Gold, Frogs, and the Biggest Trees in the World

We left Tahoe just as more snow began to fall. We’ll miss the beauty of the snow-capped Sierras (and the company of friends), but now that we are back in the ‘bago we’re happy to be heading to flatter, warmer ground.


Our drive now takes us south along the edge of the Sierras on Route 49, a 120 mile-long highway known as the Mother Lode for the discovery and mining of the main vein of the 1849 California Gold Rush. We’ve passed through Calaveras, a small river where Mexican prospectors found skulls (hence the name), and then the town of San Andreas, which is named not for the fault but for St. Andrew.

Now we are in Angels Camp, named for Henry Angel, who figured it would be more sensible to open a shop for prospectors than to prospect himself. The town’s shops are full of gold panning kits (there is still gold in the Mother Lode!) and gold-plated souvenirs, and ornaments shaped as miniature mining tools. The town’s museum walks you through the history of California’s gold mining frenzy (in just four years, beginning in 1848, California’s population grew from 14,000 to more than 220,000).


Angels Camp, though, loves its frogs even more than its gold. The elementary school is named for Mark Twain, who brought the town fame by writing “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” a tale he supposedly heard from an Angels Camp bartender. Every May, the town holds a Jumping Frog Jubilee, where frogs from around the country compete in a long jump (gold plaques celebrating the annual winners–“Hops,” “Davey Croakett,” “Fun and Froglic” and the world record holder, “Rosie the Ribiter,” who jumped more than 21′ in 1986–are embedded into the sidewalks in the downtown). The high school is named for the less celebrated Bret Harte, author of a short story about a baby born in a California gold rush town. But the frog still wins the day–the high school mascot is the Bullfrog.


Besides frogs and gold, there are also big trees nearby at the appropriately named Calaveras Big Trees State Park. The trees here are so big they motivated the kids to say a few words…

It’s Elian. Sorry I haven’t been doing any blog posts. We saw Sequoias today. They were enormous! We saw redwoods earlier in the trip and they were massively tall but I wasn’t that impressed because when I think of a big tree I think of a big wide one, not just tall. So I was really impressed by the Sequoias, which are both super wide and super tall. They look like something out of a fairy tale.


Where we are now, Angels Camp, is bone dry. Up in the mountains where the Sequoias are is blanketed in snow. One boardwalk we were on was so deep no matter how hard I stomped I still couldn’t get to the bottom. It was amazing.

Road school has been cool. I don’t really like it because I don’t remember real school. If I had gone to real school for a couple of weeks first then I might feel like this is the best thing ever because I would remember 6 hours of school a day and homework. I’m sad about not having any field trips, although I guess the whole trip is just one big one. We’ve done lots of cool stuff and it’s great. We saw Lake Tahoe and most of the coast of Oregon. From Lake Tahoe one day we drove along and skipped into Nevada. It was amazing being in the mountains with all the snow and then seeing flat Nevada and having it be like summer there. Then we drove back into the mountains and everything was covered in snow again.

We’re really used to living in the RV by now. It’s amazing to get to someone’s house and realize that there’s more than three rooms! I’m not even sure I can say we have three rooms because I’m not sure we can count the living room and the hallway as a room. Everyone else in the family has at least ten feet of space whereas I get, gasp, a bed! I guess it’s cool. I get a privacy curtain and G is pretty much the only person who can see me. Once in a while, she’ll come up and join me.


There’s a TV up here but it swings out so everyone can see it. We don’t usually get reception but once in a while we’ll get a channel. We watch a lot of DVDs. We’ve started watching some older TV shows like The Cosby Show, which I like, and the Brady Bunch, which I don’t.That’s all l I really have to say for now. Elian signing off.

And now a word from G…

Some of my favorite things to do in the RV are to play the harmonica, listen to my audio books, or sometimes play dad’s guitar. I also like to arrange/play with my stuffed animals. Sometimes I put them in groups, or I just set them up on my bed.


I sleep on the couch, which sometimes pulls out into a bed but I prefer to keep it in couch-mode. Then we don’t have to put it all up each morning because everyone likes to sit on the couch. In math I’m doing fractions and in English I’m reading stories and I have independent reading. I just had a test on all the things I’ve done in English, for instance linking verbs, action verbs, pronouns and so forth. I did very well! Some family things we like to do together are eat meals together, watch old programs, and play a little game called Mad Libs. We also like to do family movie night and family game night. We have no schedule for the game night and we could do any game like a game called Lego Champion, card games, or Scrabble. While it’s very unorganized, we still like to do it. We have lots of different things to do in the RV, like legos, reading, listening to audio books, or playing games on our Kindles or DSs.

Sometimes we do school while driving, which is very different from regular school in the RV. My mom and dad give us assignments that we have to get done before the end of the drive or we’ll have to do it for homework. While it’s hard to write while driving, there are seatbelts on the couch and at the table so we can sit and do our work.

I miss my family and friends and most of all my dog, Sheba. I like that on the road we get to see many new places and we don’t stay for more than a couple weeks in one campground or at one house. We’ve never stayed longer than 3 weeks. While it’s unfortunate to leave places we like so soon, it’s very fortunate if we don’t like a place. But I’ve come to realize, even though I miss everyone, I know I have my mom, dad and brother with me (even though brothers aren’t always the best).


Elian and I are having lots of fun although it can get very boring sometimes. We get carsick because we drive a lot, sometimes for 3 or more hours. It’s boring to sit in a car, no matter what you do. I must warn you, though this trip sounds like fun, when you’re on the road you come to realize “what was I thinking?” I hope you enjoy the blog!


About Elena Silva

Out here on the road, trying to make the most of a year in close quarters with my three favorite people...
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9 Responses to Gold, Frogs, and the Biggest Trees in the World

  1. says:

    Love it! Great posts from both E and G 🙂 ❤


  2. Angela Rakis says:

    Mad Libs AND Brady Bunch…Living the dream out there! Have fun!


    • Elena Silva says:

      Brady Bunch is shockingly dated. In the first episode Mike is nervous and Carol tells him to take a tranquilizer. Then the other episodes are full of Mike telling Carol to go sew curtains or make lemonade. Hilarious. We all like Alice and Tiger the best.


  3. Tim Ernst says:

    Elian and Gg, I loved your blog posts! Home is where you park it!


  4. Julia Howell Barros says:

    Love this post, especially GG’s entry–she’s a great writer! Enjoy the Grand Canyon!!


  5. Renee says:

    Elena, I do think Elian has your knack for writing! So engaging! Continued safe travels!


  6. David Rogers says:

    I enjoyed this post so much! So great to hear from GG and Elian – great writers both! And such great descriptions of the trip — I feel like I’ve visited with you!


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