California, Where We've Been

Coloma, Sacramento & Folsom, California

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Coloma, Sacramento & Folsom, California

Coming over the Sierra Nevada mountains from Reno is a three hour drive and nearly 5,000 foot descent into the California Central Valley. Nothing too terrible for a Saturday afternoon, despite all the trucks passing us telling us to tell us how slow we were going. In actuality, we were doing the speed limit, but apparently no one else seemed to notice the sign. Welcome to California!

I’m a native Californian, with deep roots in the state. I traveled up and down the state as a child and have great memories of going to the beach, enjoying the palm trees, eating fresh fruit from the farm stands in the central valley, and visiting with relatives who lived in its interior. This week we visited with my brother and his family in northern California.

The kids got to spend the week with their cousins and traveled around with us to Coloma, Sacramento, and Folsom.


Sutter’s Mill, Marshall Gold Discovery State Park, Coloma

Sutter’s Mill marks the site where James Marshall discovered gold that led to the California Gold Rush of 1848. John Sutter and James Marshall selected the site and built the sawmill with the intention to harvest lumber, but the endeavor was short lived. The discovery of gold caused gold fever to spread across America and the population of Coloma to swell with hopeful prospectors. 

The original sawmill was scavenged by others looking for wood to use as fuel and to build cabins. The sawmill that exists there today was rebuilt as an iconic centerpiece to the historic site.

The historic town of Coloma no longer supports a booming population of gold prospectors, but stands as a reminder of what was once a vibrant, thriving community. 

After seeing the sawmill, the kids wanted to go down to the river and try gold prospecting themselves. The water was so cold and they slipped a few times on the rocks, but even after 174 years the gold fever that once gripped the area hasn’t worn off for these kids!

They did end up finding gold, but it wasn’t found in the river. After being picked clean for nearly two centuries, the only gold still left at the site, that we found anyways, was in the visitor’s center.

The ranger at the visitor’s center talked to the kids about the area, introduced them to the junior ranger’s program, and put on a video for us to watch about what it would be like to take a stagecoach from Coloma to Sacramento. It would have been a bumpy ride, because kids were supposed to ride on top of the coach while parents rode inside! 



Sutter Mill



MOSAC Museum of Science and Curiosity

The MOSAC Museum is located in the heart of Sacramento on the banks of the Sacramento River. It’s a place for kids to learn about water conservation, alternative energy, space exploration, and design. It’s also a place kids of all ages can play and experiment at the interactive exhibits.

The kids built towers and Rube Goldberg machines with the Keva blocks, trying to make them not fall down until they were complete. They put on a performance of their own design on stage. They built wind-powered sail cars and raced them to see whose would go farther. They explored the space exhibits, launched rockets, and analyzed space rocks.

We all really enjoyed the show in the Multiverse Theater. It’s a planetarium-type show where the screen is displayed on the dome above. We were able to take an interactive tour of the solar system with a guide showing us the sun, planets, and Oort Cloud up close. 

One of the challenges California is facing right now is drought. It’s been an ongoing issue for the past two decades and its ending is not in sight. The museum highlighted the issue along with ways to conserve and possible approaches to take to resolve the issue, such as processing and desalination of ocean water.



Folsom Lake

The week we visited my family temperatures reached at a scorching 104 degrees in the valley. Folsom Lake was a nice place to come for a respite from the heat. The water was cool and they were able to wade out some distance from shore as it dropped off slowly towards the middle of the lake.

The kids had fun swimming with their cousins and playing in the plentiful mud on the shore. They covered themselves head to toe in the mud before going back into the lake and washing off again.

The lake was also popular with the ducks. The kids tracked the duck’s footprints in the mud and eventually met up with them in a bay close to where they were swimming.

The drought affecting California is clearly evident in the half mile walk from the parking lot to the water below. When I visited Folsom Lake nearly 20 years ago, the lake was brimming at capacity. It’s a stark contrast to the low water levels that are there now. Hopefully, the drought that’s been plaguing California will end and water level will return to its historic full level.

The kids really enjoyed Folsom Lake. It was a great time to be had by all and to spend time with the family!

Folsom Lake



We were blessed by my family’s local congregation who let us stay on their land for the week. Thank you!