I met my friend, Joan Higgins, of Mi-Wuk Village for lunch. In the past, we would go to Diamond Jim’s, but alas, the restaurant is closed, the economy has leveled so many things. Mi-Wuk is about 18 miles above Sonora and while the restaurant is closed, the scenery isn’t. I meandered along enjoying the passing pine forest, the smells of cedar, cones rolling about the roadside, passing glimpses of yellow aspen and bursts of vermillion and burnt umber in a bush peeping out of the green. Mi-Wuk elevation is 4,000 feet.
People who move to mountain “retreats” like their privacy and getting away from city traffic. Joan and her husband retired among the quiet and beauty many years ago. Now, winter has driven her off the mountain until warm weather returns. But, home is still where the heart is and October has stretched out the good weather this year. During the rim fire, she had to leave the area because of the smoke.
Joan drove to Sonora and picked up a bake your own pizza and made a salad for lunch. Fresh out of the oven and delicious. We laughed. We could just as well have met in Sonora, there are a number of restaurants along the way besides Diamond Jim’s. But truth to tell, we both prefer to sit for an hour or two and yak. I hadn’t seen Joan in two years. The last time, we met at her winter escape in Arizona. Like me, she is widowed. Our husband’s were life-long friends.
Jim and I visit small places often as we travel and for years I ignored the history in my own back yard. The Mi-Wuks, who now prefer to spell their tribal name Me-Wuk settled this area hundreds of years ago. They built cedar shelters like the the one in this picture and also tee-pee shaped, moveable dwellings as well. Their habit was to grind acorns into flour to make a flat Indian bread, fish the rivers and hunt small game. They traveled over Sonora Pass and traded with the Eastern Sierra Paiute Indians, camping along the way. Archeologists have found their acorn grinding holes and the obsidian arrow heads the Paiute traded with them. In fact, Sonora was founded along a Me-Wuk Indian trail.
We said our goodbyes, and promised to meet again. We have a lot in common; both of us were raised strong Catholics, we both are one of seven siblings and we have many friends in common. The Me-Wuks now run the only Indian Casino within our three counties, Alpine, Toulomne, and Calaveras. I have Mi-Wuk Indian grinding holes on my property in Murphys. I’m glad the Me-Wuk have better resources than they used to, but neither of us care to frequent their casino, and we both treasure the Motherlode.