CA Gold Rush

We’ve all heard of the 49ers right? No no, I’m not referring to the San Francisco football team… I’m talking about something else! The 49ers- a nickname given to the miners that took part in the 1849 California Gold Rush. 

Located in the Northeastern area in CA, the historic Highway 49 passes through the old mining communities that have been very well preserved. Go on a roadtrip through this highway to travel back in time to the sights of these mining towns! It’s perfect for families with kids as there are tons of interactive mining activities to experience, for history lovers that want to take a step back in time, for architectural lovers to admire different structures and couples looking to get a change of scenery. 

HISTORY

A glimpse of history… On Jan 24,1848, James Wilson Marshall, a carpenter from NJ found flakes of gold in the American River at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This moment instantly changed California- leading to the largest immigration in US history! Word got out worldwide- migrants from Chile, China, Peru, Brazil, Caribbeans etc spent their life savings to make the trek to CA to pursue their dream of gaining immense wealth! People dreamed of striking big and living a prosperous life and California experienced a huge rapid economic growth. Because of this event, a total of $2 billion worth of precious metals was extracted during the Gold Rush period.

AWARENESS

Although the Gold Rush was a significant event that has shaped our history, it is IMPORTANT we recognize the shameful parts of our past as it created dark devastation to the Native Americans community. The Gold Rush was a heinous chapter in CA history & I personally find it important to address and spread more awareness on the whole truth before we get to the fun sights and itinerary.

First, all the mining, specifically hydraulic mining, destroyed the regions landscape. It ruined fertile land for native farmers, choked the rivers with sediments, ultimately destroying crops, making it extremely difficult for Native Americans to survive and eventually became victims of starvation.

Second, violence, discrimination and genocide against Native Americans were carried out. Hundreds of Native Americans were enslaved and used as laborers and makeshift militia for James Marshall (the one who found flakes of gold) to defend his territory and expand his empire. Mass massacres wiped out tribal populations (9,000-16,000 were murdered in cold blood), children were forced to attend “Indian Assimilation School,” and people caught diseases that were brought in from overseas. 80% of Native Americans were wiped out 20 years later, specifically the Nisenan Maidu and Miwok tribes, and by 1870, only 30,000 Native Americans remained in CA, most of them on reservations WITHOUT access to their homelands. 

This part of the history shouldn’t be overlooked or avoided because ignoring our history doesn’t make the situation disappear. There can only be progress by confronting the truth, acknowledging these experiences, learning from the past so we can move forward. Keep that in mind as you explore these communities!  

Towns and developments were created to accommodate the gold miners and to this day, so many of them are still well maintained for historical preservation and tourism! You’ll have an array of Gold Rush towns to choose from, however not all of them are worth visiting. All the towns start to blend together, but there was one town that was memorable and stood out the most so I will be highlighting that one!

COLUMBIA, CA 

Columbia State Historic Park 

This area is the largest single collection of existing Gold Rush era structures! You can spend a whole day roaming around here- the streets are lined up with boutiques specializing in nineteenth century goods. You’ll see merchants dressed in 1850’s costumes, areas for you to pan for gold, museums & blacksmith shops. Fun fact- I was told by a local that the reason so many of these towns are at the bottom of hilly mountains is because of all the mining. The land use to be flat and because of the insane digging it created these huge pits.

P.S I applaud the town for its free admission, parking, and guides!! You can even bowl for free at an antique bowling alley.

Stop by a saloon to quench your thirst with a Sarsaparilla soda (tastes just like root beer!) This is a popular soda in Southeast Asia- I actually grew up drinking it and didn’t understand why it was so popular in these historical towns. I learned that the Native Americans used Sarsaparilla as a medicinal drink to cure blood problems. Sarsaparilla is produced from a vine and the beverage became popular in the US in the 19th century.

Other Gold Rush Towns to visit if you have extra time!

Jamestown: Railtown 1897 State Historic Park- offers seasonal excursion rides! Featured in a ton of films. 

Murphy: For wine lovers! A Charming town known for their vineyards & award winning wine- there are 25 wine tasting rooms along the main street.

Nevada City: Hike the Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Sonora: Sonora, named after the miners from Sonora Mexico who settled the City in 1848. Visit the Tuolumne Museum  & History Center.

Sutter Creek: Visit Knight Fondry- a national historic mechanical Engineering Landmark

Lavender Farm in SoCal

Ohhh we magically transported ourselves to Provence, France over the weekend! Juuuust kidding! No need to fly to Europe to see this when it’s right here in San Bernardino! 123 Farm celebrates lavender harvest season and it’s the largest organic lavender field in the state of CA.

Frolic through 20 acres of organic lavender (over 90 varieties of lavender too! Who knew?!) You can wander around yourself, participate in guided tours in an antique tractor, taste lavender inspired dishes, and learn about how essential oil is extracted. There’s rows of hundred year old Olive Trees with twinkle lights that transports you to Tuscany. You can take a break and chill in the small petting zoo filled with baby goats, sheep, chickens & dwarf pigs! There are even life size jenga blocks, chess pieces and a ping pong table in the woods for when you want to take a break from exploration. Obsessed with lavender products? There’s a shop for you to bring some goodies home with ya. 

The Lavender Festival season is only open from May 14-August 1. It’s closed on Mondays- make sure to check their online calendar to see if they are open. Admission fee is $15 IF you purchase online // $18 in person. However, there’s a separate parking fee $10 (boo i know, super annoying that parking isn’t included..) Click HERE to buy your tickets!

MUST KNOW TIPS

  • Cheaper to buy the tickets online ahead of time
  • Bees galore! Be mindful & don’t bother them.
  • Come on a weekday or right at opening to avoid crowds (10AM)
  • Heat: Weather there is dry and HOT so wear sunscreen

WHAT TO WEAR

Wear whatever makes you feel confident and comfortable! Keep in mind the weather gets pretty hot so go for the cottagecore boho vibes and wear a flowy dress! The easiest color to match is white or try a monochromatic look and wear any purple shade! Avoid jeans, leggings, tight clothing or sandals. Bring a HAT- the sun is pretty harsh out there. 

CHINO HILLS STATE PARK

CHINO HILLS STATE PARK

Spring is in full bloom! Chino Hills is thriving in Black Mustard flowers & it has caught everyone’s attention. Life doesn’t get any better than this. Being out in nature admiring blooms, hearing the birds chirp, bees buzzing with excitement & soaking in the sunshine. This is the perfect day trip for those living in LA- takes about 1 hour from Santa Monica and is a doable weekend venture to get in touch with mother earth.

When you do decide to visit, please stay on the trails. Be mindful of not stepping on any flowers/ destroying the wildlife, leaving behind trash & always remain respectful of the rules mandated at this state park. Be aware: that there are rattlesnakes!!!

Entrance Fee: $5 per vehicle , $4 seniors 62+

ADDRESS: 4721 SAPPHIRE RD. CHINO HILLS, CA 91709

PARK HOURS: October-March 8:00AM- 5PM // April-September 8:00AM-7PM

INSTAGRAMMABLE PCH

We finally had the chance to explore  our home state, California, from the comfort of our car. David and I both grew up in Santa Monica, CA and I lived in northern CA for 4 years (UC Davis for college), and we’ve done road trips here and there, but we’ve never taken the coast on Highway 1 the whole way. I don’t know why it didn’t happen sooner because it was an epic adventure! So I’m super excited to share my guide with you and hope it encourages you to get out of the comfort of your home and explore the beauty the California coast has to offer. I will most definitely be doing this drive again in the future!

Find more photo inspo on my instagram @sophcation !

SANTA MONICA, CA

We left around 8am and started our drive on PCH. One thing I prefer with driving vs flying is that you can pack AS MUCH AS YOU WANT and it’s so accessible. It’s a long drive so I recommend bringing water, tea, snacks for the road and using the bathroom before you leave the house. No one enjoys peeing in a gas station bathroom… 

SANTA BARBARA, CA

Santa Barbara Courthouse

Our first stop! We’ve been here a couple times already, but here’s a few things you can do: munch on some seafood along the wharf, visit the old mission, go on a whale watching tour, etc . Santa Barbara hands down has the most beautiful courthouse, so this time we stopped by to admire the old Spanish architecture! 

SURF BEACH // LOMPOC, CA

Surf Beach

We turned off our GPS and made the wrong turn, but it led us to the most beautiful beach in CA….. I COULD NOT believe it. Growing up in SM, our beaches were always muddy and brown and I always thought I had to travel far to find serene, white sand, turquoise water beaches. I never realized that there was one this close! It reminded me of the beaches in Cape Town, South Africa. 

When you pull up, there is a small parking lot (maybe fits around 15 cars?) At first, we pulled over at this dead end to check our GPS, but something made me hop out the car and walk over to see what it was all about…. And when I walked past the parking lot over a slight hill, I looked down and saw the most precious and clean beach. I ran back to the car and told David that he HAD to come out and see it.

Surf Beach is a public beach located on Vandenberg Air Force Base. The areas north/south of Surf Beach are closed intermittently on March 1st-Sept 30 to protect the Snowy Plover bird nesting spots. If human violations reach over 50 times, the ENTIRE beach will be closed for the remainder of the nesting season. So be respectful, protect our wildlife/nature & don’t ever leave trash when visiting.. PLEASE.

ELEPHANT SEALS // SAN SIMEON, CA

Elephant Seals

This spot is located right off Highway 1 and is the ONLY elephant seal rookery in the world that is easily accessible. I am all about conservation and I have so much respect for the state for fencing the whole area off to protect these animals. Observing and witnessing these beauties in nature is such a gift. 

The elephant seals birth and breed around December- March. There is a designated parking lot and a couple pathways for you to roam around. DO NOT throw food, taunt, disrespect, etc when you are visiting. The seals are protected by federal law so it is illegal to touch, throw things at them to cause a reaction…  Use common sense and enjoy the wildlife here. 

RAGGED POINT

The stretch of highway from San Simeon to Big Sur is so incredibly picturesque. There are jaw dropping views in every twist and turn. We couldn’t help it and stopped every 5 minutes to enjoy the scenery! There are a ton of turn offs for you to pull over to take a photo. Make sure to slow down and put your signals on so cars behind you can be alerted since cars are going pretty fast here. Don’t be an idiot and hop over the fence to get a shot- it’s not safe.

BIG SUR, CA

Now this stretch of the drive was so enchanting. Take your time and pull over whenever you see something you want to explore. We had the windows down, and I heard some running water so we decided to pull over to find out. We found the Big Sur Creek and it was so magical and lush. It’s as if you walked into Disney’s Snow White movie with massive redwood trees all around you. Dip your feet into the creek for a refreshing break! I promise you won’t regret it! (*use bug spray to avoid bites)

BIXBY CREEK BRIDGE // BIG SUR, CA

Bixby Creek Bridge

You HAVE to pull over at the northern turnout and hop out to admire the beauty of architectural beauty. This iconic bridge was completed in 1932 and is one of the tallest single- span concrete bridges in the whole world. 

I recommend taking photos on the North side of the bridge.  The winds can get pretty strong here so please be careful and don’t get too close to the edge… Your life is more important than an epic photo on social media.. 

PEBBLE BEACH, CA

The Bench Restaurant. Located on 17 mile drive in Pebble Beach

The popular 17 mile drive…. We did this drive a couple years ago and you have to do this drive in your lifestime. Inside the 17 mile drive, there is a special restaurant we fell in love with. We dined at The Bench and lucked out with the best seats! Highly recommend this restaurant- can be a bit pricy… but the food was delicious!!! Tip: order seafood whenever you’re seaside- it will never disappoint.

MONTEREY, CA

I took a class in high school called California Literature and we studied John Steinbeck religiously (Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men). At the end of the year, our class took a road trip up the coast and spent some time here in Monterey. John Steinbeck is one of the best known American literary figures and you can tour the house that inspired him to write the character “Doc” in Cannery Row. Last time David and I visited Monterey Bay, we visited Monterey Bay Aquarium and walked around the quaint fisherman’s wharf.

SAN JUAN BAUTISTA, CA

Lastly, we stayed in an eco friendly luxurious Airbnb tent at a working cattle ranch. The most chic way of “glamping” and honestly, the only way I could actually camp in a tent… haha don’t judge.  It is a solar powered tent with a mini kichenette, fireplace, and separate cabin for bathroom. When you’re out in nature, there’s bound to be bugs everywhere, but this place was maintained and cleaned VERY well. You should still bring bug spray with high amounts of deet (listen I’ve tried the organic “all natural” bug spray… it doesn’t work. I got eaten alive in Thailand bc of it.) The host goes above and beyond by preparing wine, chocolates, cheese plate, and adds excellent touches in every corner of the tent. The bed/ pillows were EXTREMELY comfortable and clean. The bathroom had an outdoor shower with all the amenities you’d need and truly every detail that went into this was intentional & thoughtful. We loved the starry night, epic sunset, and morning birds chirping. It was quite a spectacular getaway. We highly recommend it and can’t wait to return.

XOXO,

Soph

DEATH VALLEY GUIDE

When you hear about Death Valley, you automatically think of a flat, dry wasteland. Why would anyone want to visit? Well I could not be more wrong! It is surrounded by breathtaking landscape and the perfect weekend getaway from the buzzing LA life!

February is the best time to visit Death Valley, as temperatures can become unbearable and unsafe. It was in the lower to mid 70’s, and yet with the dryness it felt more like the 80’s. When traveling here, please do your research, download maps, directions ahead of time (no service) and bring LOTS of water to stay hydrated. Also, don’t drive in a nice car- it will get dirty and damaged. 

Below I have listed our path from LA– Death Valley. There are a couple spots we stopped by before we got to Death Valley National Park that I highly recommend. If I missed any must see places, leave a comment below and let me know! Xoxo, Soph

Death Valley Entrance Fee: $30 for 7 days per vehicle ( please pay it… there is no check point, but be an honest person. It funds the maintenance of these parks!

Where to Stay: Everywhere inside Death Valley National Park is EXPENSIVE, averaging from $500ish/night. To me, it’s just not worth it. We found an awesome deal on the outskirts of the park in Beatty, Nevada. Death Valley Inn was only $85/ night on V-Day weekend (AAA cardholders get a discount) The hotel was surprisingly decent: huge comfy bed and a clean bathroom.. That’s all you really need! The moment you walk in, it smells like Fabulosa (at least that shows they are cleaning the room… haha) We looked everywhere and that was the best hotel we could find that was decent enough to stay in… To be completely honest, for our travels we have a hard time bumming it and staying at a budget hotel.

TIPS:

Download an offline google map

Easy directions for all the stops you want to make. There is no service in the park. 

Pack water and snacks

Limited food/ restaurants inside the national park. You will most likely spend an entire day there so pack fruits, protein bars, and plenty of liquids to stay hydrated.

Start your day early

Best lighting and temperature is in the morning. You will also avoid crowds the earlier you start.

Fill your car up with gas BEFOREHAND

Before you enter the national park, fill your car up all the way. Gas prices inside are insanely expensive! 

Wear sunscreen and bring a hat

The weather is extreme so protect your skin & avoid sun damage.

Wear good quality shoes

Don’t make this mistake… Unlike me, I only wore my birkenstocks. Not ideal for hiking, exploration, and the freezing sand temperature for sunrise. Pack sandals for the car and comfortable hiking/walking shoes.

Fun Facts: 

Death Valley has the HIGHEST recorded temperature: 134 Fahrenheit

It is the hottest and driest place in the country.

Death Valley has the country’s lowest point: Badwater Basin sits 282 ft below sea level

Google Map of our whole trip

Los Angeles

8am Departure– approx 2 hour drive to Red Rock Canyon State Park 

Red Rock Canyon State Park 

Located in the northern Mojave Desert- right off the 14N freeway. We hopped out to see the popular rock formation, Turk’s Turban. We spent about 30-45 minutes exploring and shooting some photos.

Trona Pinnacles 

From Red Rock, it was about a 1 hour 15 minute drive. You will spend the last 20 minutes driving on unpaved rocky roads. Because of this stop, I suggest taking a car that can withstand offroading.. Very glad we didn’t take my Lexus. Take your time on the rocky road so you don’t pop a tire in the middle of nowhere.

This location is filled with 500 Tufa Spires The pinnacles vary from sizes and shapes composed of calcium carbonate. Many movies, commercials are filmed here- Disney’s Dinosaur, Planet of the Apes, Star Trek etc!

We shot from the top of the hill: I ran down to the bottom of the road, while David stayed at the top to capture this shot. The whole area was completely empty and we loved having it all to ourselves. 

DEATH VALLEY SPOTS (alphabetical order)

Artist’s Drive/ Palette

Artist’s Palette

The colors of the mountain are produced by the oxidation of metals/ elements found in the ground, which is why you see purple, blue, green tones. 

Artist’s Drive: It’s a beautiful 9 mile scenic drive that takes you through the canyons. It’s a one way road filled with curves and fun dips through the mountain! Reminds me of the Disney amusement park ride, Cars. 

Artist’s Palette: It is a look out point where you can hike, explore, and where most of the photos you see on IG are taken from. When you make a right turn off the main road, there is a small parking lot. Head down the path and you can start your exploration from there. 

Getting There: located off Badwater Road: the start/entrance is clearly marked. Artist’s Palette is about 5 miles from the start. You can stop and pull off to the side of the road to explore!

Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin

Explore the lowest point in North America! It is a bizarre salt flat that sits about 300ft below sea level.  From the parking lot, it’s a quarter mile walk to get to the wider salt flat. The farther you walk, you will start to see geometric salt flats in the shape of polygons.

Getting There: Located right off Badwater Road.  Parking lot is quite small. From there, head down some steps that will lead you to a trail.

Devil’s Golf Course

Devil’s Golf Course

Walk over large salt pans- rough in texture from the large halite salt crystal formations. This place got its nickname after someone stated that only the devil could play golf there!! Ha! 

Getting There: About a 2 minute drive off the main road. You will reach a dead end with a sign. That’s where you can park your car and hop out to look at these weird looking formations.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

This place is a must… It’s as if you’ve transported yourself to Dubai… These insane sand dunes go on for miles as if you’re in the middle of the desert. You can freely wander the dunes, although, it’s a rough 2 miles walk in the sand if you want to get to a spot with less footprints. The warm morning light  bounces off the sand dunes in such a beautiful golden way- I highly suggest getting there at least 20 minutes BEFORE sunrise. If you are heading there for sunrise, bring a jacket, hot tea/coffee in a thermal, and a blanket to lay down on.

Getting There: Parking lot is right off the main road. These sand dunes are huge- you can’t miss it! 

Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point

Sediments from Furnace Creek Lake that dried up 5 million years ago. To me, it wasn’t as breathtaking compared to the other sites. We only drove through to enjoy the view and didn’t stop to take photos. 

Getting There: Parking lot is more spacious than all the other spots. It is located at the bottom and requires you to hike up a small hill to get to the lookout point.

Amargosa Pit Stop

A bit of history about this one block town. When you pull up, it’s a completely run down Spanish Colonial Revival architecture style adobe building. It gives off an eerily vibe and feels like an empty ghost town. Originally, it was built by the Pacific Coast Borax Company– years later, a Broadway ballet dancer named Marta Becket moved there and transformed the whole town. It took her 6 years to paint the walls and ceilings of the renaissance audience. The whole Death Valley junction and town is a non profit and this remote desert location is a must.

There is only one restaurant connected to the Amargosa hotel, and a random opera house. When we stopped by, I had no idea the history behind this place and wish I knew! The cafe had spectacular breakfast items and I read that lunch is just as delicious. The coffee there could be comparable to those hip LA cafes. 

Amargosa Hotel: there is a myth that the halls in the hotel are “haunted” with a ghost…. Don’t know if I’m brave enough to stay there, but if you’re all about that, go give it a try and stay the night! 😉

Places we missed and want to go for next time:

Wildrose Charcoal Kilns

The Race Track

Ubehebe Crater

Mosaic Canyon Trail 

Gower Gulch 

Rhyolite Ghost Town