Hollywood draws the dreamers and Silicon Valley lures fortune-hunters, but this isn't the first time droves of aspiring young folk have streamed into the Golden State. After a sparkle in the American River caught James Marshall’s eye in 1848, more than 300,000 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 opportunity.
The miner forty-niners are gone, but a ride along 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: umpteen historical markers 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 do are rewarded with a taste of the helter-skelter era that kick-started the heartbeat of this state.