I was lucky enough to live for many years in Gold Rush Country, on acreage outside of a small town overlooking the Mokelumne River Valley. There my husband and I raised two wonderful kids, tended a small pistachio orchard, and (over a span of many years) enjoyed the company of two mutts and ten Australian shepherds.
The area where we lived was just off of the old historic road that ran from Stockton to Jackson, California. Tangible pieces of history were everywhere around us. It was very natural for my hubby and me to load the kids in the car and go roaming around the foothills from time to time, looking for the odd, the beautiful, and the historic.
Even before we lived in the area, we'd spent many a summer night camped near the old towns of Volcano, or Jackson, or Sutter Creek. One of my kid's favorite places in the whole world was a little rock shop in Volcano, which had on display (delighted giggles!) petrified dinosaur poop. Ah, kids.
They also loved visiting California Caverns at Cave City where clever Gold-Rush-era residents set up housekeeping inside of a network of caves, and provided themselves with natural air conditioning in the hot foothill summers.
The end-result of all these excursions was the development of a true love for the Gold Rush region. I've worked hard to convey the magic of the area in my books—the rolling hills covered with golden grasses, the huge old oak trees with dusty blue-green leaves, the giant granite boulders littering the landscape, left behind eons ago by melting glaciers.
Well, time goes marching on. The kids have grown up, and the orchard is now receiving tender loving care from new owners. But, from time to time, it is still fun to hop in the car and drive to Jackson, enjoy the scenery, check things out at Hein & Co Used Books, and eat the best-darned chiliburger in the world at Mel and Faye's Diner.