504 Main by Holly Lefevre: Family Adventure: Gold Rush 2011
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Family Adventure: Gold Rush 2011

When it comes time to plan a family vacation - no matter how long or short, how exotic or not, how near or far, there is a lot of discussion at our house - everyone has an opinion...even the four year old! I am basically a traveling chicken - I do it and I always end up loving it (yes, my hubby drug me to Europe and I complained and now I cannot wait to take the kids).
My son, however, has the traveling bug in his genes (his meimaw does too). Forget camping, he dreams of active vacations and adventures like a European Bike tour. Seriously, when he reads a book about a locale or activity he wants to experience it.

I just recently became acquainted with Austin Adventures - Adventure Travel, and we were invited to take the Austin Lehman Active Family Challenge. It is exactly what we need to get us moving on a mini-excursion this summer. We had been planning a trip to Gold Country - I am not sure who wanted to go more...me or my son! And we packed up the car and hit the road a couple of weeks ago to look for "gold in them there hills."
For us, the trick is finding a good balance when we plan a vacation or adventure - with a 4 year old and a 10 year old we have to cover a range of activities. I find we need to keep busy - Family Adventures that keeps us occupied, interested, and moving work well for the age span.  That is why we chose the trip we did - a quick getaway to be together, learn a little bit about the history of the Golden State, and live out the adventure of being a Miner '49er.
We started our trip with ice cream (a sure crowd-pleaser) and a trip to Sutter's Fort (a California State Historic Park) and Old Sacramento before we hit historic Highway 49 in search of gold! And oh my those kids were giddy - Joe was enthralled with all of the trip - listening and reading about the history as well as panning for gold and gemstones. He drank in every second of the adventure. I asked him what the best part of his trip was..."Spending time with my family...and finding gold."
(a bit of pouting was involved)
Here's what we did: armed with a map - yes a real map - nothing electronic, we left Sacramento to hit the Gold Trail. Our first stop was at the Gold Bug Mine in Placerville. We got our hard hats and toured the mine. The area we could walk was not a big but to think this was a a real mine from the 1850's and we were walking where miners once looked for their fortune was truly amazing. They also provided an audio tour that detailed interesting aspects of the mine.

Once we completed the short self-guided tour, the real fun began...we went panning for...gemstones! (this particular mine offers panning for gemstones...no gold) Seriously though, my kids thought this was the BEST...in fact they were making piles of rocks (not even gemstones...my kids happen to love rocks. After collection a nice little stash of pretty stones...and rocks, we headed to Sutter Gold Mine. This was a much larger mine, but we did not go into the mine itself (Next time! Yes there will be a next time).

Sutter Gold Mine does have gold panning...wooo-whooo! A little different than I imagined...you purchase a bag of sand that has gold flecks in it, take it to the through outside and pan using their water.
This is where Mommy made a mistake (and the nice boy working there said I am not the only one who has done this)...you are supposed to dump your bag of sand into the pan and then swish and dip to filter out the rock and sand, leaving the gold...not me...I dumped the bag into the trough of water, as my hubby was saying "Noooooo...." in slow motion. OOPS! I am happy to report that with the help of the nice boy (teenager) and some diligence - we did get some gold.

The kids also were allowed to select a piece of core from the mine. Joe took the biggest piece he could find...Jules the sharpest.
(Yep, that is our fortune...See we are rich...NOT!)
The last stop, Colombia State Park near Sonora. Colombia was established in 1850 and has always been a functioning town (in various levels of prosperity and decline throughout the years). Much of the city was destroyed by fire through the early years, but have been rebuilt to replicate the charm and history of its origins.

I adored being here - charming, historic, quaint. I could have spent days in and around the area. (And I love supporting a State Park)
We panned for gold one last time here..then grabbed a homemade ice cream and coffee, visited the blacksmith, a vintage wares store, and a candy store, and even bowled in a old-fashioned bowling alley.
To top the trip off three of us dipped candles. This kids (and I!) loved doing this.

You want to know what is awesome: the trip was fun, the kids had a blast and are so proud of their finds. We experienced and learned more about California's history. It was super affordable. You can pan for about $5 to $10 a person (depends on the location). The candle dipping was only $3.00 per candle, and many of the activities in Colombia are free. We did make donations to the various museums and performers.

So that there is our road trip...we found gold -
man it really puts the life of a miner into perspective...
what a way to try and make your fortune!
We had fun and we had an adventure!

I definitely see us becoming a family that thrives on adventure vacations. I easily foresee Austin Adventures - Adventure Travel becoming a staple for us and our travel plans. They offer a variety of tours and adventures continue to be one of the top rated tour operators in the world. Better yet (for us!), all Austin Lehman Adventure trips are all-inclusive (that means no arguing over dinner plans or what to do! - Huge plus for us!). On designated family adventures, Austin Lehman Adventures accommodates children as young as 7 - and even as young as age 5 on their Costa Rica Family Adventure - I have always wanted to go to Costa Rica.

As Jules gets a bit older and traveling with her becomes easier, I imagine (dream of) summers spent on bike tours and exploring the United States, as well as Family European Vacations.I will not be a travel chicken. I want my kids to explore and see the world!

Oh yeah...next summer I want to go here!
or here

What has been your favorite adventure this summer?

Disclosure: My family was provided with a gift card to use on our adventure. We chose our own adventure. The opinions are my own. See my disclosure policy.


  1. Wow. My son would love to go there and pan. We have a trip to Vermont and are hoping that will be our best adventure of the summer.

  2. What a great trip..it looked like there was a little something for every one and how pretty are those candles??
    My summer adventure has included making in through my third pregnancy....7 more weeks to go! prayers are welcome :)

  3. We love time away as a family. It is so much fun to go out and explore new things together.


  4. great family bonding .. great post .. thanks for sharing .. God bless your family ..

  5. Such wonderful pictures! It looks like you had a great time. Thanks for sharing my friend!


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