NOT A QUIZ: Look, we're not trying to put you on the spot here, and what we're about to ask definitely has a number of right answers that come with a veritable rainbow of arguments. But if we were to put to you this question -- "what has been the most seminal year in California history in, say, the last couple of centuries?" -- would you answer 1849? Many might, and with good reason: An influx of people, all with gargantuan, gold-hued dreams, arrived in the region practically all at once, and practically all things changed forever. More than that, things changed rather quickly (San Francisco, for one, swelled seemingly overnight, population-wise, or at least overhalfayear, give or take). It's no wonder, then, that history buffs and Golden State students and those interested in how short periods of time impact long periods of time regularly gather to consider parts of the Gold Rush, consider in glorious, costume-wearing fashion. More than consider, though: they gather to re-enact. And that's what a whole wagonload of '49-focused history fans'll be doing in Death Valley from Wednesday, Nov. 6 through Sunday, Nov. 10 at the '49ers Annual Encampment.
FIDDLIN' TO GOLD PANNIN': There'll be several thematic happenings during the five-day national park-set festivities, including, you guessed it, the panning for gold. But the highlight that many people come for during the 64-year-strong gathering is the wagon train and horseback riders. They'll be rumbling in on Friday, Nov. 8, hearkening back to when a similar group of adventurers did just that over a century and a half ago. Eager to see this hardscrabble, history-making, and rather epic slice of Californiadom? The Ranch at Furnace Creek has a package on just for '49ers. It includes "a one-year membership in the Death Valley '49ers" and three nights at the Ranch, plus some extra goodies. Did we hear you say "yee-haw"? Yes, we believe we actually did.