The Gold Country of California holds a special place in my heart. Towns like Sonora, Jamestown, Columbia, Angels Camp and Murphys bring the full force of another century crashing into my imagination. There's nothing quite as nostalgic as walking down creaking wooden sidewalks or stepping down onto cobbled streets.
Sonora is a modern city these days. They actually have traffic lights ~ lots of them in the newer side of town. In the spring and summer high season, the streets are packed with bikers and mini vans, limosines and Hummers. The entire south-east side of town is strip malled and chain stores galore. A little too busy for my tastes.
Downtown Columbia is a state park. The streets aren't paved (well, they are paved, just not well, and they're quite lumpy and misshapen), and original 1800's buildings stand fully restored. There's a soap shop in Columbia. Nice soaps, but even nicer candles. I've spent entire weekends playing in Columbia, gold panning and shopping the old time-y stores. There's a great kitchen store called the Pioneer's Emporium in Columbia. And you have to go into the corner cafe for a cold mug of sarsparilla soda.
Angels Camp is a drive-thru town -- for the time being. I have only one, hazy memory of Angels Camp ~ a long-ago spaghetti feed with my mother and father. Dad was a miner. Yeah, it was that long ago.
Murphys, ah. Murphys is special. It's the beating heart of the Calaveras Wine Country. A little bit of Napa in the dust and dogwood. It's a party town with a rough history and a lot of soul. Some might call it charming or sweet ~ I hope to one day call it home.