"Call me!" shouts "Mr. Bourn" as I make my way out of the house. "My phone number is 57!"

The centerpiece of the park compound is, of course, the mine itself. In operation from 1850 to 1956, it's the oldest, largest, and richest gold mine in the area. A ruggedly handsome sixtysomething man wearing a mining helmet leads a group of us down a dimly lit narrow staircase until we're peering into the main shaft, the start of 367 miles of underground tunnels and railways that go down nearly a vertical mile into the earth. Turns out our tour guide worked in this very mine, landing his first job as a mucker at age 15, joining thousands of other men and mules who once descended into the mine on narrow railcars at a clip of 600 feet per minute, extracting 5.8 million ounces of gold over the course of a century. Were it not for this mine and others like it, there might never have been a Nevada City at all.

When the sun gets low, it's time to hit the road for home. I don't wind up making it to the river. Doobie-smoking and butt-burning with the natives will have to wait till next time.

For more information to plan your own trip, contact the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce at (530) 265-2692 or (800) 655- 6569, or www.nevadacitychamber.com.

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Next time you come to town, you'll have to come visit the Outside Inn, Nevada City's coolest motel!

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