After four years of drought those colorful wildflowers that have been patiently waiting for a spring rain can now celebrate.
An excellent drive to preview this colorful handiwork of nature is along Highway 140 east of Mariposa.
The western mountain slopes are primarily covered with bright orange California Poppies. Additional flower colors of white, purple, yellow and lavender create the landscaping as one drives along this scenic route.
For those of you who love adventure, along this same highway is a trailhead located next to the Savage Trading Post. This historical trail follows the North Fork of the Merced River to the historic gold mining town of Hite’s Cove.
During the first mile this trail will also share with you those colorful wildflowers of spring. Now you can combine these colorful flowers of spring with a historic hike to an old gold mining town.
This trail starts at an elevation of 1,650 feet and its highest point along the river is only 1,830 feet.
After photographing the wildflowers along the trail, and if you are patient and look closely, you may see the California Newt. This is a harmless lizard-type creature, not a reptile, but an amphibian. It can be identified by its reddish color legs and head with a brown body and tail. Overall length will vary between four and seven inches.
This four-mile scenic hike will follow above the river and offer breathtaking views as it flows below the trail. After hiking only three miles, I entered the first mill site which was easily recognized by the discarded rusted machinery lying next to the trail. A large white-colored sandy area is the remains from those ancient rock crushers.
Less than a quarter mile from that point are the stone walls and foundations of the miners living quarters. There is one wooden structure which was probably built sometime after the forest fire of 1924 that destroyed the entire area including the large hotel. At its height of operations there were over 1,400 people living at this location.
According to the late professor Edwin Gudde, a University of California historian; Hite’s Cove was discovered in 1862 when a Native American woman led John R. Hite up this canyon to a location where she had seen a promising quartz outcrop. That quartz vein was located on Pinoche Ridge. It was 12 feet thick and produced an estimated gold production of $3 million.
In the early 20th century Hite’s Cove was in operation again. A road was built into the canyon forging in from the south through Darrah and Jerseydale.
Today with the lack of road maintained this road is difficult to follow even in a 4X4 vehicle. On both sides of the river there are still the anchors that held the cables for the swinging bridge. The heavy equipment and ore was transported by wagon forging the river during the fall season. This secondary road was four times shorter than the original road on the north side.
The north of the Merced River is the location of this abandoned road. It was primarily used during the 1800s to transport the ore by wagon over the mountain before the long journey to Mariposa. Hike west from the existing wood structure, cross a small runoff stream and the old road loops north up the mountain.
I’ve hiked this road twice and the first time it was passable but covered with large bushes of poison oak. The second time it was impossible from a previous storm which fell many trees across the roads surface.
Over the years I have located three of the main mines. One is flooded and the other two are open. Personally I do not recommend entering any mine. Many years have passed since they have been operational.
For safety reasons, just photograph the entrance and continue enjoying this historic area.