A Mother-Lode Acquaintance……#192 (80’s)

Gary’s Dad and Mom’s Pioneer Ca.  home

The reaches of Foster City were diminishing in the rear view mirror,  the San Mateo Bridge beckoned a farewell,  the Willson rental Cavalier crossing to the East Bay turning east on Interstate 580 the new designate for this section of the historic coast to coast  U.S. Highway 50.  The start of a familiar journey through the Livermore Valley venturing the wind-swept Altamont Pass,  a pilgrimage to the residence of Gary’s parents in the tree shrouded Sierra Nevada mountain town of Pioneer.

The infamous Argonault Mine

The infamous Argonaut Mine

Pioneer, a remnqnt of the past

Pioneer Ca., a remnant of the past

Grandpa greeting Grandson

Grandpa Robert hugging Grandson Robert

Traversing north highway 99 to Waterloo Road,  the name for a five miles section of State highway 88,  continuing east,  thru the Sierra foothill gold country,  passing the village of Martel,  beginning the downhill incline into Jackson,  the family viewing the relic fixtures of two once  prosperous gold mines still presenting their stature and heritage,  the Argonaut and the Kennedy.   The Argonaut at its 1942 closing  having the distinction of being the deepest gold mine in North America,  reaching a depth of 5570 feet,  but also having the distinction of losing 47 miners to a fire at the depth of 4650 feet in 1922,  a rescue shaft was provided from the nearby Kennedy mine but to no avail,  the miners were lost.      Traversing Jackson the legendary gold emporium town  on Highway 88  a gradual raising Sierra Mountain climb for 16 miles discovering Pioneer,  a way-stop from a by-gone era, once christened Pioneer Station,  a stopping point to  change  wagon horses for the continuous journey over Kit Carson Pass.   The Cavalier continuing  a two mile venture on a gravel road into the forest shrouded surroundings, the pastoral cabin and family members waiting for their arrival.

The Willson’s (Jan’s taking the picture)

Randy, Sarah, Robert, Sandi, Jan

The Willson’s sequestered retreat, aptly christened “the cabin”,  a fond memory of Gary’s youthful days, helping his Dad clear the land and lay the foundation piers for the structures construction and always mindful of the past wilderness and its eminence of discovery and adventure.  Gary sensing a wave of nostalgia addressing ambience, seeing his family,  having been several years since his last endeavor to California.   Sandi and Robert greeting their cousin,  Sarah and her husband Randy James,   their Aunt Nancy, the three having driven from the Sonora area.   The cabin standing structurally strong and stately,  no longer an addendum,  but a final accomplishment,  Gary’s mother the architect and his father the laborer and construction initiator,  the finished product a result of their collective efforts.   The wind in the towering pines giving notice,  Gary  again discovering the message, an invitation,  a beckoning call from the wilderness.   Instinct flourishing,  he organizing an outing for Robert and Sandi,  first a journey down the old logging road where as a youth he and his sister Nancy discovering a cache of dynamite, but on this trek to the explore an abandoned gold mine with the rusted ore car tracks and its natural spring.  The spring at one time the family’s only source of water,  Gary not surprised to discover the aqua flow still flowering from the mines darken fissure.   A further expedition,  the three following a well-traveled deer trail in an attempt to discover the remains of the old miners cabin from Gary’s childhood ascendancy,  but the recollection of its location was either amiss or the quondam of history having removed its propinquity.

Mokelumne Beach - A 1920's swimming experience for Gary's Dad.

Mokelumne Beach – A 1920’s swimming experience for Gary’s Dad.

Robert and Sandi at Mokelumne Beach

Grandma, Robert Sandi, Jan and the river sand

A returning venture to Jackson,  turning on highway 49, towards town of Mokelumne Hill,  the families destination,  the Mokelumne River and a swimming area.   The river a boyhood memory of  Gary’s father and time spent with his dad. able to swim as a youth in the 1920’s.   Turning southwest at the bridge,  the family including Grandma,  proceeding on the narrow  access road that paralleled the river,  soon reaching a widening area with ample parking among the river shrouded forage.   Embarking to the river’s edge,  finding a large expanse of sand resembling a beach,  its granular consistency reaching out into the water.   Gary briefly reminiscing,  experiencing  a similar scene over three decades ago with his sisters,  recalling their water spaniel Smokey and his Father sharing of his youthful experience of this spot, swimming in the icy waters of the river.   Sandi and Robert were hesitant but motivated to venture into the snow embolden flow that emerged from the apogee of the Sierra’s,  the two soon discovering its temporal aperture unsuitable for a sustainable swimming presence.   With a Mokelumne river memory installed,  the family continuing on  to Columbia,  preparing for the next event of the mother-lode acquaintance.

Columbia State Park

Robert, Gary, Sandi panning for gold

Gary’s sister Nancy,  providing an opportunity to visit Columbia State Park,  with it 30 original building from the 1850 gold mining town,  Nan’s residence within walking distance of this awe-inspiring exhibition.  The family arriving at the park, experiencing  a journey back in time,  the post office,  bank,  the saloon,  blacksmith shop,  all the conveniences of by-gone era town,  but in reality,  a functioning town within the park,  the denizen dressed in character of the historic period.    Among the many exhibits, Robert and Sandi finding a gold panning display the most enjoyable, a unique exhibit with water filled troughs containing sand,  imbedded with flakes of real gold to be extracted by the celebrating customers,  an experience in California Aurelian mineral history.  A return to Pioneer a final evening before the family’s departure, Gary anxious in one respect to continue their journey, but an aura of melancholy beginning to filter thru his inner-feeling facade,  knowing that his mother would travel east to visit, but having no idea when he would see father again.

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