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The Devil’s Backbone Run returns to the Mother Lode

Another Devil’s Backbone Run is now history. The MINI adventure, dubbed ‘Return to the Mother Lode,’ marked the eighth running of the annual road trip through the Sierras. This year the group spent two nights in historic Murphys and one night in Mammoth Lakes.

Murphys was a wild west town during California’s gold rush, filled with hundreds of fortune seekers yearning to strike it rich. Many of the towns original stone buildings and facades remain today and give Murphy its character and charm. At the heart of Main Street is Murphys Historic Hotel, which opened in 1856. The original building was destroyed by fire, then rebuilt in 1860, and has been open for business ever since. Some say ghosts still walk the halls of the hotel.

While the gold rush is over, there is still plenty in the ground to keep modern day prospectors hopeful. In 1992 the world’s largest crystalline gold leaf specimen was discovered by the Sonora Mining Company and is on display at Ironstone Vineyard. It weighs 44 pounds and is 98 percent pure. It’s valued at around $4 million. More recently in April 2016, an 11.2-ounce nugget was found in nearby Columbia.

One highlight of the Devil’s Backbone was a visit and picnic on Friday at Calavaras Big Trees State Park. Located 15 miles north of Murphys along Highway 4, the park is home to giant sequoia. Cousin to California’s coastal redwood, the giant sequoia can reach a height of 325 feet and a diameter of 33 feet. These massive trees, thought to be as old as 2,000 years, were first discovered by a hunter named Augustus Dowd in 1852.

Sadly, that first tree Dowd set eyes on, known as the Discovery Tree, became the first casualty in what would become a 100-year effort to preserve this ancient forest. It took five men 22 days to cut it down. Over the next century and decades of legislation and land acquisitions, the California State Park system was created and in 1954 the last grove of sequoia trees became part of the Big Trees State Park.

Big Trees State Park

Club members began their walk through the park’s North Grove with a stop at the Discovery Tree’s stump, which was once used as a dance floor. Other notable trees along the trail included Empire Tree, Old Bachelor and Abraham Lincoln. Afterwards a picnic lunch of deli sandwiches was enjoyed by all. Later that day was free to explore Murphys, do some wine tasting, and some even went zip-lining and rock wall climbing.

Sandy Reaume (left) and Storme Alley conquer the rock wall at Moaning Cavern Adventure Park.

Saturday’s planned twisty route over the Sierras to Mammoth Lakes was altered due to a wildfire that closed down Highway 395 and the Sonora Pass, forcing the MINIs to take Highway 120 through Yosemite National Park and over Tioga Pass.

That afternoon members gathered at the Alpenhof Lodge for refreshments at the “Wolfman’s Lair” (minus the Dan “Wolfman” Skorcz). Now that Dan lives on the east coast, there was talk of what to call the Lair. The Wolfman’s Lair is where many SCMM memories have been made, some more notorious than others, but always noteworthy. Maybe we should leave the name as is?

Keeping with tradition, the event came to an end with a party at The Side Door Cafe in Mammoth Lakes on Saturday night.

Kudos to those responsible for planning the Devil’s Backbone Run and thanks to our supporters that donated items for the goodie bags, including Adam’s Polishes, Jim and Mary Wellington, Kyra Marsh, and SCMM.

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