So you think that the California Gold Rush began in 1849 at Sutter's Mill, do you? Well, surprise! That is only what the United States history books say. According to Mexican history the California gold rush began in 1842 when California was still a territory of Mexico. And that first gold rush was in Placerita Canyon near Newhall.
As the legend goes Francisco Lopez was a herdsman. He took a siesta beneath an oak tree and dreamed of discovering gold and becoming wealthy. After awaking he began picking wild onions to prepare a meal. Clinging to the roots of the onion was gold dust. Thus began the first California gold rush, right there beneath the "Oak of the Golden Dream" in Placerita Canyon State Park. The 1842 gold rush lasted for 6 years and yielded 125 lbs of gold from the local rocks and stream.
We will hike out and back through a picturesque, narrow canyon formed, in part, by hydraulic mining. Our destination will be the Waterfall via Walker Ranch, the former site of cottages hand built by the area's 20th century settler of the canyon, Frank Walker. The area is now a group campground. One of Walker's cabins is on display near the entrance to Placerita Canyon State Park. It was the filming location of the television series "Hopalong Cassidy".
The intended hike is a fairly easy 5.5 miles and the weather forecast seems to be favorable for a "desert gateway" adventure.
Save a little time after to peek in the windows of the Walker Cabin back at the entrance to the park, and walk a short trail along the creek in the opposite direction of our hike to see "The Oak of the Golden Dream".
Distance: 5.5 miles out and back
Approximate hiking time: 2.5-3 hrs
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