So where was I? Ah yes, that night, we stayed at a bed and breakfast in Muphys called Dunbar House. It was built in the 1880s. I forgot to take a picture, so here is one from the hotel’s website:

joy lanzendorfer gold rush trip california dunbar house

There isn’t a lot of reliable information on the Internet about staying in gold country if you don’t want to stay at a Best Western or something, so I feel it’s relevant to add that Dunbar House is a great B&B. Marcia and I stayed in an attic room with a private bathroom and an adjoining private deck. It was clean and adorable and full of antiques. There is an English garden surrounding the house, which is where we had our breakfast: soufflĂ©, basil scrambled eggs, and fresh fruit. They also gave us complimentary coffee, wine, beer, a snack plate, cookies… whew! Quite a value, plus the owners are nice.

The next day, we were refreshed and ready to continue on. The first stop was Moaning Caverns.

This is a cave where people like to risk their life by dropping 165 feet into a hole. You can either climb down a rope into this black hole or you can take the 240-some stairs instead.

So which tour did I take? Are you kidding? The stairs. Let me describe the tour for you. You and 30 other people, many of whom are overweight, crowd into a little room. A teenager tells you the history of the cave, explaining all the numerous people who have fallen to their deaths throughout the cave’s history. On one side of you is a pit with ropes disappearing into it for people who want to climb down into the pit. It is decorated with signs warning how you will die if you make a mistake on the rope. On the other side is a glass case full of the bones of the people who died in the cave. The teenager is particularly proud of a skull of a 7-year-old Asian girl who fell down the hole 1,700 years ago. You start to get the feeling that the cave is a Venus flytrap for people and you wonder how smart it was to pay $14.50 for a ticket.

Then the teenager leads you through a narrow passageway full of narrow steps, and after awhile, all you can see is a wall and the people around you. Then you step out on a platform and are confronted with a dramatic, plunging cavern with no end in sight. To your left is the stairs you are supposed to go down. It is a long spiral staircase surrounded by a tube-like cage. The stairs are rickety and made of wood. Here is a picture:

joy lanzendorfer gold rush trip california  moaning caverns

Now you start to realize what you are in for. Because, cage + 240-something steps + lots of overweight people + spiral staircases + extreme heights + rickety stairs = not something I want to do. Ever.

I actually would have gone if it weren’t the mental image of being trapped in a cage with all those people. As it were, the stairs did not sound fun to me. If it does sound fun to you, wear exercise clothes, because it looks like a lot of work.

So we left the cave and went to the town of Columbia. If is a fully functioning National Historic Landmark, with all of the original buildings and people walking around in period clothes. It is the kind of place where people make candles:

joy lanzendorfer gold rush trip california columbia

Or sit around wearing sunbonnets:

joy lanzendorfer gold rush trip california columbia

There was an ice cream parlor, a decent museum (much better than Coloma’s museum), a bookstore, Western shops, pretend blacksmiths, a hotel that you can stay in, and of course, stagecoach rides:

joy lanzendorfer gold rush trip california stagecoach

Marcia and I decided to ride in a stagecoach. It’s $6 to take a 10-minute jaunt around the town. Money well spent. The stagecoach is really bumpy. Riding one all day would be exhausting, but it was great for 10 minutes.

Halfway through the ride, we were accosted by a masked bandit:

joy lanzendorfer gold rush trip california  stagecoach bandit

Luckily, he didn’t think we had anything worth taking.

After Columbia, Marcia and I drove back home. It was a fun trip. I saw all the historical stuff I needed to see for my research, and also, I saw a deer:

joy lanzendorfer gold rush trip california

ETA: The whole trip, “The Wells Fargo Wagon” from The Music Man kept running through my head. And not just the tune, but specifically Ron Howard’s part, complete with lisp.


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