The first official excursion of the Order of the Zombie was held on a beautiful April day. What better place to go on a lovely spring day than a cemetery – and an old, somewhat neglected cemetery at that?
Our destination, Placerville’s Old City Cemetery, doesn’t even merit a spot on Google maps. It’s small and somewhat isolated, located on a narrow road far above the town once known ominously as Hangtown. I’d been here once before, on November 12, 1994, to be exact. My memories were of a dark, hidden graveyard. I was curious to see how the place had changed over the years.
The trip was uneventful, but we got turned around a few times when we reached the town. We finally made our way up the hill and parked in front of the nice wooden fence that signaled “small town cemetery.” A small plaque informed us that the cemetery had been restored in 2004, and it did, indeed, look better than I remembered. Headstones, however, wear down from the elements regardless of human intervention, and the ones we found were in varying states of decay. A few were relatively sharp, but most were eroded or broken. Many had been embedded flat in concrete in an effort to prevent further damage.
As I said, my previous trip had been in November, and the cemetery had been covered with damp leaves that day. Today Wire and Lor and I found dense thickets of wildflowers. The effect was pretty, but it made walking a little tricky. Several times I found myself sinking into…what? Hmmm…
We spent several hours investigating this little gem overlooking Placerville. The headstones seem to be planted every which way, with no defined paths or family plots. A few remnants of Victorian metal fencing wrapped around some headstones, but for the most part the graves appeared to be randomly placed. I wrote down a lot of names and dates because I plan to do some research. This cemetery is full of mysteries waiting to be discovered.
Before leaving Sacramento we’d stopped at a supermarket to get sandwiches for lunch. Lor had wisely noted that we’d have to wait a long time for a table in a restaurant, as Placerville is a tourist destination and a lunchtime stop for skiers headed to the mountains. A picnic lunch with sandwiches would do just fine. We left the Old City Cemetery and, after a few wrong turns, found Lumsden Park. We threw a blanket on the ground next to a pond, in the presence of ducks and a rambunctious puppy named Princess, and chowed down. The day was so nice, we decided to check out another cemetery before heading home. Union Cemetery, here we come…
What a contrast to the Old City Cemetery! The Union Cemetery is large and immaculately tended. We found some monuments from the 1870s and ‘80s but for the most part this is a 20th century graveyard. That’s not to say it’s boring; it’s just a different atmosphere. No weeping willows and romantic neglect here, but there’s still plenty to see. We found some fascinating monuments here: a giant slab of stone engraved with the words “A DRUID,” a headstone in the shape of a car tire for a Mustang enthusiast, several modern stones with the deceased’s portrait etched onto the surface, and a tombstone (dedicated to four young siblings) that resembled four side-by-side stones.
Our first outing was about as perfect as a sunny Saturday could be. We’re already planning more trips to cemeteries around northern California, so be sure to check back frequently!