When I think about Downieville I remember things from 35 years ago to now. I remember the Bakery and picking up some fresh bread for my mom for dinner later that night when we stayed at the Shangri-la and later at the Lure. Or going to the Grocery Store with its wooden floors and Pick and Shovel diner inside getting a sandwich and hanging out on the bench outside talking with the locals who told a pesky kid like me where to fish.
I remember having breakfast with my parents at the Forks on the patio watching the Downie River go by and wondering to myself when are they going to be done with their coffee so we can head out fishing and hiking. Or my dad's favorite place that he always made sure we went to on upper Main at Hospital Bridge and Pauley Creek where it joined the Downie River as we fished for wild browns.
I remember the donkey races around town and the excitement of the people and the businesses that wanted to win to hold bragging rights for that year, the prospector days, and miners dredging on the N. Yuba River and talking to them as I fished below their dredge about how what kind of gold they were getting. I remember the poker room in the back of the St. Charles and looking through the window as a kid and wishing I was old enough to get in on that game.
Most of those things are gone today, but one thing still holds true, "The Spirit of the Town and the People" that created it is still alive and well just waiting for you to explore it, not just for the past 35 years, but for the past 160 years.
One of the ways to do that is through at trip to the Downieville Museum and the Downieville Walking Tour.
The museum is full and I mean full of history and artifacts that tell a story of the original settlers and the way they lived. How the town grew up out of the forest to reach heights of being a significant city in California. The archives are full of photographs, written documents, and pieces from history that inspire wonderment and to imagine the courage and sacrifice that it must have taken to live in such a day.
Take a trip to the Sierra County Courthouse and view the Sierra County Nugget Collection on display as well as other fantastic treasures. Head next door and visit the Sheriff's Office and see the pictures of the past Sheriffs and read the newspaper clippings on the wall. Right next to that you'll see the Gallows as they stand as reminder of how just how swift justice was in the early days of Downieville and Sierra County.
Stop around town and read the many plaques on the buildings as they all tell a story. Like this one about Juanita.
Take a trip to the Downieville Cemetery and read the headstones and grasp a feeling of their spirit that made Downieville such a remarkable place.
There is so much to see just walking through town, but more important than what you see is what you feel if you really take a quiet moment and sit with your heart open and ready to receive. I can tell you that every time I come back or even when I lived there, I sat many times on Main Street in the winter when no one was around with my eyes closed and my heart open to truly take in what the essence of this town and the lasting grasp it holds on so many people.
I truly believe there is no city or town left in California that is anything like Downieville nor the wonderful people who call it home.
Recommendation on lodging if you're planning to take a historic tour of Downieville we recommend that you stay at the Carriage House Inn in the heart of Downieville. You can visit them on the web to learn more here: www.downievillecarriagehouse.com