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Last Friday while on vacation in the mountains, my family took a day trip to the town of Murphys. We make the drive from Tuolumne to Calaveras county almost every year when we're up there. Though historic like its neighboring towns, Murphys is a little more upscale. It's a big wine-tasting place: in the Sierra Nevada Adventure Co., I saw a shirt that said "Save the Earth. It's the only planet with grapes."

After lunch at Firewood, my family sat in the shade by Murphys creek, which runs through a park behind the main street. My sister and I waded in its waters, and we read our various books at a picnic table. The library is right across the creek from the park, so my dad and I ventured in, since we'd never been in before. They had the same Miwok book that my friend Alexys's grandmother let me borrow. It was printed at Columbia Junior College and can't be found online.

We spent some time in Sustenance Books, on the main road in Murphys. It's a delightful little new and used bookstore with aisles of books and encouraging environmental bumper stickers. When I told the owner that I didn't need a bag, she said "there should be more people like you." She had an adorable yellow lab puppy named Foster, who kept trying to unravel the rug with his teeth. My sister PawPrint had eyes only for the dog; she didn't even approach the bookshelves.

I bought two books at the store: It Will Live Forever: Traditional Yosemite Acorn Preparation by Beverly R. Ortiz, as told by Julia F. Parker, and Yosemite Valley, California (Images of America series) by Leroy Radanovich. I haven't begun reading the acorn preparation book, but I have looked through all the photographs of the Native Americans in the Yosemite Valley book. I've seen many of the pictures in my research of the Sierra Nevada tribes, but it's nice to have them all in one place.

Murphys has a wall called "Wall of Comparative Ovations." The entire wall is lined with plaques, pictures and descriptions, of various "clampers." I took pictures of people I recognized or interesting/funny plaques. The wall is maintained by members of the E Clampus Vitus of Murphys. (Click the photographs to enlarge them.)

Our real reason for coming to Murphys was to attend Murphys Creek Theater's production of A Midsummer Nights Dream that evening. After picking up some picnic food at Sierra Hills Market, we drove down the winding road into the little valley that contains Albeno Munari Vineyard and Winery (formerly Stevenot). On the grounds of the winery is a grassy area with a tiered ground. A stage sits level with the lowest tier, and the knoll is surrounded by trees. Most years we attend a performance here, arriving early to enjoy a picnic.

This production of Midsummer was creatively set in 19th century Murphys. The Athenians were Murphys townspeople. The fairies were Native Americans. Of the many performances and settings I've seen of this play, I have to say, this setting was by far my favorite--and not just because I'm interested in Native American culture. It completely worked with the play, especially having fairies as Native Americans since they live in the woods. Oberon, King of the Fairies, wore a replica feather headband, a traditional piece of Miwok dance regalia. The girl fairies wore the somewhat stereotypical Native American "deerskin" dresses, but it worked for the sake of simplicity. The one thing that bothered me was that one of the fairy girls had a bow and arrow. Women weren't allowed to touch or use weapons like that in traditional Native American culture, at least not in the native Miwok culture. Other than that, I found it worked quite well. The acting, directing and set were awesome! The familiar script came alive with allusions that took on new meaning with unique direction, and the director silently added new movement to the show, like a gun-twirling stand-off between Lysander and Demetrius. And as always with Murphys Creek Theater productions, the stars were twinkling at intermission and the cool night air was delightful throughout the performance!

Oberon and Puck

Titania with Bottom and the fairies

The Athenians Lysander, Demetrius, Hermia, and Helena asleep on the forest floor. The fairies helping Titania and Bottom get to sleep. Notice the conical bark homes, considered traditional of the Miwok and Ahwahneechee. (However, they may not have been traditional before easy access to cedar when the white man came to the area. Traditionally, brush homes were built. Though less durable, they were easier to make and the materials were more readily available.)

If by random chance you're in the Murphys area today or tomorrow, I highly recommend seeing the show. You can buy tickets here.

Thanks for reading!
Green Gal


  1. Hey! I DID look at the book shelves. :) Great post! I loved the puppies

  2. Nice recap of our trip to Murphys. It's always a favorite trip for me and Pam during that week. Your recounting of the play is excellent. You should write reviews professionally!

  3. Your post tells me that Murphys is a great little town with character. I loved the wall.

  4. Puppy or books, hey I would have struggled deciding which one as well.

    The "Wall of Comparative Ovations" is amazing, I loved all your photographs of the plaques.

    I've seen a theatre play outside in one of the Botanic gardens a long time ago, it was wonderful expereince, I enjoyed it far more than those indoors.

    Thank you for sharing your lovely photographs, but also your trip.


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