Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Old Emigrant Road

Alpine County August 4, 2009
From Coulterville in Mariposa County we’re going to magically skip across Tuolumne County 125 miles to the winding scenic landscape viewed from state highway 88 in Alpine County. When formed in 1864, Alpine County had a population of 11,000, due to the Comstock rush, but today is reduced to a tenth of that, and like Mariposa, has no incorporated cities. Additionally, Alpinians have no traffic lights, no college, no high school, no fast food, no gas stations, no theatres, no convenience stores, no dentist, no supermarkets,no banks, and no ATM’s. In other words, you might consider being self contained when you come here 

Also apparently missing is the Old Emigrant Road plaque that we’re headed to. Dedicated on November 5, 1958, it stood by the highway telling passers by of the path to Placerville till some road agent of questionable ethic made off with it the spring of 2011. Sadly, unless there is local effort and financing, it will not be replaced, for even when economic times were good, the state has shown little interest in maintenance or replacement..

For a time, this was the most popular route over the Sierra Nevada range with 120,000 people passing through from 1849 to 1852. And later in 1859 there was a second run when silver was discovered in Virginia City.

Originally the improved route came to be when the Mormon Battalion on their return to Utah sought an alternate to the Truckee River Route the Donner party used. The earliest white explorers through the region included all-stars Jedediah Smith and Joseph Walker, but it was John Fremont and Kit Carson, in their famous midwinter trip across Alpine County and the Sierra Nevada in 1844 that brought attention to possible travel routes across the range. Since it was Alta California at the time, you could say these explorers were immigrants and not emigrants.

Plaque inscription: NO. 661 OLD EMIGRANT ROAD - Here the Old Emigrant Road of 1848 swung down across the meadow now covered by Caples Lake (Twin Lakes) and climbed along the ridge at the right to the gap at the head of the valley. From this summit (9,460 feet) it descended to Placerville. This rough and circuitous section became obsolete in 1863 when a better route was blasted out of the face of the cliff at Carson Spur.
Location:  Lake Caples, on State Hwy 88 (P.M. 2.4), 173 mi W of Woodfords
GPS 38.706699,-120.043847
Marker not well displayed but great view of lake.  No G-13 500' apporoach signs.

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