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Heart of the Gold Country: pan for gold or just soak in the rewarding scenery along this incomparable drive.

* DRIVING DISTANCE: 227mi/363km round trip

* DURATION: several days

* DON'T MISS: Apple Hill, Kirkwood, Sutter Creek

* DID YOU KNOW: More than half of the gold mined in the Mother Lode came out of Amador County.

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SACRAMENTO. Head east on Hwy. 50 to ...

FOLSOM (22mi/35km). Historic Old Folsom is an antique collector's dream. Nearby is the 18,000-acre Folsom Lake SRA, with camping, fishing, and boating facilities. Continue on to ...

SHINGLE SPRINGS (16mi/26km). You can still see the brick walls of the shingle mill built here in 1849; the spring flowing under it is the other reason for the town's name. Continue on to ...

PLACERVILLE (9mi/14km). Historic sites and epicurean delights await visitors to this Gold Rush-era community. Turn south on Hwy. 49 to Sutter Creek, or continue east on Hwy. 50 to ...

CAMINO (8mi/13km). Camino originated as the Seven Mile Station on the Placerville-Lake Tahoe state route. Watch for the turnoff to ...

APPLE HILL (2mi/3km). Throughout the year, Farm Trails point the way to a myriad of farms, wineries, and ranches open to the public. Continue east on Hwy. 50 to ...

POLLOCK PINES (5mi/8km). From here to Echo Summit you'll pass several entrances to Desolation Wilderness, a popular backpacking area (permits required). Continue to ...

STRAWBERRY (27mi/43km). It lies in a magnificent setting at the foot of Lover's Leap. At Hwy. 89, head south to ...

ECHO SUMMIT (8mi/13km). The elevation here is 7,382 feet; in the next 10 miles you will be descending about 1,200 feet along Hwy. 88 as you drive west to ...

KIRKWOOD (7mi/11km). A major year-round resort, featuring tennis and horseback riding in the summer. Drive on to ...

SILVER LAKE (4mi/6km). One of the major gateways to the Mokelumne Wilderness. Continue west on Hwy. 88 to ...

PIONEER (40mi/64km). A lumber company here once furnished two-thirds of the cedar pencil stock in the United States. Continue west on Hwy. 88 to ...

JACKSON (14mi/22km). At the junction of Hwys. 88 and 49, Jackson is filled with antiques stores, specialty shops, and restaurants. From here, turn north on Hwy. 49 to ...

SUTTER CREEK (5mi/8km). This town is in the heart of Amador County, which is known as the "Golden Heart of the Mother Lode." The Sutter Gold Mine is open for underground tours. Nearby towns like Fiddletown, Volcano, Drytown, Amador City, and Plymouth offer visual reminders of the Gold Rush era. Continue north on Hwy. 49 to Placerville, or take Hwy. 16 west back to ...

SACRAMENTO (45mi/72km).
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Title Annotation:Special Advertising Feature
Publication:Sunset
Article Type:Advertisement
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2004
Words:424
Previous Article:High country: don't forget your camera as you drive past this route's numerous natural wonders.
Next Article:Southern gateways: this easy loop leads from the Central Valley to Yosemite, and back again.
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