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Introducing Gold Country

Hollywood draws the dreamers and Silicon Valley its fortune-hunters, but this isn't the first time droves of young folk looking to hit paydirt streamed into the Golden State. After a sparkle in the American River caught James Marshall’s eye in 1848, more than 300,000 hungry prospectors from America and abroad started digging for gold in the Sierra foothills. Soon California entered statehood with the official motto, 'Eureka,' solidifying its place as the land of discovery and opportunity.

The miner '49ers are gone, but a ride along the aptly named Hwy 49 through sleepy hill towns, past clapboard saloons and oak-lined byways, is a journey back to the wild ride that was modern California’s founding. Between the quaint antique stores and sprawling wineries, fading historical markers still tell tales of Gold Rush violence and banditry. Many travelers hardly hit the brakes while rushing between California’s coasts and mountains, but those who slow down will be rewarded with a taste of the helter-skelter era that first kick-started the heartbeat of this state.