Saturday, January 19, 2013

Calico, California December 23, 2012

                                                   Antique shop in Calico, California

Directions and general information: Calico is located 13 miles east of Barstow, California, off of Interstate 15. It is a recreated ghost town. The Knott family purchased the townsite in 1950. By 1966 Calico had been restored to former glory. The same year, San Bernardino County brought the town creating a park. To enter it cost $7 for each adult and $3 for each child. Camping is available for $30 without hookups. In nearby mountains opportunities abound for mountain biking and off-road driving. There are two restaurants in town which offer breakfast, lunch and dinner at a modest price. The best attraction in town is the Maggie Mine tour at $3 per person.

History: In Spring of 1881 three prospectors pitched camp in the nearby mountains. On the fourth day they struck a big  silver ore vein. News quickly spread throughout the west and prospectors came rushing in. Within a year a townsite prospectors had built a town site with shops, saloons, and homes. Eastern Calico became the town's Chinatown.

Production was great for 16 years before declining because of the price of silver ore. From 1880 to 1896 the huge producers were the Silver King, Bismark, Waterloo and Occidental mines. They  produced over $86 million worth of silver. Solid rock formations in the surrounding made working conditions favorable where miners were able to tunnel without having to timber the sides and roof. The prosperity would not last  because the mines were linked to the price of their own product. In 1880 the price of silver was worth about $1.29 per ounce. By 1896 it had fallen to 53 cents when the mines closed and Calico dried up.(Information from Calico Ghost Town California's Greatest Silver Camp Copyright Knotts Berry Farm)      

                                     Recreated Blacksmith Shop

                                 Chruch in town

                                    Recreated Calico from above

                           Stone house in Calico town site
                                          Maggie Mining Company: today a tour
                                 Cholla cactus

                                       Historic photo showing ore wagon being loaded

                                Tara in Maggie Mine

                             Headstone in cemetery

                                      Headstone in cemetery; this guy a Marine Corps

California Trail Interpretive Center Elko, Nevada October 13, 2012

      Pioneers used the term "Seeing the Elephant" to describe experiencing the hardships on the trail

General Information: The BLM recently opened the California Trail Interpretive Center in the spring of 2012. It is located off of Interstate 80  approximately 8 miles west of Elko, Nevada. Exhibits and informative displays tell the story of immigrants traveling west from St. Joseph, Missouri. Each diorama depicts hardships and life for the pioneers at various parts of the journey including the prairie, desert, and Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. There is no entrance fee to see the exhibits; however, it is advisable to leave a donation. The gift shop has a number of interesting books about the trail and westward expansion.On the outside grounds there are a number of short trails: the longest 4.500 feet long which takes hikers to a vantage point of the Humboldt River. An Indian Encampment as well as informative signs are also available outside.

History: The discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in California created gold fever. Hundreds of thousands of easterners braved the perilous journey to stake their claim in the gold fields. They heard stories of guys and gals finding gold nuggets and being set for life. The reality was a lot harsher. Many died along the journey to the west. Others became injured in the mines or didn't find any gold and lost all they had. From 1849-1854 about 165,000 emigrants a year traveled to California by what is known as the northern route. Thousands of other easterners traveled  to southern California by crossing the Colorado River at Yuma, Arizona.

The route: It is important to note that the California Trail in most spots was not one trail but multiple trails. In this blog I will describe the main route. The main route started at St. Joseph, Missouri. It followed the Platte River to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. The Child's Cutoff took travelers to South Pass. From South Pass the Sublett Cutoff or Lander Road took travelers to Ft. Hall, Idaho. From Ft. Hall the trail ran through the City of Rocks to what is now present day Elko, Nevada. From Elko to Western Nevada it followed the Humboldt River. Present day Donner Pass was the main route over the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range to Sacremento.

Hastings Cutoff: The most famous cutoff of the California Trail was devised by Lansford Hastings in 1846. It was advertised in eastern newspapers as a way to drastically cut the time it took to travel to California. In reality the cutoff took wagon parties through some of the most isolated and barren desert in the west. Pioneers had long stretches with no water and during the summer temperatures routinely went well over 110 degrees fahrenheit. The route left the main trail at Fort Bridger. It went through Weber Canyon to Salt Lake City. From Salt Lake it crossed the Great Salt Desert and it rejoined the main trail at Elko, Nevada. The Donner Party made the Hastings Cutoff famous in 1846 when they decided to take it. They lost time in the Prairie and desert and later became marooned in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Many in the party died from starvation or cold weather. (Information from: and A Guide to The California Trail by Richard Brock and Donald Brock).  

                              Wagon Wheel with brake pioneers used

                           Painting depicting the start of the trail: St. Josepth, Missouri

                                   Exhibit showing life for emigrants on the plains

                                    Exhibit showing harsh realities on 60 mile desert in western Nevada

              Beautiful etching showing wagons crossing mountains

                    A reproduction of a wagon that emigrants might have used

                                 The Indian encampment with the Center in the background