We needed to make a pilgrimage to XPMecca in Grass Valley, CA so we made a four-day weekend of it. We drove eight hours north and parked in the XPCampground, aka Marc’s parking lot. Not the most scenic “campground” but we’ve stayed in worse places. We tooled around gold country in a rental while the XPCrew did some upgrades to our rig. More on that in a separate post.

 

SUTTER’S MILL

Our first stop in gold country was Sutter’s Mill at the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historical Park. In all honesty, it was bit of a letdown. Some of the buildings had some history to them but many of the displays were replicas. Considering the gold discovery had on the timing of California’s statehood, it would be┬ánice to see more investment there compared to some other state parks we have seen and even the one we visited later. The state is working on renovations which should improve the experience but they’re using 2006 Clean Water Bond funds to do it. I couldn’t see any connection to water bonds but this is a travel blog, not a political one so let’s move on.

Park buildings under renovation and expansion

Park buildings under renovation and expansion

But the state is proudly using 2006 Clean Water Bond Funds to do it.

But the state is proudly using 2006 Clean Water Bond Funds to do it.

Sutter's Mill

Sutter’s Mill

old schoolhouse

old schoolhouse

former bank, store and other uses

former bank, store and other uses

cannon fired to announce the arrival of the mail

cannon fired to announce the arrival of the mail

 

EMPIRE MINE

We spent the next day touring the Empire Mine State Historical Park. This mine produced $2.5 billion in gold from 1850 to 1956 when it closed. The workers rode into the mine the mine on mine carts in pitch black traveling on an approximate 30 degree incline at 600 feet per minute. They processed the gold imbedded in the rock with mercury, stirred by hand, and arsenic. There are 367 miles of tunnels with a final depth of just shy of one mile deep. Because of the great wealth of the owners and the relatively recent closure, it is a well preserved site with beautiful buildings and much of the equipment and mine works still on site.

main mine shaft

main mine shaft

this mine cart would hold 12 miners as they dropped in to work

this mine cart would hold 12 miners as they dropped in to work

stampers, 1700 pound blocks would crush the rock

stampers, 1700 pound blocks would crush the rock

Smeaton water wheel brought power to the drilling

Smeaton water wheel brought power to the drilling

core from boring air holes for the mine

core from boring air holes for the mine

Bourn cottage architecture

Bourn cottage architecture

 

TAHOE NATIONAL FOREST

After picking up our camper, we headed deep into the Tahoe National Forest and camped near Sawmill Lake. From there, we traveled east through the forest, stopping at a few overlooks to gaze at the scenery. It was a very nice drive with some amazing views. We headed south through Truckee, Lake Tahoe, Carson City, and finally to Mono Lake. Be sure to click on the panorama shots to see them full screen with all the detail, beautiful country.

campsite near Sawmill Lake

campsite near Sawmill Lake

Sawmill Lake

Sawmill Lake

Perazzo Meadows

Perazzo Meadows

Jackson Meadow reservoir

Jackson Meadow reservoir

 

MONO LAKE

We concluded our long weekend at Mono Lake. After a brief visit to the visitor’s center for a pin and stamp, we were directed to the forest area south of the lake for dispersed camping. On the way we took a walk out to see the tufas up close. These are formed by underwater springs depositing minerals into the saltwater lake. They were exposed when LADWP bought water rights that diverted the lake’s water sources. DWP is now working with the state to reestablish the lake but it is a very slow process. Mono Lake is home to 80% of the sea gull rookeries in California due to the safer habitat for raising chicks. We searched and searched for a campsite with a view of the lake and finally ended up finding a great spot we passed on the way in but hadn’t noticed. All in all, the drive was worth it. We even saw a fat black bear on our way home┬ábut couldn’t get a picture of it.

tufa

tufa

birds and tufas

birds and tufas

tufas admiring their reflections

tufas admiring their reflections

view from Bald Mountain Fire Lookout

view from Bald Mountain Fire Lookout

great campsite found

great campsite found

Mono Lake sunset

Mono Lake sunset

obligatory XPCamper rear window view shot

obligatory XPCamper rear window view shot

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