Auburn to Colfax 16 Miles, Colfax to Emigrant Gap, 30-1/2 Miles. Leaving Auburn the road ascends more rapidly until Colfax (16 miles) is reached (elevation 2422 feet). Then ten miles further one is in the heart of the most extensive hydraulic mining operations of California. Thousands of acres are passed which yet bear the scars of the “washing down” for the precious mineral hid away during the centuries until the Argonauts of ’49 and later unearthed it by their gigantic hydraulic nozzles. Millions of dollars were extracted from these placers, but now the villages are deserted and all mining operations have ceased. The time is not far distant when automobile parties will arrange to stop over in one of these little places, and with a competent guide, go over the deserted placers. It is hard to realize that by the mere power of water mountains were washed away, leaving the denuded country on the one hand, a land of mounds and hummocks, like the Bad Lands in miniature, and on the other hand of masses of debris, too heavy to be washed away into the streams.
The wildest portions of the Sierras are revealed in ascending from Dutch Flat to the Summit. The snowsheds of the Southern Pacific Railway come into sight, perched like peculiar long black boxes, with peep-holes, along an impossible ledge of the massive granite cliffs, and the Sierran trees tower upright from every possible vantage ground in the granite beneath.
At Towle, three miles beyond Dutch Flat, the shipping point is reached from which much of the material was hauled for the building of Lake Spaulding dam. Hundreds of teams were employed in this work, and the road showed an almost unbroken procession for months. This was in 1912-13. A side trip to this remarkable dam, impounding the waters of the High Sierras for the generation of electric power to be used not only in the Sacramento Valley but in far away San Francisco, cannot fail to be of interest. The area of the Lake, with the dam at its present elevation, is such as to justify the assertion that it is next to if not the largest artificial lake in the world.
Emigrant Gap to Cisco, 14 Miles.—Fourteen miles from Towle, after enjoying the rich blue haze of Blue Canyon, the road passes through the natural Sierran pass at Emigrant Gap which gives its name to the route. Here one who has not been over the road before must not fail to note the following: As he passes through the Gap the massive granite wall towers in dominant power to the right and leads one to feel that miles of rugged peaks are there. Yet not more than a hundred yards farther on, the wall fades away, and if he stops here, and turns off the road slightly to the right, he will glimpse a vision of glory and sublimity that will take away his breath. Here, from a thousand or two thousand feet almost sheer above it, one gazes down to where in peaceful repose lies Bear Valley, a rich emerald green meadow, on the right side of which flows the South Fork of the Yuba River, and on the left heads Bear Creek, which empties into the Sacramento at Marysville. Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes are alway spent here by those who know of this delectable surprise, yet many come over the road unheeding and are never aware of what they have missed.