A Sunday Afternoon at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Base of the cliff face and old monitor at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Bears have no modesty. Especially not in the middle of Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park, located about 40 minutes from Nevada City, California. They just poop right in the middle of the hiking trail, often directly on top of another object like a raised rock or embedded log. Sort of like Donald Trump that way, just meandering along and dropping piles of shit wherever the mood strikes without regard to anybody else who might amble along. I mention bears having no modesty to my husband as we climb over a fallen tree in our path, and he paraphrases Mark Twain that people are the only animals who blush.

Madrone trees are ubiquitous throughout the park at Malakoff Diggins, and the berries are edible, often ripest before the frost in October, which means a bear could appear at anytime. There are no other people on the hiking path to the faces of the cliff. If a bear attacked you, I assured my husband, I would grab a tree branch and beat on him. That was a clue for my husband to predict his actions under said circumstances, if the tables were turned, but now I know where I would stand: silence; which made me rethink the whole attack-a-bear-with-a tree-branch stance. It would be a matter of who ran faster.

general store north bloomfield

General Store in North Bloomfield, California, was left intact from the 1940s.

Before hiking to the cliff-face of Malakoff Diggins, we joined the end of a tour at the ghost town of North Bloomfield, which served as the base for the gold miners in the 1880s.  The General Store was pretty much abandoned in the 1940s, the owner just locked it up and closed it down, leaving everything just as it was. Sometime in the middle 1960s, to preserve its history, the owner gave the store to the State Parks.

malakoff diggins

Panoramic view of Malakoff Diggins in Nevada City with Sacramento Realtor Elizabeth Weintraub as bookends

The historical significance of the Malakoff Diggins is the creative way miners extracted gold and how that method led to enacting laws to protect our environment. The Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company built over 100 miles of ditches and laid pipes to carry water downhill from rivers through the natural flow of gravity. The water was then fed into a monitor, which looked like an old Civil War cannon, and water burst out the smaller end with such a force that it could blast rock. Gold was heavy so it dropped to the bottom of the sluices, and the rest of the debris flowed downhill, clogging rivers, lakes and flooding the land below.

Judge Sawyer put an end to the hydraulic gold mining operation in 1884, and years later most of the towns around it closed down. The area became a state park in 1965, and today you can camp at Malakoff Diggins. If you do drive from Sacramento into the foothills, double check your GPS because we came up the hard way, on a narrow and winding dirt road. There is a much better paved road north of the Park.

Photos: Elizabeth Weintraub

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