[Illustration: Casino at Tahoe Tavern, From Pier]
[Illustration: Pier, Steamer Tahoe, and Lake Tahoe from Casino]
In nine more miles Camino is reached, through clusters of pines, with perfectly level stretches for speeding and—dreaming. One’s mind unconsciously goes back to the old days and he sees as in a moving-picture film the “days of ’49.” For this road is a road of memories. One shuts his eyes and muses, and immediately there troops before him a rushing, bustling, hurrying throng. These were the modern argonauts, the seekers for the Golden Fleece:
Great horny-handed men and tall;
Men blown from many a barren land
Beyond the sea; men red of hand,
And men in love, and men in debt,
Like David’s men in battle set—
And every man somehow a man.
They push’d the mailed wood aside,
They toss’d the forest like a toy,
That grand forgotten race of men—
The boldest band that yet has been
Together since the Siege of Troy.
Some carried packs on their backs, with pick and shovel, drill and pan. Others rode, leading their burden-bearing burros or mules. Wagon after wagon creaked along, laden to the full with supplies, food, or machinery.
As we push along and come to the river, Joaquin Miller’s words make the memory pictures for us:
I look along each gaping gorge,
I hear a thousand sounding strokes
Like giants rending giant oaks,
Or brawny Vulcan at his forge;
I see pickaxes flash and shine;
Hear great wheels whirling in a mine.
Here winds a thick and yellow thread,
A moss’d and silver stream instead;
And trout that leap’d its riffled tide
Have turn’d upon their sides and died.
Below Camino we pass near to Pino Grande, where the great cable railway carries loaded cars of logs across the deep canyon of the American River.
Rapidly we reach Smith’s Flat, 4 miles, a famous mining-camp in the days gone by, but now consisting of a general store, a few houses, and a gnarled old log fashioned into a glorious water-trough fit for the Vikings.
Three more miles and Placerville is reached, the quaint old reminder of “the days of ’49, the days of old, the days of gold,” when men flocked to California from all parts of the earth eager with the lust for gold. In those memorable days it was called “Hangtown,” a name some of its present-day citizens would fain forget, oblivious, in their own small-mindedness that they are neither responsible for its history nor its nomenclature.
Built primarily in the somewhat shut-in walls of a small canyon, it winds and curves around in a happy-go-lucky fashion, and when the canyon widens out, spills over into irregular streets and up and down hills that were once clad with pines, firs, spruces and junipers. That wealth and prosperity have smiled upon it in late years is evidenced by its comfortable lawn-girdled homes, its thriving orchards, its active business streets, and its truly beautiful, because simple, chaste and dignified, county court-house.