Although the state is criss-crossed with interstates, freeways, superhighways and is home to more millions of Americans than any other state, once in awhile you can find a seldom traveled stretch of asphalt that is actually a time machine.
After about nine miles, you’ll start to see mounds of rocks scattered about the creek off to the side. Dug up around 150 years ago, these are tailings left by the original Gold Rush miners. Following that creek, you’ll end up at the little town of Hornitos, which was settled by Mexicans who were kicked out of the nearby town of Quartzburg.
Because of the appearance of the graves, the town was named after them using the Spanish word for “little ovens.”
The Ortiz family still opens the saloon on the town’s plaza. Come in and have a shot of tequila…the bartender would like it if you chose the Hornitos reposado over the Patron…and chat with him. There’s him and one customer as the three of us have our shots.
He would not be here very long, moving on to San Francisco, but the little plot of land is still owned by the company he and his family founded…the Ghiradelli Chocolate Company.
In its rowdier past, the town was full of saloons. Beneath the saloons on the underground level were bordellos. So that the customers could arrive without being seen, tunnels were dug to connect them
We wander around town. Technically, it’s not too accessible with just a few feet of sidewalk, but the traffic is so light Tim can drive his wheelchair on the road without problem.
We drive up the hill to the graveyard. Someone at some time must have gotten access to some earth moving equipment because all the graves are now below ground. The dirt is very hard, though.
Going back down, we navigate through a flock of wild turkeys mingling with the ghosts in the town. Past the old school house on the outskirts of town, and then back towards the highway.
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved