Recently I took a short road trip with my mom. She is originally from Brooklyn, but like me she grew up with an appreciation for nature, despite being a city girl. At one point during our long drive I turned and asked her what her favorite 3 places are in California. She has lived in California for close to 40 years and between us we have seen a great deal of it. So I had to smile to myself when she listed the exact three places I had in mind as my favorites; Yosemite, Sequoia National Forest, and the trip we were on, the Pacific Coast Highway.
Yosemite was one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been. I hiked, rode a cruiser bike around and just wandered aimlessly through the streams and fields. There were of course other tourists there, but perhaps it was the stunning beauty of it that made me barely notice any crowds. I was so lost in this place in the best sense of the word. I remember vividly following a stream and coming into a clearing that looked like a Thomas Kincade photo. Sharp colored green grass, slow moving water passing over the stones and then a mountain face that just demanded your undivided attention. I must have lay there in the grass for hours just staring at the blue sky up above and looking left and right in disbelief of my surroundings. I didn’t know California could be so beautiful.
The Sequoia National Forest is a sight to behold as well. Without getting too religious, it is one of those places that has the beauty and size to make you feel so small and question all of creation. If you’ve ever heard the song How I Know God is Real by India Arie, this is exactly how I felt walking amongst these giant trees. Just looking at the size of the roots left me in awe. I hiked through some pristine trails and was transported to the frontier. All around me were these majestic trees and the occasional log cabin, deer or bear. Yes, bear! I saw the signs warning visitors not to feed the bears and mocked it. So imagine my surprise when I saw a couple on my hike. I couldn’t believe it and just had to keep calm and keep moving. This place was unreal.
The trip I’ve done the most is Pacific Coast Highway, or State Route 1. It runs from the very bottom of California to the top, Dana Point to the San Francisco area. Being from L.A. I experienced a small portion of the highway all of the time as a kid. We would ride up to Zuma Beach and spend summer days swimming in the ocean. But I have still yet to drive the entire highway from start to finish. Driving all of it is something very different, and requires time to see it properly. It has some of the most scenic ocean views ever and is dotted with interesting stopping points along the way. Without question, Big Sur is the most beautiful stretch of the road for me. I didn’t know the California coastline could be such a tropical blue. The road winds and with each turn you’re met with a view more perfect than the last. The landscape changes and goes from dry brown to lush green. It is truly something that just has to been seen to appreciate. This is a trip I could see myself doing a few times, as you can stop and discover new things each time, such as the elephant seals or the Hearst Castle. There are also so many cute communities to stop and check out, not to mention food to eat and wine to drink.
Now this is just my humble opinion and California is quite a large state with a bit of something for everyone. So what’s your top 3?