Around 150 years before techies from all over the world rushed to California in search of Silicon gold, rough-and-ready “forty-niners” invaded the GOLD COUNTRY of the Sierra Nevada, about 150 miles east of San Francisco, in search of the real thing. The area ranges from the foothills near Yosemite to the deep gorge of the Yuba River two hundred miles north, with Sacramento as its largest city. Many of the mining camps that sprang up around the Gold Country vanished as quickly as they appeared, but about half still survive. Some are bustling resorts, standing on the banks of whitewater rivers in the midst of thick pine forests; others are just eerie ghost towns, all but abandoned on the grassy rolling hills. Most of the mountainous forests along the Sierra crest are preserved as near-pristine wilderness, with excellent hiking and camping. There’s also great skiing in winter, around the mountainous rim of Lake Tahoe on the border between California and Nevada.