July 23 – August 3, 2020
The included breakfast at the Best Western the next day was a mixed bag; gone are the days of buffet style dining with make your own waffles, often some egg and protein combo, and lots of other choices (cereal, oatmeal, yoghurt, toast, and suspect quality pastry). Now one queue’s up at the door to the breakfast room and is handed a choice of what is available that day. Not great but it is free.
Ever prepared, I made coffee in the room with a kit I assembled some time ago, comprised of a Zojirushi 68 Ounce Stainless Bottle we acquired before our long trip to Europe in 2014. It is no longer available at REI where we purchased it, but it can be had at Amazon. This has been a great resource for us, dependable, efficient and effective.
Next up is the GSI Collapsible Javadrip, a portable cone that which fits right on top of the Zojirushi bottle and uses a number four paper filter. It too was purchased at REI which now carries a similar product in the Sea to Summit X-Brew Coffee Dripper, but the GSI is available from any number of on-line outlets.
Rounding out the kit is a 34-Ounce Bodum Bistro Electric Water Kettle, which is compact and very efficient at heating water, 32-ounce plastic storage container for ground coffee, and small inexpensive cooler I adapted to carry it all in. Good for about three large cups, it’s a good and simple way to make decent coffee wherever we go. And in a pinch, we also use the Starbucks Via product as it is a drinkable form of instant.
Properly fueled, we hit the road and headed south, cutting off in Sacramento to head southeast on Highway 16 towards Plymouth. My good friend Norm, when he worked for the California Department of Forestry (CDF) lived there for many years with his family before moving to Clearlake.
From there we continued south on Highway 49, taking a bypass into Amador City (being off the highway makes for a much nicer place to visit), then Sutter Hill, Jackson and Angel’s Camp, before turning up Highway 4 to make our way to Murphy’s.
We checked into the Murphy’s Historic Hotel, opting to stay in the newer annex as rooms in the original building, built in 1856, lack air conditioning, a must with temperatures hovering in the 90’s. Notable guests who stayed here during its early years include Mark Twain, Horatio Algier Jr., John Jacob Astor, Thomas J. Lipton, J.P. Morgan, and former President Ulysses S. Grant.
Our large ground floor room featured a sizable walk in closet, perfect for storing the bikes, a mirrored dressing table we used as a makeshift dining and coffee making platform and an older but functional bathroom featuring old school tile.
It would make for a comfortable three nights as we settled into this busy small town, now a tourist destination, unlike when I lived near here for six months in 1978.
One of Norm’s first jobs with CDF was to oversee a re-seeding project that involved hiring a couple of crews to collect seed cone from a variety of tree species (Redwood, Douglas Fir, Sugar Pine, Ponderosa Pine, etc.), catalog them by where they had been harvested (elevation, longitude and latitude) and then send the dried results to the nursery at UC Davis. They would plant the seeds to produce seedlings which would then be used to propagate new growth.
Initially I was to join one of the crews, but it soon became apparent that the volume of cone and space needed to dry it required someone to manage the operation and I became that guy. It was decided to house it at the California Conservation Corps camp located at the Calaveras Fire Center on Highway 4 midway between Angels Camp and Murphy’s and as luck would have it, my Aunt and Uncle, Aggie and Dick owned a cabin four miles from Murphy’s up the highway which would become my home for the duration.
Back then, the area was lightly populated with a mix of retirees, vacation homes, businesses reliant on a low level of tourism and the remnants of the logging and mining industries. It had a sleepy local feel to it, one where visits to the bar at the hotel and other locales could make one feel almost like a local. But, in the six months I lived there I didn’t make one real connection, a factor that helped me understand that I needed to be among folks I knew and cared for to be a complete person.
And so, when the job ended, I finished up my days as a hermit and eventually found the people that helped me become the person I am today. Each time I return to this area I can still see a bit of that guy who lived here by himself, but as he changed so has this place as it has grown beyond anything I could have imagined then. We will cover more about that in the next posts.
Zojirushi Stainless Bottle: https://www.zojirushi.com/app/product/sfcc
GSI Collapsible Javadrip: https://gsioutdoors.com/collapsible-javadrip-blue.html
Bodum Bistro Electric Water Kettle: https://www.amazon.com/Bodum-Bistro-Electric-Water-Kettle/dp/B00851LSAC
Murphy’s Historic Hotel: http://murphyshotel.com/
UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden: https://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/about
California Conservation Corp: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Conservation_Corps