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  68-year old Grandmother Rappels 165 Feet Into Moaning Cavern
November 13, 2012

After an election, it’s good to get out of town for a few days – and it was Shirley’s birthday. We didn’t plan to go to Murphys on purpose; Shirley had purchased a package at a Richmond Art Center auction that included two nights in Murphys and two tickets to ride the zip line. We had to use it before it expired.

We had not been to Murphys in decades. Last time we were there, the Murphys Hotel was about all there was in the remnant of an otherwise deserted and run down Mother Lode mining town. Today, however, the new Sierra gold is in the vineyards, and Murphys looks like the Healdsburg of the Gold Country.

We got in after dark and had an okay dinner at the iconic and historic Murphys Hotel then headed over to the Black Bart Playhouse to hear Nina Gerber and Chris Webster for the second time in as many weeks. They were part of the Rosalie Sorrels fundraiser at the Freight and Salvage on October 26.

The weather turned on Friday night, and it snowed in the high country. We headed up to Calaveras Big Trees State Park for a walk through the woods in about 8 inches of new powder snow.

snow tree

shirley and Tom

Then back down the hill to use our zip line ticket at Moaning Caverns. This was the first time zipping for both of us. It goes so fast that it’s pretty much over before it starts. I guess that’s why they call it “zip.”

Shirley on wire

Shirley mentioned to the zip line guy that it was her birthday, and he told her that she could get a free ticket to rappel into Moaning Cavern. Never one to pass a free ticket, Shirley said yes.

So they strapped her into a harness and she free fall rappelled 165 into the bottom of Moaning Cavern. I would have done it, but someone had to photograph the feat for posterity.



SHirley in cave

smiling shirley

That experience called for both food and drink, so we first dropped in at the famous Ironstone Vineyards, which was just too much. It’s sort of the Disneyland of wineries, and the wine is disappointing. A lot of the juice comes from Lodi instead of Calaveras County. But he locals credit Ironstone for putting Murphys on the map and turning it around. Later , we found Alchemy Market and Café and had great salads with braised tuna and some Belgian style beers. It was so good, we came back for lunch the next day.

The main street of Murphys is lined with tasting rooms from local wineries, and we sampled all we could before going to dinner. We happened onto an artist’s reception at Hovey for the owner’s sister, which was very gracious, and the wines were good. Frogs Tooth Vineyards was also nice.


theater street

Our experience with dinner wasn’t so great. After finding V Restaurant and Bar totally booked, we went across the street to TripAdvisor’s highest rated restaurant in Murphys, Mineral Restaurant. It is vegetarian, which is okay with us, and the service and ambiance were great, but the food was neither remarkable nor plentiful. The portions were painfully small, especially for vegetarian fare.

We drove up into the nearby foothills on Sunday morning and happened on the remnants of a mining town called Sheep Ranch. There is nothing commercial there anymore, but the drive is pretty, and there is an old hotel and store at the end of the road. The gas pump at the abandoned general store advertises Chevron gasoline for $0.18 a gallon. You wish.


gas price

Coming back, we took a back road to Angels Camp and stopped to taste at Four Winds Cellars, under new ownership The owner was pouring, and he gave an interesting history of how he and his wife came to be involved.