March 31, 2019
If someone were ever to write the Great California Epic they might wisely choose Mariposa as the central setting, for Mariposa, near the entrance to the great Yosemite valley, is the navel of the Golden State. All California life seems to flow from this place like water from a spring.
Mariposa is nestled in the foothills of California’s central Sierra Nevada Mountains, just outside the boundaries of Yosemite National Park. To get here, start from the San Joaquin Valley raisin towns of Fresno or Madera on a clear March morning (as I did, back in March 2016). Then, put away the road map and turn on Google Maps. Change the settings to “avoid highways” and follow the roads uphill. Here’s what your climb will look like:
Entering Mariposa County:
The climb gets steeper as you get higher into the Sierra, but the grass is still as green as if it were Ireland.
The road twists around granite boulders as you climb higher into the mountains.
Finally, you arrive.
I remember coming up to Mariposa for the first time back in the 90s with my then girlfriend. She pointed out that Mariposa means “butterfly” in Spanish. She knew of what she spoke.
Mariposa is an old gold mining town and the seat of Mariposa County. The old courthouse was built in 1854, was the scene of some landmark mining cases, and is still in use today. It’s the oldest county courthouse in the state of California. It may be even older than the two Sequoia trees which guard the front entrance.
The courthouse has only one courtroom. Portraits of Lincoln and Jefferson are the only adornment on the wall behind the Judge’s seat, which is odd considering that judges, lawyers, and juries were meeting here before Abraham Lincoln was even elected President. I’m told that the old stove still provides primary heating for the courtroom.
Mariposa County was once huge, covering most of central California but has since been carved into many other counties. Its namesake butterflies that are actually only found in the San Joaquin Valley below the mountains, now part of other counties.
Want to stay in town? The 5th Street Inn looks nice.
Here’s where the locals eat — the Pizza Factory. It was busy when I was there. Good food, spacious seating. Here policemen, firemen, and other local residents enjoy a respite from seasonal tourists.
Just to remind you that you’re still in America, there’s this:
All photos taken by the author. Photos were taken in March, 2016.
A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.