Mud Baths and Gold Camp
Calistoga to Calaveras County. Last weekend, we were in Calistoga at the north end of Napa Valley, known for grapes and hot springs. The only easy access to Calistoga is via Napa north along Highway 128. Well for us it made for an easy departure (our trip to Calistoga southbound on Highway 128 wasn’t fun). Today we are Calaveras County made famous by Mark Twain. That is why we are calling it, Calistoga to Calaveras County.
Calistoga sits square on a mineral hot springs, and for Tami’s birthday, (I chose this place for her birthday treat – both because it was along the way and because it was not wilderness.) we did a very uncharacteristic thing for us and tried (for the first time in our lives) a mud bath.
I have a long history of being muddy, nearly as much as duck hunters, who have considerably more experience than I do. One of my first “muddy memories” was wading in Coal Creek, trying to catch frogs and catching only tadpoles, being muddy, from the waist down. After that (including a muddy bike ride home) I was treated to a hose shower that I still remember as very cold, just to get enough mud off so that I could then take a hot shower.
The mud tub, at first glance, reminded me of stories about quicksand, and now that I look back on it, both quicksand and mud baths have much in common. Both are thick. Unlike what my mother told me, people rarely, if ever, die in quicksand.
Anyway, this mud bath was nothing like my previous mud encounters, other than a full shower was involved. Although the temperature of the mud was not surprising, (about 103 degrees) the characteristic of the mud was surprising. I had no idea how supporting mud could be. Mud is easily able to support your body with zero pressure points. This is as close as I am going to ever be to weightless.
You don’t sink in the mud like you do in water, in fact, to get below the surface and down into the mud you have to scoop the mud to the top of your body. The mud could be the next big thing for beds. It is much better than foam and much — much better than a water bed. Wading through mud is a real pain. Lying down in mud is much easier. Extracting yourself from mud (and quicksand) after lying down, like wading in mud, requires considerable effort. Perhaps foam is a better mattress material after all.
We also had an attendant at the mud bath, who over and over again told us of how the mud was able to suck all the toxins out of our skin. I didn’t say anything, but don’t value this; instead, I just enjoyed the new sensations. Warm mud is enjoyable, cold mud not so much. Given the opportunity to do it again, I will choose the hot tub, without the mud or the attendant.
On Wednesday our journey took us southeast toward the Sacramento Delta. This is a huge water drainage that has produced an inland Delta, caused by both water flow from the river into the ocean and flows from the ocean into the river due to rising and falling tides. An inland delta is essentially the same as a coastal delta (Mississippi River or Nile River) but instead had a constrained river mouth with the water exchange inland rather than coastal. In both cases, low-lying areas from flooding with dikes, like in Holland.
Of course, the delta is no longer subject to natural flooding, but instead is controlled, using any means necessary to keep the ocean out of the farms.
Travis Air Force Base
We stayed at Travis Air Force Base for the night (home of Air Force jumbo cargo jets) and then continued southeast to our current home, overlooking New Hogan Lake, on the Calaveras River.
Why did we move from the coast and Napa Valley across the Sacramento Delta all the way to Gold Country in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains? Two reasons, first, our RV doesn’t belong in San Francisco, (or Sacramento) and number two, friends from Nevada, crossed the Sierras just to camp with us. We are very happy about having friends come to visit, and meeting us on the road. We stayed in their driveway last year as we crossed Nevada and are very happy they came to see us at our closest point of approach south of Sacramento.
We, thus, are in Calaveras County — Gold Country famed in 1849 by the California Gold Rush and we are camped just north of a famous gold town, Angels Camp. All the way from Calistoga to Calaveras County Highway 49 travels (funny how the highway name 49 reflects the 1849 gold strike) travels along the foothills all from gold camp to gold camp. All kinds of gold mining activities were throughout this area from placer mines like at Sutter’s Mill to hard rock mines and full mountain excavations by hydraulic mining. Gold processing, including stamp mills, broke rocks 24 hours a day in many of the towns. Noise!
Today we visited Frogtown, made famous by Mark Twain, (real name Angels Camp) the Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Twain’s embellished story of the frog jumping contest made Twain an overnight sensation as a writer and he played out for the rest of his life. The story, as it is told, was that Twain first heard it at Angels Hotel from the Bartender in Angles Camp when Twain was attempting to be a prospector. Twain failed as a prospector but excelled as a storyteller.
Angels Camp plays the story for all it is worth which includes the annual frog jumping contests and plaques on the city streets immortalizing the winner. There is even a story about an African Bull Frog that won by first eating all the competition. The African Bull Frog story is false and would have been a poor jumper, just like the frog named Daniel Webster in Twain’s story.
From Twain’s story, there are now frog jumping contests in nine different states.
Here is a link to the google map for the area.
Link to our 2019 Route
Link to our route Oregon and California Coast
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