Wild West Still Alive in Calaveras County

Author: Cary Ordway

If you're looking for the Wild West, you could do no better than to go to a place that was once the home of Mark Twain and even memorialized in one of his short stories. Lucky for California residents, Calaveras County is a reasonable drive from both north and south and puts a lot of Gold Rush history all within a few square miles.

Students of Mark Twain will remember The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, a short story that was actually Twain's first published work and what eventually made him famous. Today, the Angels Camp community reminds us about Twain and his story every May, drawing more than 2,000 "frog jockeys" who compete to see whose frog can jump the farthest.

Such is the spirit in Calaveras County, a fascinating collection of historic villages that you don't need to wait until May to visit. In fact, the Jumping Frog Jubilee's added traffic may just interfere if all you want to do is explore the many historic attractions, museums, interesting shops - and even wineries - found in this scenic part of the state.

Your exploration can be a weekend or a vacation and can focus on just Calaveras County or include any number of towns and attractions in neighboring counties. We spent just a weekend, parking our RV near Angels Camp and driving short distances to attractions in Calaveras County as well as a couple over the border in Tuolumne County. The distances are all short - 10 to 20 miles between towns or attractions - and the sometimes-winding roads are always scenic in this hilly, forested part of California.

The common denominator between all these attractions is history - if you like history and love looking at historic towns, then this part of the state is your kind of place. A historic church here, an old general store there, antique stores on every block - the towns of Calaveras County are like a stroll into the past.

The Mark Twain connection is a big one for Angels Camp and, just like "the Birds" has become a cottage industry for its filming location, Bodega Bay, the Mark Twain short story has put Calaveras County and Angels Camp on the map. All manner of frog memorabilia are offered locally, and more than one business has the word frog in its name. You can even visit the cabin where Mark Twain lived for the few months he was staying in the area.

Angels Camp is the only incorporated city in Calaveras County so that tells you something about the rural nature of the neighborhood. Anxious to share its history, Angels Camp offers visitors a map for a walking tour of the town. Each of the historic buildings in town - and from what we could tell, they're ALL historic - has a number posted on the front of the building to correspond with the numbers on the map. The map has a description and history of each location.

The Angels Camp Museum and Carriage House is known for its fine collection of historic mining equipment as well as its many native American artifacts. There are reminders of life in the mid-1800s such as the drug store with the many old remedies on display in their original packaging. The Carriage House features more than 30 carriages, carts and wagons from the era.

Just a few miles from Angels Camp, a little further into the mountains, is Murphys, a tiny hamlet that also features many historic landmarks. Most of the buildings are from the mid-1800s with thick stone walls, iron shutters and white picket fences. Once a town of 3,000 people, the current population is a fraction of that, although tourists do swell the numbers on weekends.

Not far from Murphys, we came across a winery that had been recommended to us by the local visitor association - Ironstone Vineyards. This 1,150-acre property includes a tasting room, tours and even a museum on site. Catching our attention was a 44-pound gold nugget that was on display with, as you might suspect, plenty of precautions against theft. Ironstone also has an amphitheater on property which looked like the perfect place to enjoy a Sunday concert. Altogether there are 14 wineries in Calaveras County.

Some of the best history in the area actually is in neighboring Tuolumne County, where we visited the town of Sonora. Perhaps the most scenic town in the area, Sonora has a main street of western storefronts even longer than Angels Camp, but also boasts historic homes and a couple of spectacular church steeples that make it great for taking pictures. Again, Sonora is chock-full of antique shops, as well as small, but interesting shops and restaurants.

Near Sonora is the Columbia State Historic Park, a theme-park like reconstruction of a real California gold rush town. This is like the historic parks you hear about on the East Coast where people dress in period costumes to take you back to earlier days. Gold was discovered in 1850 in Columbia, and the town quickly grew into a bustling base for miners seeking their fortunes. Today, the park has a complete Main Street with reconstructed storefronts that actually have real stores and shops inside. There's a blacksmith shop, a couple of saloons, a hotel and a even a stagecoach ride in addition to many other small businesses. When we were there, a local bluegrass group was dressed in period garb, strolling the streets and entertaining visitors.

While we didn't have time to visit, it's not far from Columbia to Railtown 1897 State Historic Park which offers rides on authentic steam trains that have been used in many television shows and movies.

Another historic attraction in the same general area is the Tuolumne Museum, which blends local history from the early Me-Wuk tribes and the Gold Rush period. Open only on weekend afternoons, the museum displays many typical family items from the period, including clothing, health care items and family photos. A scale model of a local railroad and its route are set up in an adjacent room.

Between Columbia and Angels Camp, we came across a rather unique experience. Moaning Cavernn is just four miles east of Angels Camp and it's where we had the opportunity to walk down into the ground on a spiral staircase that opens to one of the largest caverns in the state. At one time, it was just a hole in the ground that was first discovered by local Indians who would hear a moaning sound coming from the opening. Some would accidentally step into the hole and plunge to their deaths.

Later, when the big underground cavern was discovered, lots of human remains were uncovered. A new opening was cut to allow for the insertion of the staircase and, today, visitors have the choice of taking the staircase or a more adventurous 165-foot rope rappel. If that's still not enough for you, guided tours are offered into the undeveloped and unlighted portions of the cave using lighted helmets and ropes. We chose Option A - the staircase - but there is still something unsettling about being underground in a natural cavern that would be big enough to place the Statue of Liberty inside.

This was just one of the many surprises we found in and near Calaveras County and, like Mark Twain, we had no trouble telling a short story or two when we got back home.


WHERE: Calaveras County is in the heart of California's Gold Country and easily accessed from Highway 99 using west-east highways you can get at various points south of Sacramento. One of the most direct is Highway 4 from Stockton.

WHAT: Calaveras County and several nearby counties make up Gold Country, a historic part of California that retains much of the flavor and charm of the mid-1800s gold rush period. Outdoor recreation is also plentiful here, including several campgrounds and New Melones Reservoir, a haven for boaters.

WHEN: Any time of the year, although there is some mountain driving and most roads are narrow and windy, so spring, summer and fall would be bets.

WHY: The scenic beauty of the area - hilly, mountainous and forested - is a feast for the eyes, while the history of the area is visible almost everywhere you look.

HOW: To plan a trip to Calaveras County, contact the Calaveras Visitors Bureau at 800-225-3764, or visit www.visitcalaveras.org. For more information on the attractions noted here that are in Tuolumne County, contact the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau at 800-335-1333 or visit www.thegreatunfenced.com.

About the Author:

Cary Ordway is a syndicated travel writer and president of Getaway Media Corp, which publishes websites focused on regional getaway travel. Among the sites currently offered by GMC are http://www.californiaweekend.com , covering California spa vacations and other Golden State destinations, and http://www.northwesttraveladvisor.com , covering Washington vacation ideas as well as other Pacific Northwest travel destinations.

Article Source: ArticlesBase.com - Wild West Still Alive in Calaveras County

Southern Arizona western travel...

Adventures in Southeastern Arizona

To many people, a vacation to Arizona means enjoying the sun and perhaps a game of golf in and around the state's two largest cities, Phoenix and Tucson.

If you have an interest in history, and enjoy getting off the busy highways, you might wish to take a trip to Cochise County, which is located in the southeast corner of Arizona.

In many ways, Cochise County embodies what Arizona was all about back when it was a Territory - wide open spaces and a great independent spirit.

The best way to take in Cochise County would be to visit the historic towns of Tombstone, Bisbee and Benson.

The historic railroad town of Benson is just off Interstate 10, approximately fort five miles east of Tucson. Situated in the center of the San Pedro River Valley, Benson is where you will find Kartchner Caverns State Park. In the Territorial era, Benson was one of the scheduled stops on the Pony Express and the Butterfield Overland Stage Coach Route. Along with the birth of the transcontinental railroad, Benson soon became a busy railroad town.

Twenty miles south on US Highway 80 lies the infamous town of Tombstone, the town too tough to die.

Even those that aren't interested in the Old West know that Tombstone was the location of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Tombstone's main source of income is, you might have guessed, tourism. Allen Street, the town's main thoroughfare, still resembles Tombstone as it was in the 1880s. The walkways beside the storefronts are wooden, and the streets are still unpaved.

Although there are many shops and restaurants in Tombstone, the town relishes its historical imprint on America. The O.K. Corral still offers tours, as does the C.S. Fly Photo Gallery, where you can view Mr. Fly's photographs of Geronimo and 1880s Tombstone.

The most important place to visit in town is the Tombstone Courthouse. Now a historical museum, visiting the courthouse will take you back 120 years, as you can view exhibits and thousands of artifacts and really get a feel for what life was like in Tombstone.

Now an artist enclave, the quaint community of Bisbee lies about twenty miles southeast of Tombstone. Bisbess is home to the largest open pit copper mine in the world, the Queen Mine.

The first thing you might notice about Bisbee is its beautiful architecture, as "old" Bisbee is nestled into the side of a mountain. Immediately, your eyes will gaze over to "The Pit," the copper mine, which ceased production in the mid 1970s. Quite simply, it's the largest hole in the earth you'll ever see!

You can go right down into the Queen Mine, where tours are operated by former miners on a daily basis. From the miners you will get their personal knowledge of the operations of the Queen Mine.

All of these historical towns make a good day trip for tourists. You may want to consider a weekend getaway to take in everything that Cochise County offers.

About the Author: To Find Hotels in Benson and Tombstone Arizona Click on http://www.searcharizonahotels.com/

Old West Saloons...

Old West Saloons Served Up More Than Just Drinks

Author: Sean Dell

Are you curious about the beginnings of those Old West saloons? Many people certainly are, and they are fascinated by saloons because these are the "stuff of legends", tall tales and some real "Cowboy" moments. Our ideas concerning Old West saloons have been cemented firmly in our minds due to a magical blend of real historical accounts and some great Hollywood fantasy.

The American West surely contained thousands of these iconic landmarks over the years, and almost everyone has a very similar picture of a saloon dancing in their heads. Swinging café doors are perhaps one of the most defining features of any cowboy saloon shown in movies. It is usual for movies and television shows to show saloons with long polished bars, round tables with an assortment of poker playing card sharks, and saloon hall ladies with sass and attitude to spare. These are based on real saloons that existed in the western cities and territories during the 1800s. Mexican cantinas were even earlier incarnations of the more popular saloons found in the rough and rugged frontiers of the American west.

Brown's Saloon is one of the most notable of the early western libation parlors and it came into existence in 1822. The establishment was located at the aptly named Brown's Hole, which was a small settlement in the proximity of the Wyoming-Utah- Colorado juncture. This Wild West spot was the first to be known as a 'saloon' and could depend on business from fur trappers who were a rough and tumble lot. According to documents there were almost as many fights occurring at Brown's Saloon as there were drinks being served.

Where there are soldiers there are places to drink vast quantities of alcoholic beverages and this was true during the latter part of the 1800s when Bent's Fort Colorado became home to another early and popular libations parlor. Most people have heard of Dodge City, Kansas which is one of the legendary cowboy hot spots, and the cowboys had reason to frequent the city when early saloons moved into town.

The popularity of Old West saloons can be plainly seen by following the growth they experienced in Santa Barbara during the height of the "Gold Rush". At the beginning of the gold fever years there was one saloon, or cantina, in all of Santa Barbara, but within a couple of years, there were over 30 known saloons in existence within the city limits. Even distant Livingston, Montana with a booming town population of 3000 managed to support over 30 saloons in 1883.

In stark contrast to our ideas of how a saloon should look these first early social centers were often shacks, tents or simply a hastily constructed, unsteady lean-to. Shopkeepers and entrepreneurs knew that there was no shortage of lonely men who would visit a welcoming space that offered drink, food and warm companionship and conversation. As the years passed the saloons did begin to change and actually did take on the look and atmosphere that is now indelibly associated with them.

Customers had to be pretty desperate and fairly adventurous to visit these early Old West saloons. The whiskey was as rough, or rougher, than the desert hills and prices could be high. Many of the choice whiskeys were combination of pure alcohol and cooked sugar, with a little hot pepper sauce or chewing tobacco added for an extra kick. Some barkeeps would cut their cheap drinks with turpentine, ammonia, gunpowder or other choice additives; some even tossed in a small amount of rat poison.

You can't say that there was no truth in advertising during these early saloon days because the names of the whiskey pretty much said it all. Some of the names were Dead Dan, 6 Feet Under, Tarantula Juice and Coffin Varnish. Some drinks contained peyote and tequila, and the cheap "House Special" was often known as Rotgut.

Though most of these old saloons are gone there are still some around like The River City Saloon in Old Sacramento

California. You can check there website out before you visit at http://www.therivercitysaloon.com. Also Deadwood has many great saloons like Big Nose Kate's.

So step back in time and go west!

About the Author:
Sean Derfield is a bar owner, and online marketer. He has many sites that deal with bringing more business through your doors. Some of his sites include http://www.myfriendbuilder.com http://www.sacramentoatnight.com

Article Source: ArticlesBase.com - Old West Saloons Served Up More Than Just Drinks

Way Out West...Wickenburg, AZ.

Sitting in the shadows of the rising Phoenix, a small town full of cowboy history and culture awaits just a short jaunt away. I could have used the description short "drive", but out here a horse is considered a major part of the public transportation system, and many locals tend to "drive" the cows. This town is well known for dude ranches and open spaces, but more know it as the stop on the way to the gambling destinations of Nevada. Why not take a gamble on Wickenburg, Arizona? It is your best bet along the way.

Wickenburg was founded in 1863 when Henry Wickenburg, a Austrian prospector, found gold around the area of the Vulture Mountains of central Arizona. Soon after the mining and ranch foundations of the town were laid, and a western town was born. The town celebrates it's history in many ways, much which can be seen still today. From ghost towns to festivals, there are numerous opportunities to immerse yourself in Wickenburg's western heritage.

One of the biggest western festivals of it's kind, the annual Gold Rush Days draws thousands of visitor's from all over to celebrate the mining history of the area. The weekend in February offers mining competitions, melodramas, and one of the largest parades in the state on Saturday. If you are in town at any time of year, be sure to visit the Chamber of Commerce located in the historic railroad depot on Frontier Street. This is a great place to start and get the skinny on the history of the town and the places and things you will want to do. Be sure to check out the old Santa Fe steam engine right outside the station. Many shops and artisans are located around the downtown area from here. Some of the highlights include Ben's Saddlery Shop, Buckshot Babe's, and some of the best turquoise jewelry in the state at Danny's. Take a walking tour of downtown and you will find a few "guides" around town to help you learn a little about it's history. These guides are actually statues located around town and with the push of a button will tell you a tale of the town's past.

For a town of it's size, the selection of restaurants is pleasantly plentiful. The best thing you will find about Wickenburg's eating establishments is character. Mom and Pops are very well represented, with Anita's, Rancho Bar 7, and the Cowboy Cafe to name just a few. After a good meal check out a movie over at the historic Saguaro Theater, built in 1948 it's signage and original ticket booth are still intact. And as far as movie popcorn goes, this place knows how to pop those kernels. Wickenburg is the obvious place for that Dinner and a Movie date that you need to take.

The two best things about Wickenburg to do we have yet to mention. Desert Caballeros Western Museum and the Vulture Mine townsite. For a town of less than 10,000 people, the museum here is the toast of the town. With a western art collection that includes greats like Remington, Russell, Moran, and Weighorst, this is the little museum that could...and does. Besides the ever changing exhibits to keep you coming back, the permanent historical part of the museum includes a 1915 Arizona street scene complete with a saloon, watch shop, livery stable, post office, church, and general store. There is also a Victorian house recreation to show how things were back in the old west. This is a must see in Wickenburg, appreciate, learn, and enlighten.

Vulture Mine was the original location of Henry Wickenberg's gold find. Just in sight of Vulture Peak, the town of Vulture City was founded here to support the mining. At one point the population was as high as 5,000 who would call this desert town home. Many of the original buildings are here, and a self guided tour is offered to those that are up to it. The original hanging tree is still there, in a town where 18 were hung from this old Ironwood. Some say there are ghosts that still haunt this area. Isn't this a little obvious? I mean this is a Ghost Town.

There are many things we have not covered, but there is so much to be discovered. Wickenburg is just a short distance from Phoenix and a long distance away in your mind. Be sure to take a trip soon and get in touch with that western spirit that this great Arizona town has to offer.

Author: Chris Bowley is the owner of oldwestweb.com, a web design service with a western twist. Web design with the west in mind.
Rocket to the Stars!
Some old
Some new
Some tried and true
Some “retro” flare
And Rock-a-Billy too !

Joey Dillon presents his passion for the Old West showcasing the art of trick and fancy gun handling. He continues to thrill his audiences – young and old – with the speed and dexterity that earned him world champion status.
Besides spinning guns at breakneck speed, Joey loves to add his unique comedic anecdotes to spice up his shows. You’re sure to have a chuckle or two and be amazed at Joey’s newest gun handling moves.
Coaching others to perfect their gun handling techniques is another part of Joey’s repertoire. Hollywood celebrities, western re-enactors, and your every day gun enthusiasts have all benefitted from Joey’s talent and teaching qualities. His DVD “Dillon” is available for purchase which includes his most popular tricks along with bonus feature entertainment.
As quoted from True West Magazine (August 2009), “while Dillon tours as a gunspinner, he’s also been inching ever closer to a career in film.” -- “I want to champion the cause for the next generation………to introduce Westerns to a new generation.”
With as much enthusiasm and passion that Joey has for the Old West, it would only seem logical for the movie industry to be touched and guided by Joey’s talents in the days to come…………the culmination of his own personal dreams .
“Dream by Dream they made their way across this land……………we won’t forget them, that’s how the West was Won”
Riding alongside the memories of the pioneers of yesteryear, Joey’s frontier spirit will add to the continuation of our nation’s great Western heritage.
“Let’er Buck”

For more information www.joeydillon.com.

About the author: Inta Brown is an avid horsewoman and lover of all things western. She blogs about life and her unique observations of it at www.intalife.wordpress.com.

The Art of Hitching.

Have you ever hitched? Of course we are not talking about the art of sticking your thumb out to catch a ride. Hitching does involve a ride of another kind, a horse. Hitching involves the use of horsehair. A hitcher will start with each hair and combining each strand of hair together, create the desired results. Very much the same as construction of a rope, hitching is done by hand and requires much patience. Twisting the hair into a strand and then again into a larger design can take many, many hours. The art of hitching dates back to Spain in the 8th century, and was brought over to America by the early Spaniards. Many early American hitchers were actually prisoners in western prisons. Of course it is amazing how much patience one has when locked in Yuma Territorial Prison for a 5-7 year vacation.

By now a cowboy tradition of the west, hitching can be found in the form of hatbands, belts, horse bridles and many other forms. Many pieces will often take hundreds of hours of hand made work to complete. Some will incorporate differing colors and designs, this being accomplished by the dyeing of the hair. This is where the art comes in, creativity can flow through a piece. The hitcher is an artist creating a three dimensional work of art.

Dallas Ray Schut is one of those hitchers. Describing himself as "persistent" more than "patient", he insists he must finish what he starts. Working out of his homestead in New River, Az. he is a 25 year disciple of the hitching discipline. It has gotten to the point that he has had his works shown in many public shows and museums. The works of art he creates really do take hundreds of hours at a time to complete, and it shows. The amazing amount of detailed work involved can be seen in each piece. While this was the way of the west for many years, with modern times brought modern methods. It is great to see the artistry of a time gone by from the old west still in those who do things the old fashioned way.

By Chris Bowley