I was born and raised in California and lived there a total of 37 out of my 61 years, and yet there were places I had never seen till this trip. With the luxury of time on my side, I traveled slowly, becoming a tourist in my native state. I was here three months and still didn’t see it all, but what I did see made me proud of California’s natural beauty. We have mountains and oceans, redwoods and deserts, big cities and wide open spaces. It’s an amazing state. This, then, is my tribute to California in 10 of my favorite images from my travels.
The northern part of the state has mountains, big rivers and tall forests.
The redwoods are awe-inspiring and the time I spent walking the trails through an old growth section of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State and National Park will remain in my memory forever as a magical day.
Growing up near the coast, I have always loved the ocean and California beaches, north or south, always feel like home. This shot of Sonoma State Beach is one I love because most of the coast along this section is all state-owned, a tribute to the hard work and long-standing commitment of the California Coastal Commission to ensure that the coast belongs to all the people and not just the wealthy.
Being a coastal child, I didn’t explore much of the inland parts of California, so my stay at Pine Flat Lake, an Army Corps of Engineers site, was a revelation. It’s a beautiful spot in the western foothills of the Sierras and I thoroughly enjoyed my impromptu stay there.
Yes, another beach picture! This one, from Half Moon Bay, signifies all the beach walking I’ve done, sometimes with friends deep in conversation and sometimes by myself, working out grief or future plans. Something about the tide and the waves going in and out, day after day, calms me, as if the water in my own body finds synchronicity with the salt water.
Some of the time in California was difficult, more than I had expected, because places and things reminded me of my Dad. This photo, showing Morro Rock and the nearby power plant, echoed a trip my family took when I was 7 or 8 going up the coast to see Hearst Castle.
In some ways, this trip through California has been a long goodbye to my Dad, seeing places one more time, knowing I couldn’t call him to say “guess where I am right now” and then exchange memories of road trips past. Hearst Castle was one of our big family road trips, back in the day when anyone could drive their car right up to the top and park and walk in.
One place we never went together was Death Valley. As a kid, I wasn’t much interested in deserts. They were the opposite of beaches and oceans and so sounded boring – dry, colorless, and hot. I realized after two days in Death Valley that I was in love with the place, much to my surprise. I drove all over, from Titus Canyon to Badwater, Devil’s Golf Course to Artists Drive to Dante’s view, and was constantly amazed by how the stark geology and light combine to make beautiful images. This one from Ubehebe Crater is one of my favorites.
Another surprising day trip was seeing the Trona Pinnacles, well worth the five miles of rocky unpaved road to get there. California is full of unexpected moments, and this was one of my favorites, especially since I shared it with my cousins and a friend over a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.
I ended up my tour of California at Joshua Tree, a high desert (4000 feet elevation), where I was once again amazed at how gorgeous the combination of desert land and open sky can be. I never thought of myself as a desert rat, but I believe I’m being converted into one.
Thanks for the beautiful show, California, and thank you to all those, past, present, and future, who work to protect and care for our natural spaces. We need them, now more than ever. We will never not need wild places and open spaces and California has both in abundance.
When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.