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Monday, January 06, 2014

A Glorious Trip to Washington, California

Pretty One Room Schoolhouse!
We decided adventure was calling us today.  We've been pretty close to home for weeks now and felt slightly stir crazy so we decided to head out for one last hurrah before the kids start back to school tomorrow.

Our destination was a tiny mountain town called Washington, in Nevada County, California.  It has a population of just under 200, is at about 3650 feet in elevation and appeared to be about fifty minutes from our home.

Once a hotbed of gold mining activity, it's the last remaining gold rush settlement in the immediate area. . .all the others shriveled up and died away as the gold was exhausted.

We chose the destination because it looked interesting, had some history, was not too far away, and looked to have good river access.  Water is our family's friend!

After a hefty picnic lunch was packed (my merry band of adventurers eat a LOT on such journeys!), we headed out.  It was a beautiful day and in the low 50's.

Normally, we wouldn't have tried this particular little trip in the winter.  We live at about 4000 feet, but must climb to over 6000 before turning off of the freeway onto a minor highway.  From there, we descend a bit and, at 4600 feet, turn off again onto a small, windy, steep road down into the valley that Washington is tucked into.  When it's icy or snowy, the roads would be perilous.  But the mild winter we've been having made it unusually safe at this time of year.

We drove straight through town and out the other side toward the Golden Quartz Picnic and Day Use area.  The destination was AWESOME.  The road, well, notsomuch.  But our 4x4 Chevy Suburban made it fine, despite the road being very rough and very narrow.  Had there been ANY ice or snow on the road, though, I wouldn't have tried it.  There were several spots that had pretty sheer drops on one side.

Once there, however, we were delighted.  The Yuba River is crystal clear and we had the place completely to ourselves.  (Not surprising as January 6th isn't exactly peak season!)  There were gentle slopes into the water, as well as lots and lots of rocks and boulders to climb over.  We went up and down river a bit and saw several places that would be nice to swim in come summer.

Today, however, the water was icy.  Some random patches of snow from our huge storm a few weeks ago were still visible, and there were pockets of ice in places along the river.  A couple of weeks ago, apparently, the river was frozen solid enough to walk over!

So, we didn't swim, but we did slip into our Wellie Boots and wade a bit. . .some just for fun, some to try to find the perfect skipping rocks, and others to try their hand at gold-panning.  We didn't get rich, but it sure was a nice way to pass the time.

We spent an absolutely glorious afternoon there enjoying the alpine beauty, pristine air, stunning river and each other.  We skipped rocks, explored icy pools, discovered a neat teepee made out of bark, and tromped through the woods.  I couldn't have asked for any more.

Frankly, I could have stayed for longer, but we wanted to have a quick look around the town, too.  So, regrettably, we packed up and headed back into town.

It's pretty small, and much of what was there wasn't open this time of year, but we did go up to the one room school house, which is adorable and has been educating kids for over a hundred years.  We met the teacher and discovered the school has only eight students this year.  All boys!

Cool Stone Wall with bits of Stove
The hotel/bar was open, but we didn't look in.  Didn't look terribly family friendly.  But outside there was a cool rock wall with all sorts of old cast iron stove pieces built into it.  I loved the effect!

We popped into the grocery store, too, which is small but has the eclectic array of offerings you would expect in such a remote place.  It was very cool to look around and we had an absolutely wonderful conversation with the lady who worked there.  That alone was worth the trip.

It was unanimous amount our crew. . .we'll be back again.  Definitely next summer to swim.  But probably before that, too!

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