Posts Tagged With: Motherlode


DSC08080 (Copy)Blogging is going to be sporadic as I recuperate from rotator cuff surgery. Therapy once a week for a total of 16 weeks and remaining in a sling for those weeks necessarily hampers my activities, as in NO driving. Count down, 13 weeks to go.

DSC08016 (Copy)I’ve been fortunate to have Jim take care of me, drive me around to my appointments and even give a private serenade on the side. He has taken up harmonica as you can tell from an earlier blog. Quite challenging for him. I face the challenges of getting well, obeying doctor’s instructions and limiting activities-hard for me.

DSC08071 (Copy)One of the real treats of my “down” time was having Kathryn, my husband’s daughter, bring her husband Hank to meet me. Catching up with family matters, pictures mostly, since we have shared by email necessary dates and information for the family genealogy. A natural  interest in our respective ancestors is a fascinating subject. Now Kathryn has married into a large, active family with plenty of exciting new faces, including Hank’s mother who lives near them. She is 94 years old.

DSC08067 (Copy)And we cooked. Hank knows his way around the kitchen and loves fixing breakfast. Here he is testing one of Kathryn’s waffles.  And I managed a couple of crock pot dinners with their help. We ate, and snacked and toasted a glass of vino or two. Hey, isn’t that what family gatherings are all about? In part, anyway. It tickled me to see Kathryn with her nose in the papers while eating, a habit she must have inherited from her dad. She loves crosswords and Hank prefers sodoko.

DSC08074 (Copy)Kathryn has a friend in Angels Camp she and Hank are also visiting. Hank spent time in the Motherlode as a kid with his family, so the area is familiar to him.

DSC08073 (Copy)Jim took our picture before they left. Her half brothers and sisters were working and unable to visit while here, but we expect to see much more of them in the future and fix that.

Kathryn’s children live in Southern California, and like all adult children, they have their own busy lives, too.  But, someday, we hope to all get together. Isn’t that cool?


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It was a good decision to take a day off and attend the Angels Camp Gold Rush Fair. It was the first time for me. Town was full and people were having a good time.

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In the Chamber Of Commerce/Visitors Center parking area was a food court, a band and a few set-ups of what living in the gold rush era was like, with barrels and sacks and a reference to Henry Angel for whom the camp was,  and now the town is named.

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You didn’t have to go camping, because life was lived in a “camp”. During Angels Camp’s 75th anniversary of the incorporation of the town, Mayor Betsy Alford managed to find descendents of Henry Angel and invited them to participate, and several of them came to celebrate.

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Operating in the lot, a modern gold washer demonstrating how gold rich gravels are sucked up onto  riffles that allow heavy gold to sink to the bottom of the washer and the rest of the rock and dirt flows back into the stream. This one has a powerful motor. The old-timers didn’t have that advantage. Their “sluice boxes” were propped in the river and bottom gravel was hand shoveled onto the riffles. It was cold, wet,  hard work.

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I didn’t ask, but I think these folks were selling covered wagon rides. A beautiful team, in any event.

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The townspeople are encouraged to dress in rustic clothing and many did.

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These buck skinned dudes and their ladies are part of a staged gunfight they have on the street, which we missed and left before their next one.

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I admired this dude’s fox skin cap. What a beautiful cap but I did feel sorry the fox had to give its life for it.

Maria Behn as Patsy Kline

Maria Behn is an excellent Patsy Cline impersonator and we enjoyed listening to her sing. Her husband is a vet and they live in the county near San Andreas.

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A young juggler kept the crowd mesmerized with his various feats. Looking at everyone’s faces while he tossed those knives around was as much fun as his patter. He quipped: “Look at me, I graduated from Bret Harte High School and I’m doing fine.”

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He could cut apples. Not only cut them, but bite them while juggling three knives. He finished the apple/knife bit with a flourish, stabbing one. He was fun.

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Jim quipped to this girl, “Aah, a real genuine red-head,” knowing that she wasn’t, to which she answered, “and I was a real genuine blonde yesterday.”

We had a great bowl of chili for lunch. The fair is an annual event they’ve put on for about 4 or 5 years. I like meeting old friends I haven’t seen in a long time, and I did see some locals I knew, but Gary and Denise Lindsay, who are old friends from the Sheriff’s Department days, surprised me. They’ve retired to Sonora area, in Tuolumne County, and love the Mother Lode and came over to enjoy the festivities.




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The Day of the Dead, celebrated in Murphys, was a good opportunity to take some time from mundane chores and head for town. Jim got into a shirt he bought in Central America or Mexico, where he has seen a genuine Dia de los Muertes celebration and parade.

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The first altar we came to was celebrating the life of Frenchman, Maurice Chevelier,  erected by a French couple who run the tasting room in Murphys “Mall”. Another we encountered later celebrated Julia Child.

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The Marisola Olive Oil tasting room had a more personal remembrance, perhaps each employee put up pictures of deceased loved ones.

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I liked the “home-made” aspect of it. These are just cardboard boxes decorated with pictures. That is what the celebration is all about, once a year, remember our loved ones who have passed and celebrate life. In the deepest jungles of Brazil, where graves are close to home, the people celebrate with an altar on the grave. Typical food is empanadas.DSC07652 (Copy)

The other element of the celebration is to place things on the altar that the deceased person cherished, often favorite foods.  Flowers and candles are typical. This one was a mystery to us, the pliers and acorns. I can only admire and speculate, the cuts in the paper, the crayons, perhaps an artist who used these tools? Made crafts from acorns?

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Inside of an art gallery  is a huge picture frame altar where visitors were encouraged to pick a tag and write the name of a loved one you wish to celebrate and hang it from the tree. Very touristy, and I expect that is what most of this celebration is about here in the new, re-invented Murphys, that visitors love so well.

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Speaking of re-inventing, suddenly, the Murphys Hotel has a ghost of “long-standing” with an elaborate story about her lost lover, and devoted employment at the hotel, her death and ghostly antics only witnessed by employees. Ghosts are very popular in the Motherlode.

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I really enjoyed the day. We followed the mariachi band from place to place.

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The costuming. There was a costume contest and parade. And participants like us who dressed up a bit. But, this costume was beautiful and very elaborate. I hope she won.DSC07621 (Copy)

This girl was taking a picture of the mariachi band.

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Miss Northern California Teen attended with her father.

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A second band entertained from a porch in the middle of town. They were a good listen.

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My neighbor, Pam Chisholm, got into the spirit of the day.

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Two places in town offered face painting.

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This gentleman was in front of the Gene and Norman Tanner house that  is now a vacation rental. He had the place outfitted to the max.

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You could by a skull and decorate it.

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He had very authentic Mexican candelabra and the typical cakes sold all over Mexico for this day.  He served candied pumpkin, another traditional food. Many of the 21 altars around town had traditional cakes.

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He had set-ups where you could have your picture taken.

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Even an altar to remember and celebrate your favorite pets.

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What I liked most about this celebration was how uncrowded it was. Here, in front of the Peppermint Stick, is a scene right out of the fifties. I thoroughly enjoyed walking town, even if half the businesses have changed hands, several times, and I can’t remember what they were. The Peppermint Stick and the Murphys Hotel have withstood the onslaught of too many wine tasting rooms. The celebration won’t stay this way for very long.  At 6:00 p.m. there was a candlelight procession to the St. Patricks Church Cemetery. We opted to skip home for dinner and a movie. We watched Tootsie, which neither of us had ever seen before.  I swear, we are culturally deprived. LOL

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When I return home I never have any doubt that I live in one of the nicest places in California. Murphys Creek runs two miles from my house, right through town, in fact.  My daughter and her two boys came to stay for a couple of days and we drove to the creek to cool off.  The kids like to walk upstream and tube back down while we visit on the bank.

The water is low everywhere this year, and it is kind of fun to float under the bridge.

Or do some fishing from the bridge.  A tented playground is part of the park, visible in the background.

Or you can lounge around an eat cherries and corn chips, which is what we did. Relax. And, for nostalgia’s sake, we walked about two blocks to the Peppermint Stick, an ice cream parlor and enjoyed ice cream sundaes with whipped cream and a cherry on top.  Virginia worked there when she was in high school, and she regaled the kids with stories of working an ice cream parlor and candy counter where kids could order two gum drops, one licorice stick and a sucker and hand over their sticky pennies. Ice cream cones had to be consumed outside.

My daughter, who had just recently done a field trip with students and went rafting down a huge river finally jumped in to get wet and cool off. I’ve enjoyed this creek since we moved here, only more now that I have grand-kids to come and play. It’s a pleasant way to spend a hot afternoon.

While waiting for the garden soup to finish cooking for a light supper, we heard a close flying plane.

The spotter plane is  barely visible in the smoke that we hadn’t noticed until we heard the plane.

Soon the whole sky was a mass of smoke and haze and looked to be very close, which it was, approximately a mile away.

The helicopters began dropping buckets of water and the spotter continually circled to direct them.

A second copter joined the first one and a flurry of cars went up and down the road. We saw folks hauling their horses out of the canyon.

Eventually there were four helicopters and two spotters. The boys wondered why no fire engine came out. We explained to them the fire is in such a steep place, fire fighters can barely get to it. There were fire fighters from the highway side of the fire, we learned later. And my daughter took one camera and I another and we took pictures of every room in the house, every out building and the whole yard…just in case.

The copters were dipping into Utica Reservoir on the highway, and hauling back their buckets. The buckets don’t look like they carry enough water to fight a major blaze, but they do.

After a couple hours of the bucket brigade,  they brought in a long line bucket as the reservoir water got lower.  The helicopters were dumping with their lights on until it got  dark and the ground crews had to hold the lines. Fire tamps down at night and they caught this one right away.

The wind had shifted away from us before it got dark and we were able to go to bed with a feeling of safety, but fire is always a danger in the Motherlode. Other communities suffer hurricanes, tornadoes and twisters, or volcanoes, so we all have our dangers and our charms. This turned out to be a 180 acre blaze with no evacuations. We can sigh with relief and go on about our business. For me, it has been a busy month and I’ve missed blogging more than I ever have before. I have been nursing an injured muscle and have three weeks of therapy coming up as well.

And, then this morning, besides hearing the spotters work the sparks, Karen was towed home with an incapacitated vehicle.  It needs a new fuel pump. Not dangerous and not charming. Dang.

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