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Dead men may tell no tales, but the Sierra Range continues to speak loudly of its interesting past. Here’s a few fun examples of stories that will intrigue, possibly insight, and maybe even spark wonder in your soul.

Golden Crown Mine

Little Lakes Valley Greatest Hikes in the High Sierra
Appears courtesy: Mono County Tourism

In 1848, gold was discovered in the hills of the Sierra Nevada and more than 300,000 pioneers headed west to strike it rich. Over the following years, prospectors combed every inch of the lands looking for not just gold but silver as well. Around 1860, hardy individuals began to explore the highest reaches of the High Sierra including Mono Pass. In 1879, the Golden Crown Mine was established during the Tioga silver boom. The prediction of significant wealth didn’t come to fruition, and by 1890, they were abandoned. Lee Vining is a great basecamp to explore these remains as well as take in some of the prettiest high alpine scenery in the Sierra Nevada.

The Original Firefall Of Yosemite

Yosemite Fire Fall in the Sierra Nevada Range
Image appears courtesy: National Park Service

Almost anything in the world can spark your imagination. Sometimes it’s a certain glint of sunlight or the wind blowing in a sing song way that causes it. Few things in this world capture nearly every person’s imagination though but one of them is the firefall of Yosemite. While the natural one is what gained global fame, did you know there was one before it that was created by Park Rangers for over a century? During the summer, they would create bonfires at the edge of Glacier Point and kick the embers over the cliffs toward spectators located 3,000 feet below in Curry Village. For a full run-down of this tradition AND the natural occurrence, check out Visit Yosemite | Madera article: What To Expect When Traveling To See Horsetail Fall – Yosemite’s Natural Firefall.

Boca Mill & Ice Company

BOCA Ice Harvesting
Boca Ice harvest; note surrounding hills are not snow covered; at least 37 men participating in harvest; note train on tracks – Image appears courtesy: Truckee-Donner Historical Society

Deep in the Sierra Range exists a hotbed for world-class golf in the summer and a ski-town in the winter yet still embraces its unique history. Although you can enjoy the historic commercial district of Truckee today, there’s a lot more stories if you look a bit deeper. One of them is the Boca Mill & Ice Company. Nearly a century ago, Truckee produced some of the finest ice in the West. This was because of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. This connection allowed for it to distribute their ice easily to distant markets. The first ice company was the Boca Mill & Ice Company, and the industry peaked between 1880 and 1900. The ice houses in the Sierra Range stored up to 300,000 tons of ice in a single year. The only remnants of this HUGE business are the crumbling foundations and ice dams in places like the Boca Reservoir. For more fun facts of Truckee’s history, check out their History + Walking Map.

The Sierra Range may be home to a host of adventures but don’t skimp on checking out its unique past. We hope these anecdotes spark questions like, “Why? Who? Or What was here before?” The answers will definitely be worth it.

Author: Alex Silgalis

Alex Silgalis is an outdoors travel writer who enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, or having a cold one from a local mountain brewery. See more of Alex’s work at

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