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Placer County Heritage Museum Trail offers 'step back in time'

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Imagine life in Placer County before people had computers, cell phones and sports utility vehicles. Life without shopping malls, fast-food restaurants or Monday night football. Life before Interstate 80 made traveling from the valley to Lake Tahoe an easy two-hour trip. It’s a tall order, imagining what life was like in the old days. Fortunately, getting a good look at the past isn’t as hard as it seems. All that is needed is a ride this weekend along Placer County’s Heritage Trail Museums Tour. It’s a free, first-ever event featuring 18 museums located from Roseville to North Lake Tahoe in Placer County. Heritage Trail travelers will get a chance to take a trip back in time and immerse themselves in the county’s rich, colorful history. The museums tour will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both days. A trail guide listing all museums, activities, and driving directions will be available at every museum. Trail travelers will glimpse an era when going from town to town meant walking, riding a horse, or perhaps hitching a team of horses to a trusty mud wagon like the one on display at the Bernhard Museum in Auburn. Going to work for many people meant spending long, fruitless days panning for gold in local streams and rivers. There was gold to be found, including the 52 pieces that make up Placer County’s gold collection. It’s on display at the Placer County Museum in the county’s Historic Courthouse in Auburn. Skiing in the Sierra Nevada meant strapping on 14-foot “longboards.” Miners sometimes raced at 80 miles per hour on their longboards, and John “Snowshoe” Thompson used his to deliver the mail. His skis are on display at the Western Skisport Museum at Boreal Mountain Resort in Soda Springs. “Placer County has a rich, colorful history, and the museums do an outstanding job giving visitors a glimpse into what life was like in the county’s early days,” said Placer County Museums Administrator Melanie Barton. “We’re excited about the Heritage Trail Museums Tour because it will bring history to life in a new, exciting way. For a weekend, trail travelers will be able to step back in time and get a better understanding of what life was like. We also hope they will be excited by what they see, because the museums have lots of special events and fun, hands-on activities planned.” Barton noted that Placer County has played a pivotal role in many colorful chapters in the nation’s history, including the California Gold Rush, construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad and development of winter sports such as skiing in the Sierra Nevada. “We don’t expect people to visit all 18 museums in one weekend, of course. Some may want to visit several on Saturday, see a few more on Sunday and come back for the others at times of their own choosing,” Barton said. Reservations are required for the tours. To make reservations or get more information, please call (530) 889-6500 weekdays. Heritage Trail visitors can get free “Get Up & Go” cards at the first museums they visit. After visiting four different museums and getting their cards stamped, they will be eligible to enter a grand-prize drawing. Visitors also will have chances to win a second set of prizes by purchasing drawing tickets. They will cost $1 apiece and $5 for 6. Proceeds will help offset event costs. Drawings for both sets of prizes will be held Aug. 11 at the Placer County Museum. Winners need not be present at the drawing. For the most up-to-date information about The Heritage Trail, visit the county Museums Division Web site at www.placer.ca.gov/museum or call (530) 889-6500. Participating museums are: The Roseville Historical Society Carnegie Museum, Maidu Interpretive Center, Rocklin History Museum, Griffith Quarry Museum, Placer County Museum, Bernhard Museum Complex, Gold Country Museum, Benton Welty School Room, Joss House Museum, Gold Country Medical History Museum, Forest Hill Divide Museum, Colfax Area Heritage Museum, Golden Drift Museum, Big Bend Visitor Center, Western SkiSport Museum, Gatekeeper’s Museum, Watson Cabin and Tahor Maritime Museum.