One More Christmas Holiday to Celebrate

The Grimms of Laguna Beach are authors of "Away for the Weekend," a travel guide to Southern California.

If you're attacked by the post-Christmas blues, pack your bags for Amador County and celebrate the holiday season through Thursday. That's the Serbian Christmas day, when visitors can join in festivities in this historic town that was born during the Gold Rush.

When some Yugoslavs came here to work in the mines, they brought their Serbian customs along. On Wednesday and Thursday, visitors can attend St. Sava's Serbian Orthodox Church for Christmas services and take part in parties that follow.

Mother Church

Built in 1894, the little white building is the mother church of the Serbian Orthodox denomination in North America, and has about 120 members in the area. Jackson, Sutter Creek and other Mother Lode towns in the county keep up their holiday decorations and spirit until the Serbian Christmas is over.

Christmas Eve services begin at 6 p.m. at St. Sava's on Wednesday, followed by the burning of a yule log and toasting with a hot brandy drink. At noon the next day gunshots ring out to mark the end of Christmas church services that start at 10:30 a.m.

In earlier times the miners set off sticks of dynamite for this traditional noisemaking, but nowadays their descendants make do with blank cartridges.

Celebration of the Serbian Christmas has been organized by Dan Vukajlovich, who also invites everyone to a Thursday evening party of free food and live music at his Wells Fargo Restaurant in Jackson. Call (209) 223-9956 for more information.

Besides extending the Christmas holidays, visitors to Jackson and other Gold Rush towns in Amador County will discover historical sites and museums, antique shops and a host of bed-and-breakfast lodgings.

Sites and Machinery

More than half of all the gold-bearing quartz in the Mother Lode was mined in the county. There are abandoned mine sites and machinery on the hillsides. Two huge wooden wheels are landmarks of Jackson, the county seat since 1854.

Mineral waste from the Kennedy mine, which had shafts more than a mile deep, was lifted to a holding dam by wheels that are nearly 60 feet in diameter. They're on display in Kennedy Tailing Wheels Park as symbols of the gold-mining days. The free park straddles Jackson Gate Road just north of town.

At the Amador County Museum, you can see working models of Jackson-area mines, including Kennedy, one of the richest gold mines in the nation. Indian, Chinese and other memorabilia also occupy the museum in an 1859 brick home at 225 Church St.

Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday through Sunday; telephone (209) 223-6386. Entry by donation; mine model tour $1. A plaque on Main Street in front of Marlene and Glen's Dining Parlor recalls an 1850s tree from which 10 men were hung.

Hanging Tree

The hanging tree is a part of Jackson's colorful past that you'll learn about on a self-guided walking tour.

Get a free tour map from the Amador County Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 596, Jackson, Calif. 95642. The office is open weekdays at the highway junction of California 88 and 49; telephone (209) 223-0350.

Also available are walking tour maps of Sutter Creek and Amador City, two other Gold Rush towns in the county that are just up the road from Jackson on California 49.

Four miles north, the highway enters Sutter Creek, which bills itself as the nicest town in the Mother Lode. Few visitors will dispute the claim, especially after a stroll along Main Street.

Several of its 19th-Century balconied buildings are crammed with antiques, collectibles and handcrafts.

Water-Powered Foundry

A historical landmark is around the corner at 13 Eureka St., Knights Foundry, the only water-powered foundry in the United States. It's been in continuous operation since 1873; Fridays at noon you can usually see the molten metal being poured.

Sutter Creek has many attractive homes, and several of them have been turned into bed-and-breakfast inns.

One is the well-known Sutter Creek Inn that dates to 1859 and originally was the home of Sen. E. C. Voorhies. This comfortable New England-style B&B; has 18 rooms, some in cottages and half of them with fireplaces. A novelty in some rooms are swinging beds.

Average room rates at the Sutter Creek Inn are $84 on Friday, Saturday or holidays, and $64 other days, including a full breakfast. Phone (209) 267-5606 for reservations.

Next door you'll find an 1857 home that's become the Foxes, a six-room B&B; with rates of $85/$115 weekends or holidays, and $70/$95 Sunday through Thursday. Call (209) 267-5882.

Other Sutter Creek B&Bs; include Nine Eureka Street, Hanford House and Botto Country Inn. A landmark on Main Street is the Bellotti Inn, a 110-year-old hotel, saloon and restaurant.

Mine House Inn

An unusual lodging is two miles north in Amador City--the Mine House Inn, former headquarters of the Old Keystone Consolidated Mining Co. that's been converted to a B&B.; The seven bedrooms are named for their original use, such as the Vault, Assay and Director's. Rates $45/$55; phone (209) 267-5900.

Bordering a sharp curve on California 49, Amador City is the state's smallest incorporated city with a population of 130. It's best known for Au Relais, a dinner house with French cuisine, but you also can get breakfast or lunch at Buffalo Chips Emporium.

Popular dining spots in Sutter Creek include Sutter Creek Palace and Pelargonium. Favorites in Jackson are Teresa's and Buscaglia's, both featuring Italian fare.

For historical and local character, stop by the saloons of the Wells Fargo Restaurant and the National Hotel, opposite each other at the junction of Main and Water streets in Jackson. Both date to the mid-1800s and are especially lively on weekends.

To get to Jackson and its Mother Lode neighbors, drive north from Los Angeles on Interstate 5 to Stockton, then go east to pick up California 88 to California 49. Round trip: 772 miles.

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