If you’re following us on social media, you know that we’re on a road trip through the Sierra Nevada mountains this week. (And if you’re not following us on social media—why not?) One of the stops on our trip was Angels Camp, California, which just so happens to be the county seat of Calavaras County—home of the legendary frog jumping contest.
It just so happens that the frog jumping festivities start today in Calavaras County—in conjunction with their county fair. This will be the 91st annual contest, and we were really bummed that we were about two days too early for the world-famous frog jumping competition of Calaveras County.
The frog jumping contest got its fame from a short story written by Mark Twain, entitled “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County.” And apparently, it was his first bit hit! Mark Twain overheard at the hotel in Angels Camp, as far as the locals understand it. He then wrote it down, embellishing a little, and published to instant fame.
We had a question, though. Which came first—the frog jumping contest, or the Mark Twain Story?
We managed to ask about it, and apparently the Mark Twain Story was published before Calaveras County even had a frog jumping contest. The frog jumping competition came later, because the story was so popular.
A local we spoke to at the diner lamented the fact that Mark Twain only spent 88 days here, and yet everything locally celebrates him, instead of the founder of the town, “Mr. Angels.”
I think it’s funny that they call the guy who incorporated this town as “Mr. Angels.”
Angel’s Camp is a charming little town. Clothes hang on lines across the main street, as a tribute to the gold rush days. There are historical buildings with their original signs—including a lodge for a chapter of the Fraternal Order of the Odd Fellows. (Note to self—research that and see about starting a chapter in Brooklyn.) And there’s a walk of fame, where the winning frogs are immortalized on the sidewalk.
A local told us that a couple of years ago, someone had brought some giant African bullfrogs to the contest, thinking that they’d win, because they were so big. “They just kinda went ‘plop,’ though,” she said.
If you’re looking for a fun weekend, you should definitely check out Angels Camp, especially if it’s time for the annual frog jumping contest. And there are lots of other fun things to see and do nearby, as well. Here are a few of our favorites from this trip.
Big Trees State Park
If you’re looking for an introduction to the massive sequoias, ponderosa pines, and other tall trees of the Sierra Nevada, this state park is worth a visit. We did a short loop of about 2 miles, and saw some incredible giant trees, as well as some deer, lots of squirrels and chipmunks, and a momma bear with three cubs!
Columbia State Park
This is an old-timey gold rush town that’s still largely intact, with all the things that you’d expect to see—a blacksmith shop, an old firetruck, a general store that sells hard candy. It’s right out of “Little House on the Prairie”—except it’s not a prairie—it’s a gold rush mountain town. Beware—it may be overrun with children on a school field trip.
This is a cute little town, with some charming restaurants and wine tasting rooms. We had a delicious lunch there, and really enjoyed walking around a bit.
Yosemite National Park
This is a bit more of a drive, and the winding mountain road from Angels Camp to Yosemite can be a bit harrowing (for one of us, at least), but it’s a beautiful drive, and you can definitely do Yosemite as a day trip from Angels Camp.
Thinking of a Sierra Nevada Road Trip of your own? We’d love to help you book that trip. Just let us know!