California/Oregon Trail

Sacramento: The End of the Trail

Day 19 (June 15): Well, we did it. Can you believe it?? We followed all the way to the end!!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Lake Tahoe yesterday was such an amazing break. We laid on the beach, watched the sun go down, got an appetizer and a couple drinks, and finally meandered back to the campsite, where we went to bed fairly early, completely exhausted, and grateful for a relaxing evening.

No, I may not have mentioned that when we were checking in, we were warned most vehemently to put all of our things into the bear box because they had been having some bear sightings. Not that we wouldn’t put away food normally due to bears, but it was definitely recommended that we take it out of the vehicle and put it in the bear box. So, with that in mind, we did actually take out both bins of food, our backpacks, and anything else that might have a smell and put it into the bear box for the night.

Well, of course, because we were camping, I woke up at 2:30 AM needing to go to the bathroom. I tried to ignore it as I laid there and listen to a very raucous group of people completely ignoring quiet hour rules until I finally decided I had to go whether I liked it or not. So, I sat up and looked around. I listened carefully. I convinced myself I heard rustling outside the tent. I opened the window flap and tried to peek out to see if there was a bear waiting for me, half expecting one to be staring into my face. But it was too dark to see anything. So after a few minutes, I unzipped my sleeping bag, made it as far as reaching for the zipper, and stopped again. I scolded myself for being scared, I told myself to have common sense and said a bear would never come out with such a noisy group of people nearby, and berated myself for being a coward. But, the coward in me was very relieved when Daniel turned over and asked if I was okay. I confessed that I had to use the restroom, but I was scared of bears. Being a very kind husband, he agreed to go with me.

We walked without adventure to the bathrooms and back, whereupon he reassured me, saying it was perfectly safe, and “see, there were no bears around.”

We got tucked back in, and complained for a while about the group of people a couple campsites away, and then Daniel went to sleep while I attempted to convince my body that it was, in fact, time to sleep again. And then, just as I started to fade off, I froze. Had I just heard something? No. And then there it was again. A distinct crunching. I waited, and heard it again. A cracking of branches behind the tent. I pushed Daniel so hard I basically punched him. And he promptly sat up.

“Did you hear that?”

He listened for a second, and there it was again.


He grabbed a flashlight, unzipped the back window flap, and began peering out. After a moment, as I waited with bated breath, “Yup, that’s definitely a bear.”

“Seriously?” I crowded close to him, and peered out as well. After a moment, it came into focus. Yes, there was a huge black bear plodding along behind our tent. It was simultaneously exhilarating and frightening.

We watched for a few more minutes, listened, and eventually the rustling cleared as it moved away. And then Daniel proceeded to tell me that it was a mother bear with her cub because he had seen two pairs of eyes, one of which was significantly smaller than the other.

It may have taken a very long time to get to sleep after that. But, hey, I saw a bear!

It was a little painful to get up the next morning, but we eventually dragged ourselves out, packed up, and headed off to Placerville, California. Of course, about halfway there, we realized that we had left my water bottle, and both Daniel’s wedding ring and Fitbit watch somewhere… So there’s that. I guess we are getting a little worn out? We are in the process of trying to see if lost and found can track them down and mail them back, but I’m not holding my breath.


Placerville/El Dorado: this was the first of the big gold rush towns! Placerville, in El Dorado County to also known as Hangtown. According to Visit El Dorado, “Placerville is a charming California ‘gold rush’ town named after the placer gold deposits found in its river beds and hills in the late 1840’s.” Once in town, the history actually goes into detail about its nickname, hangtown, which it basically got due to hanging so many lawless people. We walked past the super cute shops, visited the oldest hardware store in America, got coffee at an old train depot (at least it was shaped like one) and found an adorable bookstore at which, yes, I bought books. If you only knew how many I didn’t buy, though!

From there, we went on to Sacramento/Sutter’s Fort! And it is official! We have finally arrived at the end of the California Trail! A grueling (but fun) 19-days for us would have seemed the height of luxury to the wagons arriving after six months of travel, and that is precisely what I hope to convey in my book as I continue to add the small details of all I have learned. Meanwhile, while my book remains slightly vague on the details here, since I have yet to discover where the emigrants would go to claim their land, Daniel and I got to explore!

Sutter’s Fort was the founding area that sparked the establishment of Sacramento. The first stop for refreshments and rest for early settlers thanks to its hospital owner, Sutter’s Fort was thriving in the 1840s and early 1850s. However, according to the California Interpretive Center, by the 1860s, Sutter’s Fort had been so overrun by gold seekers that only a few buildings remained. I found out at Sutter’s fort that it actually would have been in a ruins at the time my fictional family arrived in 1859, which means they probably would have gone into Sacramento City. Since it was a weekday, there weren’t really any history areas open for me to ask questions, so I’ll have to do more in-depth research.

But meanwhile, we went through a bunch of shops in Old Sacramento, got mini donuts, and some pictures. I have actually been here once before for work, and determined I would one day come back, and bring my husband with me. And so I have!

And then, we went out to eat at Joe’s Crab Shack. I recently found out that this is actually a chain, but I went there a few years ago on that same work trip, and told Daniel all about it, because it was on the pier, and I had it delicious calamari sandwich that I wanted him to try. So, back we went. Unfortunately, the calamari sandwich was nowhere to be found, but we got a delicious occasion steam bucket instead. We also got a couple of cocktails, including one called a shark bait. It included a fake plastic shark with red liquid in it, which you then poured into the blue liquid, and it looked like there was blood going into the ocean. I know it sounds gross, but it was actually hilarious.

Going out seemed a fitting end to the California Trail adventure.

And now, dear readers, although my Oregon/California Trail is at an end, my adventures are not. Daniel and I took this opportunity to fulfill a few other bucket list items and are going to spend the next week or so exploring national parks and California itself, so I invite you to stick with me for the remainder of the month!

Our first order of business, now that we have arrived in California, is to drive to the northern Redwood Forest, where we will spend the night and explore in the morning.

7 thoughts on “Sacramento: The End of the Trail

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