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Weekend Getaway: Fiddletown and Plymouth make for interesting foothill stops on historic Highway 49

By Tim Viall

 Travelers on historic Highway 49 will be familiar with Plymouth, CA, but less so with Fiddletown, just eight miles east off 49 following the Fiddletown Road.  The two towns, just 60 miles from Stockton, are rich in history and offer explorers a wealth of interesting Gold Rush sites, shops, restaurants and wineries ripe for the touring!  And, at 1,000 feet elevation, both are generally well below the Sierra foothills snowline, making sunny winter days the perfect time to tour!
 
Fiddletown traces its Gold Rush history back further than Plymouth (though Plymouth, located on Highway 49, is larger and better known).  Fiddletown was established by prospectors from Missouri in 1849, and quickly grew in the 1850s as a center of trade for many mines located nearby.  It soon also became home to over 2,000 Chinese, who worked the mines and established many of the early businesses (some of these still stand, though in a state of disrepair).
 
Fiddletown was renamed Oleta (after a key resident’s daughter) in 1878, but on his demise 50 years later, it reverted to the Fiddletown name.  Miners were known, during the dry season when water for their hydraulic mining ran low, to just “fiddle around”, hence the town’s name.  While touring the several remaining blocks of old Fiddletown, be sure to check out the Chew Kee Apothecary (a rare “rammed earth” building dating to the 1850s), the other old Chinese merchant buildings, C. Schallhorn’s Blacksmith and Wagon Store and the Fiddletown Community Center with the giant fiddle over the door!  While exploring the historic main drag, don’t miss Brown’s English Toffee, a candy-store extraordinaire (they also sell cute “I’m on Fiddletown Time” t-shirts)!
 
Plymouth traces its history to the 1870s, when prospectors stopped there in search of quartz and gold.  For gourmet travelers, the new Taste Restaurant in Plymouth is a must-stop, drawing rave reviews from around the region.  The city has a cute public park with bandstand, the old Plymouth Hotel and other eateries, all grouped along several old-town blocks.  Several nice motels also call Plymouth home, and several bed and breakfasts cater to traveler and wine aficionados.  For info on restaurants and lodging, go to: http://www.historichwy49.com/amador/plymouth.html.
 
Both Fiddletown and Plymouth are known as “Gateways to the Shenandoah Valley”, home to over 20 wineries and fast-becoming known as the scenic home to very skillful wine-makers.  Take a weekend to explore both towns and enrich your Gold Rush history!  For additional Weekend Getaway destinations, see http://LittlePlacesIKnow.blogspot.com.
 
Author: Caravan News
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