It's one of those trips we've wanted to take for awhile because it looked fun, and the kids had been begging to pan for gold after one school friend bragged about a trip where he found gold. It was a trip into the unknown because I'd only been Yosemite as a kid, and I certainly don't recall ever going to Sonora or surrounding areas. Not only was the trip fun, but it was fast, easy, very affordable, and really could have been done as a day trip.
What we did:
We left around 8:45 a.m. on Sunday, getting on the road after a quick pit stop to get mama some coffee. We made it to Sonora just after 11 a.m., which was not only before check in time, it was before check out time. Instead of heading to the inn, we went straight to Columbia State Park, which was only about three miles from Sonora.
We shopped, dipped candles, drank cherry soda and sarsaparilla over lunch, panned for gold, had ice cream, took a stagecoach ride, bought candy, and were pretty much done despite not hurrying anything. That doesn't even include the busker who made up songs about both of the kids. It still wasn't check in time.
In slow motion:
Serving as morning muse. Clover "smokes them all." I wasn't so sure of that line, but it was cute, and fun, nonetheless, also highlighting that she's strong and she loves the 49ers and the Giants. He was more accurate than a psychic.
Candle dipping was the kids' favorite, and truly all that is right with Columbia. For $2 and up (depending on the candle you pick, we picked the $2 version), you can dip a plain white candle into colored wax. It was easy, and so much fun.
Lunch was at the Jack Douglass Saloon. The kids and I ordered their homemade wild cherry soda, while Kevin picked their sarsaparilla, all good, plus lunch.
After lunch, we headed to the main event, panning for gold. There are three types of pans: $5 for an empty pan, $10 for one pre-loaded with fool's gold, and $12 for one with gems and fool's gold. Not only do the two more expensive options have guaranteed success, they come with a lesson too. While not great, the lesson was worth it, and the guaranteed success certainly mattered.
Clover can be tenacious, and could have panned all day. The rest of us were hot and ready to move on.
Next up was ice cream at Fallon Ice Cream Parlor. The ice cream was good, but not incredible. However, it's hard not to like ice cream, even if overrated on Yelp.
We rode the stage coach, which was bumpy fun. I had prepared the kids for a stage coach robbery, mostly because I have a memory of being on a train as a kid (the Skunk Train? Another train?) where there was a themed hold up. As a kid, it was hard to tell if it was real or not, and subsequently it was a little stressful. The stage coach hold up was very tame, and was more of a questioning. The robber asked the little girls on the train if they had candy, and their dad explained the robber wanted to take their candy, but he'd protect them. One girl, probably not quite three, yelled, "MY CANNNNY?!" She talked about it the rest of the ride, about how this guy wanted to take her canny, and she wanted her canny, and what would happen to her CANNNNY? That girl made the ride.
After all the canny talk, we headed to Nelson's Columbia Candy Kitchen, which was old fashioned, but still included gummies, which I'm pretty sure are post-Gold Rush.
We walked around a bit, but that concluded what we wanted to do in Columbia. We did stop by briefly again before heading back to the Bay Area to play a few games of old time bowling. The kids loved it.
We made it back to the inn just before check in, and spent the rest of the day swimming. Instead of staying, we could have headed home and made it back in time for dinner. Then we would have missed out on the inn's pool and that was not only a highlight for the kids, but in the Sonora heat, it saved me, too.
Next up: Day Two. We scrapped our plans for a full day in Columbia and headed to Yosemite instead.