DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK... is often described as "empty," and that's just about right. Those long vistas and huge horizons and mega stretches of nothingness (which are actually full of everythingness, flora- and fauna-wise) can seem a mite lonely, and even like a place plucked from some distant, not-yet-settled planet. Of course, the wondrous desert area's oft-repeated reputation for empty-a-tude isn't quite accurate, and it definitely was not when prospectors and miners and settlers entered the scene back in the 1800s. They were on the search for a new life, and, yes, whatever shiny stuff the ground might yield, though why people poured into the Golden State is a tale with thousands of beginnings and a multitude of endings. Those tales are revisited each November via The Annual '49ers Encampment, a history-filled festivity that ponders the moment when people arrived on the search for gold, including those who first made their way through Death Valley.
A WESTERN ART SHOW, "gold panning lessons, poker games, fiddlers' contests" and more merry doings than you can fit inside a borax barrel are on the Nov. 9 through 13 horizon, and the nightly music shows are major highlights. If you book a package at The Ranch at Furnace Creek or The Inn at Furnace Creek — the two stays right in the Encampment's neck o' the woods (or desert, rather) — you'll nab a "(o)ne-year family membership in the Death Valley '49ers." Attending the events, and some other perks, are part of the package, so find your best gold-panning duds and suit up for a true, tale-packed slice of California's not-so-long-ago past.