Golden K road trip.
Last week Holly and I ventured beyond the fences of the Golden K to do a little exploring in the Gold Country. There is so much beauty, recreation, and history in the California Gold Country and we’re fortunate enough to be living right dab in the middle of it on five acres covered by pines, oaks, cedars and a plethora of wild life.
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area both Holly and I vacationed with our families in many areas of the Gold Country. Especially Holly whose family explored most of Northern camping almost year round. So maybe that’s why we hadn’t felt compelled to venture very far from the GK since we moved here in May of 2016. Or maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a homebody who prefers to stay close to home and close to my routine.
Last week we took a day trip that took us 250 feet in the sky and 165 feet under the earth. And wow, both experiences were truly humbling.
Our first destination was Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Located just about an hour north of The Golden K, Big Trees is famous for it’s grove of Giant Sycamore trees. Growing to heights of 275 feet with diameters ranging from 20 to 25 feet Giant Sycamores are some of the largest living things on earth and some of the oldest too with many trees living to over 3000 years.
We took a guided tour that began standing on the base of what is known as the “Discovery Tree”. This is the tree “discovered” in 1852 by a hunter who happened across it by chance in what is now called the North Grove of Big Trees State Park.. Sadly, a year later the tree was felled in an effort to make a profit over it’s magnificence. It took several men several days to take this 250 foot tree down. It was estimated to be 1,300 years old at the time. More information about the Discovery Tree and history of the Giant Sequoias can be found here.
Fortunately there were and still are dozens of other Giant Sequoias in what is now a California State Park. It was a humbling and powerful experience as we walked the North Grove with our guide viewing and learning about these incredible living giants. Standing in this natural beauty I took several pictures but pictures can not capture the beauty or the emotion of standing at the base of something so tall and beautiful that has been alive on earth since biblical times. Wow.
After a morning above ground staring straight up in the air we were ready to go deep underground. So after a stop in the town of Arnold for lunch we drove to the Moaning Caverns located in a small town called Vallecito. The Moaning Caverns is the lagerst vertical publicly accessible cavern in California. The cavern was discovered by gold miners in 1851. It is now known that it was a geological feature of great interest to prehistoric peoples. The cavern has also been an archaeological site where some of the oldest human remains in America have been found. The cave has a depth of 400 feet and the public can tour it’s 165 foot shaft descending down a spiral staircase.
Early minors would repel down the shaft with only small candles for light. As a way to make a profit the 1891 discoverers devised a rope and pulley system to lower people down the shaft for a cost of five cents. Presumably they also hauled them back up…. probably for an additional cost.
Today there are lamps placed along the shaft to provide enough light for safety and to enable tourists to see the incredible formations carved over thousands of years from water and minerals. Standing on the bottom of the 165 foot shaft and looking up was another humbling and powerful experience. Thinking about how long – test of thousands of years – it took for these formations to be created drip by drip was mind boggling. It served to remind me that the length of a human life is but a blip in the fabric of the earth’s history. It was also humbling to think that the Giant Sequoias we peered straight up at earlier in the day were almost twice as tall as this giant shaft. When the tour guide turned out all the lights in the shaft (he warned us first) we were in pure and total blackness. Wow.
Arriving back at the Golden K from wherever we go is always a wonderful experience. But on this day our trees looked a little smaller and our well seemed a little more shallow.
But my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet was as grand as ever.
Calaveras Big Tree State Park – a humbling look of about 250 up at a Giant Sequoia
Moaning Cavern – the spiral staircase that took us down 165 feet
My six inch “Giant Sequoia – purchased at the park’s visitor center. Visitors to the Golden K in several hundred years may discover this little guy has grown to a couple of hundred feet. Wow…
GOLD COUNTY AND THE GOLDEN K