Thursday, August 2, 2012

C H I L L A X I N in Plumas Eureka

A cool swim was our reward after a hike to Grass Lake

Darrell and Spark Chillaxin
A few miles up the road from Graeagle is the Plumas Eureka State Park Campground, that many believe to be California’s finest. No argument from us, surrounded by stands of tall pines, Tranquila was precariously perched overlooking Jamison Creek. At night we were lulled to sleep by the music of the babbling stream, and in the morning, coffee was sipped lying in bed starring out our window at the heavily forested landscape listening to the sounds of warblers, crows, and woodpeckers. Our days were spent exploring and hiking some of the many trails referenced in “Feather River Country Adventure Trails”. One of my favorites is the trail departing from the old Jamison Gold Mine (one of the most profitable in the Sierra) to Grass Lake. Next year we want to backpack past Grass Lake above the tree line to Wade, Rock, and Jamison Lakes for an overnight stay. 

At the entrance to the state park campground is a compound of historical buildings that once comprised the Plumas-Eureka Mine from California’s Gold Rush days, not so long ago. Today, young and old alike, can be seen dressed in waist-high waders panning for gold along Jamison Creek. Hobby or fever, who can say, but I prefer to send Darrell out with a fishing pole. 

 Panning for gold, fishing, or swimming, everyone loves Jamison Creek 

Whether you fish or not, there is no avoiding the historical significance of the area. The hydraulic Plumas-Eureka Mine was incredible labyrinth of 65 miles of tunnels twisting and winding their way deep into the earth. It is believed that 25 million dollars worth of gold was mined here. The campground registration office is housed in the old sleeping quarters for the miners, and contains a museum documenting the colorful Sierra history. They have an excellent assortment of tools and machinery used in mining the gold, models of the mines, the paymaster’s records, and a good display of men's and women’s clothing worn in the era. There is also a taxidermal exhibition (surprisingly, it fascinated me more than it creeped me out) of the region's creatures from bears to owls. For those who want to delve deeper into the wonders of Plumas County (me) the park’s bookstore offers a wealth of sources, including information about the early inhabitants. 

Originally, the Northern Maidu, a group of hunter and gathers, lived among the forested ridges, high lakes, and green valleys of the Northern Sierra. With the advent of the gold rush, their ecosystem was heavily tread upon by white men seeking their fortunes. This quest for riches had devastating consequences for the Maidu, within 50 years 90% of the tribe lost their lives to disease and starvation. Members of the Maidu tribe, strong and resilient, number nearly 2,000 today. 

Johnsville, quiet and serene
When gold was found at Eureka Peak (Gold Mountain) young men and women from across America and around the world poured into the area in pursuit of their dreams of wealth. In 1876, Johns, the headman of the Plumas-Eureka Mine, built a community for the miners and their familes. Known as Johnsville, the population reached 7,000 in its heyday. The new community flourished with two hotels, a school, a church, a couple of general stores, and of course, several salons. When the Plumas-Eureka mine played out, the boom was over, and all that was left of Johnsville was a ghost town. 

Today, Johnsville is a sleepy hamlet with a year round population of twenty, far out numbered by the permanent residents of the historical cemetery. There is also a small number of summer dwellers who have started building charming farmhouses with shaded porches overlooking well-manicured lawns dotted with wild flowers. A favorite pastime of residents seems to be reading under the canopy of Aspens and pines offering shelter from the hot summer days. After all, no real services exist up here; cell phone reception is sketchy at best, so you can forget the internet, there is no market, no gas station, no stores of any kind. Nada. Just perfection, beauty, and abundance of peaceful solitude. Nothing but all the time in the world to finish that great book that’s been waiting patiently on the shelf. There is however, as the sun starts to lower on the horizon, an old time restaurant, The Iron Door.

The Iron Door, a local favorite (and only) restaurant 

We came to Johnsville neither in pursuit of gold or lobster, but rather to follow the trail leading from the old cemetery down the steep slippery rock strewn path to Jamison Creek Lower Falls.  Our big time payoff as adventurers was that the icy green swimming holes did not disappoint. When the summer temperatures reach the 90's, the snow fed swimming holes become a popular spot for locals and tourists of all ages.

Spark of Life, Sparky to us, always enjoys a brisk dip in mountain streams.

Happy Campers
The trick to reaching the refreshing pools is scrambling down the rocks without
 skinning your knees or landing on your rear-end! The effort is well worth it.

1 comment:

  1. I can even smell it Sarah . . . oh how beautiful ... I can hear it too ... I would LOVE to be there with you!!!