Mount Ophir, Part III

March 26, 2022
Billy Goat Trail
Total distance walked: 2.93 miles

We’re back! Two weeks passed since my husband and I last walk through the Mount Ophir area. On this third visit we were hiking the Billy Goat Trail.

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As we walked through a dry creek bed, the difference in landscape was noticeable. Wildflowers bloomed brought on by a recent rainstorm, and grass grew tall and lush.

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Fiddleneck

The hike started as before, with a brief stop at Mount Ophir Trabucco Store. Louis Trabucco immigrated from Italy and opened a chain of stores; the one here and in the nearby towns of Bear Valley, Benton Mills (Bagby), and Mount Boullion (circa 1860s).

I found a photo on-line of how the ruins looked in 1950.

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Ruins of Trabucco Store, Mount Ophir, 1950. Photo credit: Alma Lavenson. Courtesy of UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library.

Passing the store, we sauntered up the same path from previous trips to the top of the hill. At the fork, we chose the Billy Goat Trail.

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The wide, easy trail led downward into a shady canyon where it was cooler. Dripping water trickled under old oak trees. Fallen trunks and branches, charred in the Detwiler fire laid across our path. Wildflowers sprouted from the hillsides.

We saw interesting rocks throughout the hike, which have their own story to tell.

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Hopping over an algae-filled stream, we walked to the end of the trail. I was disappointed that it ended so quickly. However, what I thought was just another hill, turned out to be the Billy Goat Trail, not the simple path we had been walking. I suggested we turn back, but my non-hiking husband (can I still call him that?) pushed us to scramble upward like billy goats.

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Is this really a trail?

After several minutes of ascending the true Billy Goat Trail, we made it to the top. The dusty path then led us up and down like a roller coaster through the hills.

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Looking back.

Coming toward us from behind were the firefighters on their morning run. At the bottom of a ravine, things began to look familiar. We were on the Bell Trail having come at it from the Billy Goat Trail.

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The Bell Trail.

Not prepared for another steep ascent, we turned back and connected to Mineshaft Road. At the site of the stamp mill, we searched in earnest for a shaft.

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Tailings

This time we found a clue: two red bricks hidden under the brush near the tailings pile. We were getting closer.

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Off trail, just beyond the bricks, we found an underground opening covered in brush. How exciting it was to find, but I didn’t want to get too close.

I found this photo on-line of the Mount Ophir Mine in 1852.

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Mount Ophir Mine, 1852. Photo submitted by Carol Lackey/Tom Hilk. Courtesy of Historic Photo Album of Mariposa County, California.

In 1934, the ruins of the Mount Ophir Mint were supposed to be deeded to Mariposa County by Mariposa Commercial Mining Company. The then-Mariposa County Board of Supervisors agreed to accept the deed and have the Mint—which we have not been able to accurately locate—restored to its original appearance. The whole area was supposed to become a public park. That obviously did not happen.

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Heading down Hodson Hill to the car.

Over the course of three trips, Chris and I spent several hours exploring and looping through the trails of the historic Mount Ophir mining area. It’s thrilling to find evidence of past mining activity and to remember that long-forgotten way of life. There is still more to learn, to see, and to hike.  We’ll be back.