California's Gold Season 8
S08 E01Jan 8, 1997
Quicksilver Jan 8, 1997 It was the very first mining community in California, starting up operations in 1845. Before it closed down for good in 1976, it also held the distinction of being the largest, richest mine California has ever known, processing over $700,000,000 in metallic wealth. New Almaden Mine was situated in the Santa Clara Valley near San Jose and in its heyday was bustling with activity with a mix of miners from Mexico to Cornwall. And the surprise is -- this was not a gold mine. It was a quicksilver mine! Quicksilver (mercury) was absolutely essential in hard rock mining because it was used to separate the gold from the rock it was found in. The fact that the New Almaden Mine was already in operation when gold was discovered in our state only quickened the pace of the gold rush itself. Today, the town is a registered National Historic Landmark and the mine itself is on land which is part of a county park. In this episode, Huell Howser visits the town and the mine and learns first hand about the rich history of this little-known but very important bit of "California's Gold."
S08 E02Jan 8, 1997
Railcars Jan 8, 1997 In this episode of "California's Gold," Huell salutes the railroads by "riding the rails." Catch is, he won't be riding on an actual train! First, Huell attends the annual U.S. National Handcar Races at the California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento and watches as teams race against the clock on a stretch of straight track. Riding on custom-made handcars similar to those used by early railroad workers, Huell also gets a look at and a demonstration of some of the original old handcars. Next, he heads north to McCloud near Mount Shasta to attend a weekend outing sponsored by a group of people who restore the motorized "speeders" used by railroad workers for maintenance and track inspection. These "speeders" were the next generation of vehicles after the manually-operated handcars and come in all shapes and sizes. The group, travels by caravan on tracks at speeds up to 30 mph through some of the most beautiful countryside in our state.
S08 E03Jan 8, 1997
Rocks in the Water Jan 8, 1997 California is full of them. They are located in both fresh and salt water. Some are big and some are small. And they're all part of our state's rich geological and human history.We're talking about rocks in the water! And in this episode host Huell Howser visits three of the most fascinating of these rocks. First, Huell travels to scenic Lake Tahoe and boards a boat to Emerald Bay where he climbs all over Fannette Island, the only island in the entire lake. A sparsely-timbered, brush-covered upthrust of granite that rises 150 feet above the turquoise water, this island is believed to be a resistant rib of rock which was overridden by the glacial ice that carved out Emerald Bay. But the payoff comes when Huell reaches the very top of the rock and visits the historic stone "tea house" built in 1928 and hears about its colorful history.Next Huell travels to the very northern coast of California to see first hand some of the most unusual rocks you'll ever see in the water. They're part of the jetty system built to protect ship traffic in and out of Humbolt Bay. These huge, reinforced concrete shapes resembling children's toy jacks, are 15 feet high and 43 tons each, with two eight-sided arms and an eight-sided connecting beam. This unique assemblage of rocks is the only design ever to hold up under the constant pounding of the heavy seas, and Huell not only walks out on the jetty for a close-up look, but is taken out to sea by the U.S. Coast Guard for an exciting view from the ocean side.Huell's final destination is the most unusual because he ends up in the Mojave Desert -- far from any water, fresh or salt -- and what he finds on the desert floor are rocks that you'd never even notice under normal circumstances, but were once under water and, in fact, have a rich human story to tell.
S08 E04Jan 8, 1997
Mount San Jacinto Jan 8, 1997 The San Jacinto Mountains are one of the most impressive natural wonders in our entire state. No other mountains on this continent rise so high so fast - in slightly less than seven horizontal miles, the peak rises from 800 to 10,804 feet above sea level!But these mountains hold another distinction as well. They are the site of two of the greatest engineering accomplishments ever attempted by man.In this adventure, host Huell Howser first visits the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway which takes passengers from the warm desert floor to a snowy alpine environment in a matter of minutes. This tramway which opened in 1963 was constructed on such a sharp slope that it was impossible to build roads, and the only way to construct it was by helicopter. In fact, the construction of the tramway was such an engineering challenge that it has been labeled "the 8th wonder of the world," and has been designated a historical civil engineering landmark.Huell continues his adventure by traveling to the base of the San Jacinto Mountains for a journey that is both historic and truly exciting. This trip takes him through a 13-mile tunnel dug through the mountains during the 1930s as part of the Colorado River Aqueduct which brought water to Southern California. This huge and extremely complicated engineering project still ranks as one of the most difficult ever attempted. The 16-foot tall tunnel usually flows with 1.2 billion gallons of water a day, but once every five or ten years the water is cut off for a day or so to allow an inspection. Huell takes advantage of this opportunity to explore the tunnel and also to make some unusual discoveries once inside.Whether on the top of the mountains on a tram, or under the mountains in a tunnel, Huell discovers that the San Jacinto Mountains are very much a part of California's Gold.
S08 E05Jan 8, 1997
Wooden Boats Jan 8, 1997 They come in all shapes and sizes and many date back to the early part of this century. All have been lovingly restored by their owners and are meticulously maintained. In short, they're some of the most beautiful wooden boats ever made.Host Huell Howser gets a close look at these boats as he attends the 24th annual Concours d' Elegance which is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of the wooden boats that have graced Lake Tahoe since the 1920s. He not only talks with the owners about the rich history of their individual boats, but goes out on the clear waters of Lake Tahoe for a ride on some of the fastest boats.It's all part of Wooden Boat Week sponsored by the Tahoe Yacht Club, and after you see these spectacular boats for yourself, you'll agree they are very much a part of "California's Gold."
S08 E06Jan 8, 1997
Slab City Jan 8, 1997 The California desert has always been a place filled with mystery ... and surprises! When you travel through our desert you're never sure what you're gonna see, who you're gonna meet, or what strange and wonderful experiences you're gonna have. Huell Howser discovered that first hand on a recent trip to the Salton Sea community of Niland.At first glance, Niland is a sleepy little agricultural town once known as a major grower of tomatoes. But a few miles out of town -- out in the middle of nowhere -- Huell discovered two honest-to-goodness, little-known pieces of "California's Gold."First Huell visits with self-taught artist and desert character Leonard Knight and gets a tour of "Salvation Mountain," a huge multicolored mosaic of scripture, flowers, trees and the American flag all sculpted into the side of a mountain with adobe, straw, and as much bright paint as Leonard can lay his hands on. "Salvation Mountain" is an on-going labor of love that Leonard started ten years ago and he shares his enthusiasm and his mountain with Huell.About a half mile down the road, Huell next visits a town that is like no other in our state. Everyone lives rent free. There are no landlords, no official rules and there are no utilities or houses, yet over 3,000 people call it home during the winter months. It's called "Slab City" and it sits on the sight of an old abandoned Marine Base. Its citizens are a hearty bunch of independent, self-sufficient folks who have turned this desolate, yet beautiful part of the desert into an unofficial RV park. Huell spends a day touring "Slab City" in a twenty-five year old dune buggy, meets many of its colorful residents, and finds out why so many of them keep coming back year after year.It's a real desert adventure as Huell Howser goes way off the beaten track to find two fine examples of "California's Gold."
S08 E07Jan 8, 1997
Paradise Jan 8, 1997 The morning of April 12, 1859 started like most other mornings for the miners working the Willard Claim on the West Branch of the Feather River just across the canyon from Dogtown. The men were hard at work washing the mountain away with the force of water pressure using the hydraulic mining technique.Then, as Chauncy Wright, one of the hired hands, bent over to pick up what he at first considered to be just another rock, he made a discovery that would end up in the record books. Because on that morning, Chauncy and his fellow miners uncovered a 54 pound gold nugget! Needless to say, word quickly spread and the community of Dogtown celebrated the momentous discovery for several days. And as producer/host Huell Howser discovers in this adventure, the celebration is still going on !Huell and cameraman Luis Fuerte travel to the town of Paradise, just down the road from Dogtown in Butte County, for the annual Gold Nugget Days Celebration, complete with a parade and all sorts of community festivities. The local citizens also take him to the actual area where the huge nugget was found - an area where modern-day miners are still searching for gold. There's also an E Clampus Vitus Donkey Derby and a visit to the Gold Nugget Museum included in this adventure. An adventure in search of an honest-to-goodness big piece of California's Gold.
S08 E08Aug 3, 1997
Mule Days Aug 3, 1997 They've been a part of the California landscape for hundreds of years, helping to build our canals and highways and railroads, hauling our freight, our silver bullion and, of course, playing a major role during the gold rush era. However, many people are under the false impression that they're stubborn, while others tend to overlook them in favor of the more glamorous horse.But, once a year the good citizens of Bishop, California, in the Sierra Nevada, set aside an entire week to pay tribute to... the mule. Often regarded as one of nature's oddities, a mule is a hybrid animal that results from crossing a mare (female horse) with a jack (male donkey). They come in literally all shapes and sizes, and during Bishop's Mule Days Celebration there's a mule parade, mule races and all sorts of mule competitions. Thousands of people come from all over California to have a good time and to pay tribute to this animal.Host Huell Howser and cameraman Luis Fuerte join in the celebration of this rather remarkable animal which, over the years, has very much proven itself to be a fine example of "California's Gold."
S08 E09Jan 8, 1997
Wind Jan 8, 1997 Some people like it -- to others, it's a nuisance. Something "to come in out of." But like it or not, everyone would agree it's been a part of the history of California since the very beginning. We're talking about wind. And on this particular adventure, host Huell Howser goes in search of some of the most historic and strongest wind around.First stop is the back lot of the famous Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank where Huell takes a look at some wind machines used in movie production, and learns they've been a part of our movie legacy since the very early silent films. The special-effects people even crank up some of the machines for a demonstration of just how much force they can create.Then it's on to Pasadena for a visit to the campus of the California Institute of Technology. Tucked away in one of the buildings is the GALCIT Ten-Foot Wind Tunnel which has been operating since 1930 and used to test everything from aircraft to automobiles. It's a huge tunnel and of course Huell couldn't resist not only climbing around inside, but getting a dose of wind as well!The last windy stop is in Northern California at the Point Reyes National Seashore-- a place not only filled with spectacular natural beauty, but a lot of natural wind as well. In fact, Point Reyes has the distinction of being the windiest place in the entire state, and even though it was a fairly calm day, Huell definitely got the feel of why it's in the record books!At first, it seems like a rather obscure subject, but after thinking about it, and especially after visiting these three locations, there's not doubt about it -- wind is a fine example of California's Gold.
S08 E10Jan 8, 1997
Bits and Pieces Jan 8, 1997 What do a brilliant field of marigolds, an ostrich farm, thousands of cacti and a two-story outhouse have in common?The answer is that they are all accidental discoveries made by producer/host Huell Howser as he traveled the state in search of California's Gold."As we drive down the highways of our state we're always seeing things that surprise and amaze us," says Huell. "This entire episode is made up of people, places and things we came across quite by accident as we were heading for a planned shooting location."Included in this potpourri entitled "Bits and Pieces," is a visit to an ostrich farm in Buellton on the central coast, a walk through a huge field of flowering marigolds alongside a rural road near Ventura and a tour of a historic two-story outhouse in the town of San Juan Bautista. Also included is a look at a farming operation in the Salinas Valley that grows hundreds of acres of cacti for human consumption."This all happened in a spontaneous way," explains Howser. "We'd literally spot these interesting places as we drove by, stop our car and start asking questions."The result of these stops and these questions is an unplanned episode made up entirely of "Bits and Pieces" of California's Gold.
S08 E11Jan 8, 1997
Vandenberg Jan 8, 1997 It began back in 1941 when it was known as Camp Cooke and served as a U.S. Army training facility for tanks and infantry troops. With the advent of the missile age in the 1950s, the land was transferred to the U.S Air Force for use as a missile training base. The first missile was launched from this facility in 1958 and since then almost 2,000 missiles and space boosters have followed suit.Located on our state's central coast near the town of Lompoc, Vandenberg AFB is not only the U.S. Air Force's third largest installation, but an important part of our state's and nation's space history.In this episode of "California's Gold," host Huell Howser visits Vandenberg for a first-hand look at this huge base which covers over 98,000 acres and is literally filled with reminders and remnants of our space heritage.Huell is taken on a tour that includes stops at sites of the first satellite launches from California, and an early Thor missile launch facility that is now listed as a National Historic Landmark because it is one of the best and most intact surviving examples of 1950s space technology. Huell also visits Altas missile sites, an underground Titan missile site and the Space and Missile Heritage Center filled with space and missile artifacts.The adventure ends with a look at some of the state-of-the-art facilities and hardware which today are making history and breaking new ground in the space field. Vandenberg AFB continues to be an important and, in fact, vital part of our space program and, as we discover on this visit, it is also a fine example of "California's Gold."
S08 E12Jan 8, 1997
Snow and Ice Jan 8, 1997 Sunny beaches and swaying palm trees are very much a part of what California is all about. So are snow and ice.And to prove it, host Huell Howser and camerman Luis Fuerte bundle up and travel to one of the coldest places in our state in search of historic snow and ice.They find it first in a lake near Truckee in Nevada County. Today, ice is part of a readily-accessible and plentiful part of our daily lives. But not long ago the only ice available came from lakes and ponds where it was produced by the natural cold of winter, then hand-cut with giant saws and shipped to waiting cutomers.On this particular adventure Huell meets up with historian Tom Macaulay who takes him to a frozen lake in the Sierra and actually demonstrates how ice was harvested years ago. It's a fascinating look back in time to something most of us never knew existed -- the California ice industry.Then Huell jumps aboard a train for a ride from Sacramento to Reno, Nevada -- a journey through some of the toughest and most scenic terrain in our state. During the winter months there is so much snow in this area that, years ago, the railroads had to construct "snow sheds" to cover and protect the tracks. These huge, wooden sheds covered almost the entire length of the track in the higher elevations of the Sierra and, literally, were responsible for keeping the trains running. Today, modern snow removal equipment has made the sheds obsolete, but Huell manages to find and walk through one of the last remaining portions of a historic wooden snow shed -- a structure that is very much a part of California's Gold.