March 15, 2013
Yesterday, I pulled into Murphys, California and checked into Murphys Historic Hotel.
Murphys is located in Calavaras County, which is in the heart of California’s historic gold rush territory. The Calavaras County Fair in May features the Frog Jumping Contest made famous by Mark Twain in his 1865 short story “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”
Like many of the old gold mining towns, Murphys was plagued by fires in the early days and burned down 3 times-1859, 1874 and 1893, Approximately 20 million in gold was discovered in Murphys. The town is registered as a California Historical Landmark.
Murphys Hotel was built in August, 1856. Many dignitaries have stayed at this hotel, including President Ulysses S. Grant, John Jacob Astor, J.P. Morgan, Black Bart, Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain), Susan B. Anthony, W.C. Fields, John Wayne and Allan Smith (my filmmaker friend who recommended this venue).
Downtown Main Street features 25 wine tasting facilities (26 if you include “Ollie’s Sidecar Winery” which had its grand opening today), several really great restaurants and lots of curio shops. I had one of the best pizzas of my life last night at the Fire Wood restaurant. If you visit Murphys, be sure to have the dynamite $6 breakfast at Murphys Hotel.
Tomorrow is Murphys Irish Day. Too bad I’ll miss that celebration.
The Ironstone Winery is just outside of town. They have a 1922 Ford truck on display. Ford was one of my best clients, so, I took a photo of the truck for my friends at Ford. A 44-pound Kautz crystalline gold specimen is on display in the museum at the winery. It was discovered in 1992 and is the largest crystalline gold specimen in the world. As I was gazing at this magnificent gem, I remembered Sharon’s birthday is next week. So, now I am searching for a very large and durable ring setting to hold the Kautz.
My final stop in Murphys was the Mercer Caverns, discovered by Walter Mercer in 1885. These limestone caverns descend 190 feet. The stairways installed for visitors descend 160 feet. I am terrified of heights, but I can deal with depths. So, I toured the caverns and enjoyed the argonites, stalactites and stalagmites. A little cheesy and touristy, but fun nevertheless.
In the afternoon, I rode up Highway 4 to the Calavaras Big Tree State Park, home to some impressive old Sequoia Trees.
Tonight, I am staying at the Gunn House Hotel in beautiful downtown Sonora.