Archives for posts with tag: California

This month, I returned to Oakland, California, to visit an elderly aunt and cousins of a friend of mine.  As an Okie, California is the land where people from my state went in hopes of a better life when the seemingly never-ending days of dust storms and depression wore them down.  Today, I survey the crazy state of California with love and wonder and, always, a shake of my head.  What a place of natural wonders, bountiful harvests, oceans, mountains, deserts and total craziness.  That’s just the Okie in me speaking, of course.

Oakland is across the bay from San Francisco and my friends live high above the city, up curvy, narrow streets, in the Piedmont Hills area, maybe beyond that.  These Okies moved here after the war, World War II, and purchased the place for $15,000.  They also purchased the lot next door and planted the giant redwoods that tower above them today.  The lots seem to go straight down.  I guess all the coastal people who live on the sides of hills want to be there, even though it’s a long drive up, not to mention bike ride or hike, to the nearest store or, coming up the hills, for help to arrive in case of emergency.  But Californians are outdoors people.  They ride horses, bikes and hike everywhere.  I’m digressing because I really want to share this fun trip with you.  I got to do so many interesting things that it will take a few blogs to do it justice, things that aren’t always on the top of the tourist list.  This was more about exploring.

First, I want to share the beauty of the home we stayed in.  When you drive up, all you see is the garage.  When you look out the front door, here is the view…where is the street?  Just keep going up the stairs…maybe 30 of them.  Imagine getting your groceries down there – or furniture or anything else.  IMG_7283The other side of the house shows the three levels.  There is an apartment 10 steps down and then the main level another 15 steps down.  You can get to the bedroom level down another staircase and then to the rest of the yard, which then goes down, down, down into thick growth.  Here are the stairs that I walked up over and over in the dark and rain from the main level to the apartment to the street.  You do adjust…DSC_0276You know what?  It’s a magical place.  The trees alone are incredible, planted by arborists when these hills were first populated.  Before then, the hills, these steep hills were clear.  I can tell you that planning a house on a steep hill is something that doesn’t appeal to me, no matter how many beautiful homes I’ve seen in the Hollywood Hills, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, Oregon.  I’m not enough of a mountain goat.  But, then there are these signs we passed every day, curving up the road to the house…DSC_0273 DSC_0272 DSC_0409And the wonder of hearing a rustle beside you as a mother and fawn wander into the patch of yard…DSC_0161And, the best part of this place is the incredible view, the view that mesmerizes you every minute of the day as it changes and changes and changes.  I couldn’t walk anywhere without my camera, trying to capture any of its beauty.  My hostess said she has never tired of this view she grew up with.  You look over Oakland, over to San Francisco, with Oakland Bay bridge and the Golden Gate bridge in the distance.  DSC_0566DSC_0574DSC_0566DSC_0672And, sometimes, this was the view…IMG_7331I’ve been to Muir Woods and heard my hosts talk of the big Redwoods right up the hill from their home.  For some reason, we didn’t realize that there is a park, a beautiful regional park, a few blocks from this home where these now middle aged Californians, born of Oklahoma parents, grew up, riding their horses and hiking all the day long.  In this park are the remnants of some of the largest California Redwoods, once so tall that they were seen from the sea and used by the sailors to navigate the area.  The trees were logged after the San Francisco fire and after the quakes, but are now protected.  This was a hidden gem during our stay, a place to walk where the big trees once stood and where their offspring shoot up around the former stumps, forming circles of trees, called “Fairy Rings.”  Once you understand why the trees are in circles, you can stand inside the ring and envision the size of these giants.  You can look up to see the light and stand in the forest, imagining the forest as it once was.  DSC_0165DSC_0167
DSC_0193DSC_0178DSC_0167And so the latest California adventure began…with the view and in the trees.  Hope you’ll share the rest of the trip with me.


California – I keep going back there.  Not that it’s the most beautiful state or has the greatest history or the greatest people or the greatest anything other than maybe the greatest diversity of everything.  I’ve traveled all over it in winter, summer and spring, seen it in its many colors, met the people along the way.  It’s a place where everything changes as you go down the road.  You leave a city and are in a desert or on a mountain or on the shore. It’s got it all in one big melting pot of people who vary from region to region. California could be three or four states, each individual. It’s bounded by the Sierras on the east and the Pacific on the west with bountiful valleys and mountain ranges in between.

After driving over 1,800 miles around the state in the last few weeks, here are some of my favorite spring images that speak better than I can write.

In the Spring, the hills that are golden in the summer have a fresh green…

IMG_4746El Mirage still holds that never catchable lake in the distance…

DSC_0264Death Valley is still desolate…

DSC_0324 DSC_0306DSC_0330…but there are flowers where only baked rocks exist in the heat of summer.


DSC_0394The Sierras suddenly come into view, rising out of the ground in a never ending ridge north.

DSC_0437And skiers rush to mountains that received 22 inches of snow the night before – in April and May…DSC_0483 DSC_0493 - Version 2There’s the perfection of Lake Tahoe…

DSC_0579the beauty of the Sierras with the spring thaw filling the creeks and rivers…DSC_0599 DSC_0617DSC_0619…and flowers that bring color to the hills.DSC_0652The buildings of the little mining towns give a sense of the excitement of the history of the area from San Francisco to Sacramento to Nevada.  You can visualize the wagon trains, the Pony Express riders, the stagecoaches, and the first railroads that brought people from the east.  You can see the places Mark Twain made famous and picture the characters who lived this life.

DSC_0685 DSC_0700And then you reach the coast and its giant Coastal Redwoods.  My visit to Muir Woods was a complement to my visits to Yosemite and the Sequoias in past visits.DSC_0790And then it’s the California coast, from the bay area…DSC_0903 DSC_0959…to the beaches…from Pacifica to kite surfing and sailboarding meccas…DSC_0981 DSC_0996to sunsets…DSC_1012to Big Sur in all its beauty…

DSC_1023 DSC_0007The wildlife is abundant, seals, otters, whales, and the ever delightful elephant seals…DSC_0091_2DSC_0065…and animals we were promised but never saw…
DSC_1021Southern California beaches had birds and dunes to climb…DSC_0111_2 DSC_0131_2Here’s to the best restaurant name ever – in Lompoc.  Too bad it closed.IMG_4742And back to Los Angeles, city of dreams, freeways, and endless fascination.DSC_0104Cheers to California with all its natural wonders, it bounty of natural resources, and the people who make it even more interesting.  Spring with the California poppies blooming everywhere is truly a delight.DSC_0028_2


Places that restore my soul definitely include beaches ever since I saw my first one when I was about 10. That was Boca Raton, Florida and we looked for shells back when you could find lots of big ones, went crabbing, my brother got stung by a Man o’War, and we learned about tides and undertows.

Since then, I’ve been to other beaches in Florida, beaches in Mexico, the Caribbean, Spain, California, Virginia, Mississippi, Hawaii, and Oregon. Probably others, too!

When I hit a beach, I walk, looking out to sea. I look down to see what has washed up. I pick up shells, rocks, driftwood, sand dollars, whatever I find. I know the names of lots of shells, refreshed when I go each time. I watch for ships, boats, whales, dolphins, sharks, fish, birds. I watch the sky, the water, the sand and rocks.

I feel small at the beach, less than a grain of sand, and that gives me peace. I am of the universe, of nature. All problems are small, all life is part of the ebb and flow of the sea.

I walk, I think, I remember, I take pictures. Here are some of my favorites…

Naples, Florida in the morning…


Naples, Florida at sunset…


My first view of an Oregon beach…


Elephant Seals in California…


California coast


Cannon Beach, Oregon from Ecola Park…


I’m on the Oregon coast now, never tiring of the ever changing shore, the pounding waves, the variety of beaches. I’m at peace in my heart…


El Mirage, California, was a place I’d always heard about but didn’t really understand.  It’s basically a 6 mile long dry lake used by by fans of off-road vehicles and seen in movies, car commercials and ad shots.


What I really wasn’t prepared for was how much fun it was.  When you drive up, it looks like…well, it looks like a flat desert.  You can see dusters forming in the distance, fascinating twisters of dirt rising up from the ground to create funnels that race across the landscape. They’re not like the tornadoes of Oklahoma that form in the sky and drop down to scoop up everything in their path.


When you drive at El Mirage, you can literally chase the lake…or the mirage of the lake.  You can drive as fast as you can and never catch it. It’s always up ahead of you.  I’m not the greatest thrill seeker…I hate heights…but I do like to go fast.  At El Mirage, you can drive as fast as you want to because there is nothing to run into unless there are other drivers out there.  You can go in circles, drive straight ahead, anything you can imagine.  As fast as you can…  We saw a couple of motorcycle drivers, but it was quiet on the day we were there.  It was a beautiful California sunshine day with a wide open desert, mountains in the background, dusters forming and all you had to do was press the accelerator and go!  Awesome fun!