If I could only travel to just one place for the rest of my life, I would go to California. Roaming around this large and wide-ranging state, I could easily satisfy my wanderlust, while wallowing in the state’s mild Mediterranean weather, and gawking at its astonishing natural beauty. For our next month-at-a-time adventure, Esther and I have selected three locations that exemplify the scenic bounty, recreational rewards, and cultural, historical, and scientific significance of the Golden State.
This Monday, as we turn over the calendar to the month of August, we will leave our humble hometown of Reno, Nevada, and drive about 170 miles (275 km) south along the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada range, to the alpine town of Mammoth Lakes, California. Around Mammoth, August is peak season for hiking, and exploring the local geology and mountain scenery. We hope to clamber over the area’s many volcanic landforms, marinate in its numerous natural hot springs, and follow our trail maps as far as our hiking boots will carry us. Later in the month, we have a high-altitude hiking date with tall and handsome Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the 48 contiguous states.
In September, we will descend to sea level to the chiseled coastline of the Monterey Peninsula. In and around Monterey, we want to follow in the footsteps of the great American author John Steinbeck, become acquainted with the area’s prolific marine life, and make a sacred pilgrimage to the golf mecca of Pebble Beach. At the end of the month, we will coast south down the coast, along the renowned Pacific Coast Highway, passing through Big Sur, on our way to our third California destination.
For the month of October, we will take up residence in Santa Barbara, a well-appointed seaside city, often referred to as the American Riviera. While in Santa Barbara, we hope to lounge on the beach in the shade of a palm tree, seek out the dominant Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style, pay a visit to the best-preserved of California’s twenty-one Spanish missions, and head offshore to discover the Channel Islands National Park.
Indeed, we are fortunate to live next door to the captivating state of California, and extremely lucky to have the opportunity to travel slowly around the state for the next three months. Someday, we hope to take our love of month-at-a-time travel to faraway and exotic foreign destinations. But for now, we are positively thrilled to be going to nearby Mammoth Lakes, Monterey, and Santa Barbara. As the old Al Jolson song enthusiastically proclaims, “California, Here We Come!”
Feature photo credit: Visit Santa Barbara by Mark Weber