It’s no secret that California has had a rough time the last few years.
Between the drought, the fires, and the fact that everyone in the world wans to be here, I’ll admit, I started looking at California with jaded eyes.
As someone who grew up just outside of the perfection that is Yosemite, I always had an appreciation for nature. I had the opportunity to admire California’s rolling green hills, I experienced all four seasons where I lived, and I always knew I was lucky. Anybody I’ve met during the course of my life has told me how fortunate I was to claim this as my home state.
The older I got, however, the more I started to disagree.
When the green hills started browning and the state became covered in plumes of smoke, my opinions started to change. The beauty that had defined the state since its discovery was no no longer at the forefront of why people chose to come here. People thought we only consisted of Hollywood, the palm trees, and considered us a place made of money.
While that may be true in a certain area of the state, it certainly doesn’t hold true for the rest of it.
Misconceptions of California
During my time in New Zealand, I was constantly bombarded with questions and comments about California.
“Is everybody just like the Kardashians?”
“Is the sun really always shining?”
“Are there seriously palm trees just, like, everywhere?”
“Oh, my God, I want to go to LA, San Diego, and San Francisco!”
Not one single person let me go without at least one question about California (or American politics, but that’s a completely separate issue.)
Hearing the misconceptions about what people thought California was disheartened me a little. It’s not that the questions, comments, or desired points of interest weren’t untrue or bad. I just always felt that people didn’t realize that there’s so much more.
The Difference Between the Dead State and the Live State
For those who don’t know, the drought and the forest fires were seriously no joke.
When people asked me all these questions about California, I always stressed how unfortunate a constant supply of sun is. Sure, a stockpile of rainy days can get dank and depressing, but when the sun is literally scorching the land around you, that isn’t fun anymore, either.
I hated watching California die. That was how the forest fires felt to me. I came home to visit my family during my trek in New Zealand, and there was a fire in my backyard. When I returned from New Zealand and moved back to my old stomping grounds in Monterey, the Soberanes fire started. On top of the Soberanes, it seemed like every time I looked at any news in 2016 in California, something was burning somewhere.
The state that was such an angelic state descended straight into the fiery pits of hell.
And then something happened:
If I could just stare at you with wide eyes and no words, that would describe the winter of 2016/17.
We went from fires to flooding in the blink of an eye. The sun disappeared behind darkened clouds, and we all found ourselves rapidly begging to have our sunshine back.
After the Floods
While Josh and I planned our trip, my warnings about what he should expect in California varied. When we first started planning in the summer, everything was burning. As we continued our plans into the winter and Josh got his visa, it flooded.
The floods got in the way of our chance to see Big Sur, it almost cut us out of Southern California, and it almost impeded our chances of going to the California Capitol in Sacramento.
When Josh arrived, however, the sun came back.
Spring blossomed around us, and as we drove through the state, my eyes stayed wide and my mouth stayed open.
I now must say this:
The State has been Reborn
Like Fawkes the Phoenix, California burned down to its ashes and rebirthed itself.
There’s no other way to describe it.
Everything seems to have restored back to the days of what I remember during my childhood. Even more so, in places like the Grapevine. (Seriously, did anybody else know the Grapevine could be green? Because when it is… Whoa.)
I felt proud to call this my home state. Everything was fresh, new, and gave me an entirely new perspective about the state I grew up in.
Looking at California with a New Perspective
In many ways, I felt like part of me was reborn with California.
I had spent so much time, as had many other Californians, watching the state deteriorate.
Not due to any political or economic issues, which the whole world faces, but the natural disasters.
There was nothing any of us could do as we watched the state dry up and burn (except get better at conservation, but again, separate issue.)
A little bit of rain, however, can go quite a long way, and I can’t help but shout to the world how great California really is.
Places of Interest
Please, everybody, if nothing else, realize this one thing:
There is more to this state than LA, San Diego, and San Francisco.
Please read that sentence again. And again.
Josh and I obviously hit all three of those cities, and it isn’t as though you shouldn’t, as long as you realize there’s more to California. At that, you can really skip LA, because even now, that’s the only place in this state I hate.
However, if you’d like to check out other (potentially better) places, add the following to your itinerary:
Joshua Tree National Park
If nothing else, the drive into it (especially if you’re coming from San Diego) makes it worth it. If you’re traveling with a dog like we are, you can’t really hike on the trails (same as any National Park unfortunately) but you can still drive through it.
Although people could say this is personal bias since I grew up here, I have to say I disagree. Everybody loves Yosemite. Josh even named it as his favorite spot in California. It’s highly worth seeing at least once, and if you have to choose between this and Los Angeles, do yourself a favor and opt for the fresh air.
This could be one of the best drives I’ve ever seen in my life. It runs parallel to the 101 on the way into Humboldt, and it is one of the most incredible drives we’ve done so far on this trip. If you’re lucky, you may even get to drive through it on a foggy day like we did for an added dramatic affect.
If you’re into the beach scene, Pismo is exactly how I picture the perfect beach town to be. While you’re there, don’t miss out on any opportunity to try out the award-winning clam chowder from the Splash Cafe.
We haven’t gone to Lake Tahoe yet, but we will be hitting it on the way back. It’s just not included because I don’t have a picture to go with it yet, but Lake Tahoe has a highly honorable mention until the trip concludes 🙂
Things to Remember on Your Trip
One thing I think people underestimate the most about California is its size.
San Francisco is not a “quick” day trip to Los Angeles. You can do it, yes, but that’ll take you about a solid 8-10 hours. Unless they build this underground system that’s in talks.
When planning your trip, do your best to split activities between “Northern” and “Southern” California. The North is where all of the mountains are, and the South is where all of the sun and desert areas are.
They each have something special to offer, but they are polar opposite from each other.
No matter what, California is sure to leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.