Something I love about Calaveras County in California is the way it intercedes with Mark Twain’s personal story. Mark Twain is one of the most prolific writers in United States history, but most people don’t think about California when they hear his name, I know I never did. I was surprised to learn that the first story that put him on the map was a story about jumping frogs that he wrote that while living in a cabin in Calaveras County. I set out to learn more about it, and here are a few of the highlights if you want to do the same.
- Takes about 2 hours
- Information from my visit in 2016
Mark Twain’s Cabin
The trip begins on the road between Murphy’s and Jamestown. If you are heading south on Highway 49, then you will pass a large bridge and start to head up into the hills surrounding the area. From here, you will see a sign for Mark Twain’s cabin, which is at the address of 20777 Jackass Hill Rd, Sonora, CA 95370. After turning off the main road and driving back about 1 mile, you will reach the cabin. The cabin is a replica as the original cabin no longer stands. That being said, it is still really cool to see the way a famous author like Mark Twain lived. The cabin is entirely surrounded by a gate to keep people out, so it is not as fun to explore as I was hoping. There is a plaque that talks about the history though, and it was a good way to connect with the author’s California life.
From here head down into the town of Angels Camp, which is where the jumping frogs from his story live on. The city has wholly embraced the jumping frog history for the better part of the last century and, to this day, have a yearly fair where people from all over the world come to bring their frogs and try to scare them into jumping.
The city of Angels Camp has a small downtown with much of it paying homage to the frogs.
They even have a frog walk of fame with names and silhouettes of frogs in the ground to commemorate the winner from each year’s fair. I saw frogs that dated back to the 1930s.
There is also a small visitor center where you can buy a copy of the original story if you are not familiar with it and any other frog-related merchandise you can imagine. I enjoyed looking at photos of the different frogs and talking to the people there about how the competition works. I can’t wait to get up and see it with my own eyes.
The businesses also embrace the unique frog history with a painted wall on the old bank building and even a few frog statues out near the real estate office.
Lastly, a bronze frog is standing on the historical marker pillar near the downtown parking lot. The marker will tell you about the area’s history and provide an excellent photo opportunity. As you can see, this is a super fun way to explore literary history in California. I enjoyed learning more about Mark Twain and the way the town of Angels Camp has taken the frog story to heart. I picked up a copy of the story at the visitor’s center so that I could read it on my drive home, and I would encourage you to do the same. Be sure to check it out if you are in the area.