Mining a great Gold Rush getaway in Placerville

[ANGELA HILL, Bay Area News Group]

PLACERVILLE — Hardhats in place, audio tour-app queued up, we enter the beckoning maw of the Gold Bug Mine in Hangtown, a.k.a. Placerville, sliding past slimy walls into the darkness beyond. The temperature drops — a ghostly cold spot? Silly me, no, it’s probably just the natural underground coolness. Either way, it’s a pleasant relief from the summer heat of the Sierra foothills.

A cheerful harmonica version of “Oh! Susanna” emerges from the app, followed by the haunting voice of an old prospector, “The ghost of the Gold Bug” — I knew there was a ghost! — telling us about the grueling, backbreaking task of hard-rock mining, digging through a quartz vein in search of that coveted glint of gold.

When the money-making metal was first discovered in 1848 by James Marshall, a foreman at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, just up the road from Placerville, the infamous 1849 Gold Rush followed, the area overrun with thousands upon thousands of fortune seekers.\...