If you're up in the mountain town of Julian, CA (located about 60 miles northeast of San Diego), the Eagle and High Peak Mine is a must-visit. The mine is at the end of C Street. I'd definitely phone ahead for the hours of operation (760-765-0036).
The Eagle and High Peak Mine offers hour-long tours through the tunnels where the guide will regale you with facts about gold mining and stories of days gone by. The tour isn't too expensive (about $10/adult and $5/child). And it's really, really interesting. By the end, you'll be tossing around terms like sluice box and rockers and stamps and placer gold. Our guide was bitten by the gold bug several years ago and actually pans on her days off. Sometimes successfully.
When you've finished the tour, you can pan for gold yourself, then shop at the Company Store.
And, now, a little history for you. A.E. Coleman discovered gold in Coleman's Creek in 1869 and started a mining camp which later became Julian. Julian is named for Mike Julian, an ex-confederate soldier from Georgia who came to find his fortune in the California mine fields after the Civil War. $5 million in gold was taken from the Julian environs between 1870 and 1880. Albert Robinson, a freed Missouri slave and the first black man to serve on a jury in San Diego County, built the Julian Gold Rush Hotel in 1897. It's the oldest operating hotel in Southern California. (www.desertusa.com, www.glitter.com, www.julianhotel.com)
This isn't history, but it is a fun bit of trivia: Each October, 10,000 apple pies are baked here!
So, while you're waiting for the night sky and star gazing at the Observer's Inn planetarium, go visit the gold mine. You won't be sorry.
Thanks, once again, to Travis Erwin for hosting My Town Monday. For Travis' entry and links to the other participants, check Travis' blog.