Visiting the Oak of the Golden Dream

I brake for brown signs. Ok. Perhaps I should elaborate. You know those signs along California roadways that point out historic sites? I love those. Every time I pass one I’m instantly interested and often detour just to see what special spot it’s guiding me toward. I’ve discovered so much fascinating history (from the Paramount Hay Tree to Allensworth State Historic Park) through those signs alone. They’re magic. And recently they led me to a brand new, fascinating historic spot – the Oak of the Golden Dream.

Several times while driving along the 14 freeway near Santa Clarita I would see a marker for the Oak of the Golden Dream and was always intrigued. With a name like that how could I not be? Unfortunately, it was always in the evening – not exactly the best time to look at a tree. Finally, my fortunes changed and I happened to be traveling that way in the morning and knew it was finally time to stop.

Oak of the Golden Dream is located in Placerita Canyon – a beautiful park that’s home to numerous hiking trails. One of the trails is the Oak of the Golden Dream Heritage Trail and I figured that would lead me to my destination.

It’s an easy trail that has several informative markers along the way pointing out the natural and commercial history of the area and after quick jaunt I finally came face to face with the Oak of the Golden Dream.

So what makes this particular tree so special? According to legend, in 1842 Francisco Lopez was herding cattle when he stopped under the tree to rest. While napping he dreamed about gold and when he woke up he harvested some nearby wild onions and found the roots covered in it. Of course, the real story is not as exciting as it’s basically that he was searching for gold in the area and finally came across some, but the discovery is significant nevertheless. Remember the date? 1842? That’s 6 years before 1848 and the famed discovery at Sutter’s Mill. So the Oak of the Golden Dream is the site of the first documented discovery of gold in California.

Isn’t that so cool? Because Francisco Lopez petitioned the governor for permission to search for gold in the area (and that petition is currently owned by the Smithsonian) the first “gold rush” happened right here in the LA area. The size of the discovery may not have been as big (only 125 pounds were extracted) and the amount of miners not as huge (only around 2000) but it did come first and that’s something.

There’s a delightful mural near the oak, painted by Rudy Pavini, that details the gold discovery. I love the image of Francisco Lopez holding up his gold covered onions!

In fact, the entire park is a delight with it’s beautiful scenery…

charming gardens…

and informative nature center.

And to think I discovered all this simply by following a freeway marker. Those brown signs are magic, I tell you!



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