If it’s true that one of the reasons people go to the movies is to see foreign locations they couldn’t otherwise visit, then Gold Country residents and visitors only have to step outside and look around to achieve the same effect. Over the last few years, the area around Ashcroft and Cache Creek alone has been home to several major film and TV productions, with the local landscape standing in for a number of locations, including Afghanistan, Tibet, Texas, Wyoming, and Mexico. Among the actors who’ve starred in these productions are such famous names as Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Lopez, John Cusack, Sarah Polley, Liam Neeson, Woody Harrelson, and Mark Wahlberg.
One of the most popular areas in the region for film crews is the Campbell Hill Airport, just off Highway One between Ashcroft and Cache Creek. Originally developed in 1985, the airport is situated halfway up Campbell Hill, named after local pioneer James Campbell, one-time owner of the Bonaparte House in Cache Creek. It replaced a previous airstrip located on what is now the Eagle Motorplex site near Ashcroft Manor, and its 3300-foot paved airstrip can accommodate commercial jets and turbo prop aircraft. Since 2000 the airport has hosted an annual Mother’s Day Fly-In that attracts dozens of planes, which perform aerial displays and are on view for the hundreds of people who flock to the event.
Situated at an elevation of 2000 feet, the airstrip gives stunning views in several directions. The terrain, with its dry grassland edging into pine forest, also means that it can successfully double for many different places, something filmmakers have been quick to take advantage of. The movies Afghan Luke (2011) and Shooter (2007), as well as the TV mini-series The Andromeda Strain (2007), have used Campbell Hill as a location. However, the 2009 film 2012—directed by Roland Emmerich and starring John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Amanda Peet, and Danny Glover—made extensive use of Campbell Hill in several scenes, with the area doubling for Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
The airstrip can be seen when John Cusack’s character desperately drives his Winnebago—which is on fire, and being pelted with chunks of exploding rock—to where his ex-wife, her boyfriend, and Cusack’s children are waiting for him. The group is attempting to flee from Yellowstone Park as the massive caldera there erupts, and the scene shows the group boarding a small plane and flying out of the region. The north side of the airstrip was also turned into a military station for some scenes. A little further along Campbell Hill Road, towards McLean Lake, is the site of a scene set earlier in the film, when Cusack and his children, camping in Yellowstone Park, meet a character played by Woody Harrelson. Harrelson’s character claims to have knowledge of secret government plans to ensure the survival of humanity should the predictions of the end of the world in 2012 prove to be accurate; the later Yellowstone scene comes after Cusack has returned to Yellowstone to try to get more information.
From Campbell Hill one gets a fine view across Highway One towards Ashcroft of Elephant Mountain, which was the setting used for an early scene in the 2010 film version of The A-Team.
Detailed access information: From Highway One turn onto Patterson Road, just south of the junction of Highway One and Highway 97C.