Written by Ken Perkins, who is almost a native Northern Californian.

San Franciscans think their City by the Bay is the most important place in Northern California. Maybe in the whole state, and the Postal Service seems to agree with them.

Take a look at this stamp: the bridge taking up most of the stamp is the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The city skyline is San Francisco’s…you can tell by the TransAmerica Pyramid building at the far right. The palm trees tucked into the upper right corner are supposed to represent Catalina Island off the Southern California coast. And the California Poppies at the lower left are the state flower. The stamp might as well say ‘Welcome to San Francisco’…after all, San Francisco’s Embarcadero has palm trees too!

Northern California is much more than just one city. Just south of San Francisco lies Silicon Valley, centered around Cupertino and Stanford University. If you’ve got any kind of smartphone, tablet, computer, or game machine, there’s a good chance it was designed in Silicon Valley. Many cities around San Francisco Bay are home to companies and universities involved in genetic research and engineering.

East of San Francisco, you can visit Sutter’s Mill on the South Fork of the American River in Coloma where in January of 1848, a few flakes of gold were discovered by James Marshall while the lumber mill was being built. The gold find started the Gold Rush of 1849, and over the next 7 years over 300,000 people came by land and sea to California. Folks who came for gold in 1849 were called ‘49ers’, long before the football team borrowed the name. Old mines and a few active ones are still visible in the Sierra foothills east of California’s capital, Sacramento. So are some of the huge piles of gravel left behind by the later placer mining operations.

Not everyone came looking for gold. If you wear denim Levis, you’re wearing a cloth originally meant for the tents of the 49ers. Levi Strauss came west to run his family’s store and discovered his blue denim cloth made fine tough pants for the hard-working miners…the cloth didn’t work too well for tents anyway.

The far north of California includes two now-dormant volcanoes: Mts Shasta and Lassen. And on the northern coast, you find the world’s tallest redwoods in cool, foggy forests. Which brings us back to San Francisco where looking out at the wide Pacific Ocean from Land’s End, you can imagine the long gone Ohlone Indians singing of ‘Dancing on the edge of the world’.

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