Day 15: Woods Creek and Yosemite

Today has been one of the highlights of our trip so far. We had a fantastic 2 hour gold mining lesson down at a dry creek with Frying Pan Frank, Brent and T.J (and a couple of their dogs).

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We were a bit sceptical at first, we honestly thought that they would chuck a few flakes of gold into the earth so we would come away pleased. But, this was evidently not the case. We worked hard to extract gold, and we learnt so much from these professionals. Frank (known as Frying Pan Frank, because he’s a good chef) has his own claim, and he showed us how to prospect and go through the various stages of cleaning up the soil, sifting through it and then finding the gold. He has his own step by step way of going through the process, and his obvious desire to share his skills makes it easy to learn.

Karen using the dry washer.

We also learnt how to use the dry washer – and this helps to get things done a bit quicker. Brent’s father set up the spot along the creek so that ‘everyone could have their chance at the experience of prospecting and finding gold’, and school kids have enjoyed learning these skills here.

We felt that not only did we have a super, enjoyable morning, but that there was a sense of ‘passing down the skills’ which we really valued.

We would totally recommend the experience, so if you ever come along to Jamestown be sure to look these guys up. If you think $180 is expensive for 2 people, we think the quality of the teaching and the fun that you have really is worth it (in fact, we’d recommend a slightly more expensive three-hour session). Oh, and you never know you might also come away with some gold. Whatever you find is yours to keep. We found a little bit – Frank reckons about $20-30, but I don’t suppose we will be in a hurry to sell it. It’s a great memento of our time here!

So check these guys out here:

and here:

Then it was on to Yosemite…Wow! This park is amazing. The sights are extraordinary and change regularly throughout the park. Most people tend to come in to the park from the West for a day trip to see the stunning waterfalls and perhaps do a spot of hiking. We’ll be doing some of that tomorrow (from the East side, minus the waterfalls – because of the drought), but our purpose today was slightly different: we were driving through the whole park from West to East on Highway 120, a distance of over 50 miles on windy roads getting higher and higher on the Sierra plateau. It’s slow going, but well worth it, and every few miles the scenery completely changes from extensive pine forest around Yosemite Creek to staggering vistas of white rock around Olmsted Point, to verdant stretches of watery flatland like the Tuolomne Meadows. The many lakes in the park are just stunning with their mountainous backdrops: especially Tenaya Lake, which even has a shoreline and a beach. We could have spent days just taking pictures and soaking up the scenery. There are beautiful lakes that you can swim in and hikes all over the place. We can’t wait to come back tomorrow and experience some more, though today’s drive has been a really magical experience, taking in the park as a whole in a snapshot and really opening our eyes to the majesty of its natural beauty.

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We have stopped for the night at Mammoth Lakes Inn, just beyond the park. This is a ski resort from about October until July (we know, a long season). We found the hotel service to be a bit rubbish, so we won’t dwell on that, and why would we when there is so much beauty to experience up the road in Yosemite, and we will continue doing that tomorrow.

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