyed a picnic, shops, and a young street violinist. That and history with and the background strains of a fiddlers contest. A lovely day. Its a great place to visit with kids.
This fat cat was the queen of the Candle and Soap Works.
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