Wanderings: California

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Growing up in Texas, I never thought much about California.  I knew it had heat and deserts, oceans and hippies, traffic and urban sprawl, and I had all of those things already, while the things we didn’t have, like mountains and movie stars and earthquakes, didn’t interest me much.  The east coast was what gripped my childhood imagination.  I longed for dense cities, noise, snow, apple cider, seasons, and sweaters, and for the last seven years they’ve been mine all mine.


And yet, 18-months ago, we got the opportunity to spend a lot of time in California, and being the people we are, leapt at the chance to explore a new place in depth.  We visited deserts and mountains, oceans and orange groves, vineyards and ancient forests.  We biked across the foggy coast, visited old missions, kayaked with sea lions, ate ridiculous amounts of fish tacos and roasted artichokes, and listened to the waves crash against the coast again and again.  I’m not sure when California crept into my heart, but slowly I fell for her, hard and unexpectedly.


Now our travels there have finally come to an end, and I’m sad and mournful for California in a way I’ve never been for a place.  I miss the slower speed of life, the dry heat of the desert, and the cool damp of the coast.  I long to drive through eucalyptus groves with the windows down and to smell the strawberries in the air as we pass through the Salinas Valley.  I want to buy giant bags of oranges at roadside stands and I want half the radio stations to be in Spanish.  I miss the mountains and the colors and the Pacific ocean and the palm trees.  Mostly I just want to go back, not for short vacations, but for long stretches of time, maybe forever, and I can’t figure out how to do it.  Someday, maybe I will, but for now, here’s a travelogue of our time on the west coast, my love letter to you, California.

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Monterey

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Carmel-by-the-sea

Santa Cruz

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Drives and Hikes

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Los Angeles

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Sonoma Valley

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Big Sur

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Joshua Tree National Park

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Yosemite National Park

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Sequoia National Park

Orange groves

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I would gladly spend every weekend wandering around my own orange grove, the smell of blossoms thick in the air, intoxicating both me and the thousands of bees buzzing from blossom to blossom.

California.  March 2015.

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California wildflowers

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There are days we live as if death were nowhere
in the background;
from joy to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
-Li-Young Lee
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Farewell, Carmel

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Over the last eighteen months, we’ve spent a lot of time in Carmel-by-the-Sea, eating at great restaurants, admiring all the tiny charming houses, but most of all, loving the beach, with its twisted cypress trees, white sands, and blue-green waters.  At this point, I don’t know when we’ll be able to come back again.  Not too terribly long, I hope. To say goodbye, we gathered a few of our dear ones and enjoyed one last bottle of wine, watching the sun set and listening to the crash of the waves.

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Moro Rock

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A last minute and unexpectedly delightful stop, the climb up Moro Rock was heart-pounding, and the sheer drops over the side of the rock made my knees wobbly if I looked down too long.  At 6,700 ft, the views were stunning, shifting and opening-up again and again as you zigzagged your way up the rock.  It was lovely to look out over the expanse of forest and valley, and to have a last glimpse at the Sierra Nevadas in the distance.

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The giant forest

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One of the more magical afternoons we’ve had in California was spent hiking in a quiet forest of glowing giants.  The air was crisp and the light was golden, and every time we came upon another giant copse of sequoia, it was all I could do not to lie down on the springy pads of pine needles at their feet, and, surrounded by my fortress of giants, stare up at the treetops until I drifted off to sleep

Sequoia National Park, California.  March 2015.

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Girl in the grove

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Sequoia National Park, California.  March 2015.

Roots

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Sequoia National Park, California.  March 2015.

Fallen giants

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King’s Canyon National Park, California.  March 2015.

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