Tuesday, October 12, 2010

California Dreamin'

Whenever I take a vacation, I always gravitate to the regional flowers, and my recent trip to Oregon and California was no different. My mother-in-law has an amazing and inspirational garden. From bright-faced asters...

...to cool green hops...

...and picture-perfect dahlias, the kind that never grow well for me in Indiana's climate...

...to the intricate petals of the fuschia plant. These soft and restful colors, against the omnipresent green backdrop of grass, moss, and evergreens, is pleasant indeed.

Of course, the Pacific Northwest has a great climate for apples, too. These heirloom varieties are so colorful.

Oregon really is "ever-green," with the grey-green moss that attaches to trees, roofs, and everything else...

...and the more traditional green moss that follows suit. After our hard summer of record-high temperatures that left a wake of scorched brown grass and wilted leaves, I couldn't get enough of the green.

After a few days in the Portland area with family, we headed south.

How I've missed the fog!

One of my favorite coastal features of the Pacific Northwest is, oddly, unrelated to the ocean itself. I love these spiderwebs that proliferate in the vegetation near the water, laden with moisture from dew, fog, and salt spray. This one looks like a delicate necklace.

This has a more traditional shape, with the water droplets exaggerating and illuminating the tiny strands. This is always the first thing I see when I near the water, and it's always a delight.

Next, I see the piles of driftwood...big pieces like this, or smaller pieces, pounded smooth by the water, light and delicate, beautifully bleached by the sun.

Then the joys of the beach itself. I love searching tide pools for small creatures and scanning the ground for unusually colored or shaped rocks.

Barnacles are clever little things. They don't seem to be alive, but they dwell inside the crusty outer shell, extending feathery tentacles when the tide comes to draw in nutrients.

This is bull kelp, the fastest-growing plant on the planet. The long, thin stems are supposed to be quite tasty when pickled, but beware of the bulbous tops...they're filled with toxic carbon monoxide gases.

From the coastline of Oregon to the redwoods of northern California. Really, redwood groves thrive all the way down to central California, but the really big groves are in the northern parts of the state. They can grow up to 350 feet tall and their leafy tops can span 18 feet.

One of my favorite things about the redwood groves is not the trees themselves, but what grows beneath them. Huge swatches of cloves carpet the ground below.

They thrive in the dappled light and cool air. It's a bit otherworldly to walk there, with this lush undergrowth.

After the redwoods, some beautiful small farms...

...and then back to the coast. I love the rocky northern and central California coastline.

The colors of the water, shifting from deep blue to pale green, are mesmerizing to watch. The sound of the crashing surf distracts and commands your attention. We spent long stretches of time just sitting and watching.

The water invited some adventurous wading...

...although, not too adventurous.

Another wonderful thing about California is the easy opportunity to stop and stare. The builders of Highways 1 and 101 knew that the view would inspire gawking...so they incorporated frequent turn-outs to allow safe and leisurely gawking. Now it's easy to get a view like this:

...or this:

One of my very favorite places along the California coast is Carmel-by-the-Sea. Not just the town name is whimsical. Many of the houses have architecture that inspires whimsy...cleverly carved and rounded garden gates, covered in flowers, or these oddly-waved roofs that seem like something out of Tolkien's Shire.

I love this beach. Here, the surf pounds the hardest, and the resulting spray causes a strange, grey, filtered sunlight. It can be difficult to tell the sky from the water from the sand. It's like walking in a dream.

Lots of seagulls here, which is another pleasure.

Further down the coast, we got to see more beautiful fog...

...and many amazing sunsets.

One of our planned stops along the way was Hearst Castle in San Simeon. There's something a little disturbing about Hearst's conspicuous consumption. It is a little too much, from the carefully-tended grounds to the endless buildings, crammed to the gills with priceless paintings, hand-carved furniture, and hand-woven furnishings. All this, and Hearst kept four other similar domiciles. The word that came to mind was wasteful. I did enjoy many parts of the house, such as the hand-carved ceilings, and he did have a wonderful view.

Southern California!

Palm trees, and some pretty spectacular views:

...along with the coastline, too, where the surf pounded the rocks mercilessly.

In Los Angeles, we headed straight for the La Brea Tar Pits. Over 10 gallons of tar bubble to the surface daily there, so small creatures and insects are still being trapped.

Over a million bones have been discovered there, and they're still unearthing more. The bones are incredibly well-preserved. Still, it was a little unsettling to be among so many large predators, even though they're skeletal. It was nice to get back outside into the sunshine.

A final stop to see my 95-year-old great aunt and take a walk down memory lane...

...and then the great rush back to Portland via I-5. Although we were inland, there were still interesting things to see. Almond and olive groves stretched for miles. Eighty percent of the world's almonds come from this area. Growers typically "hire" over a million beehives in early spring to help pollinate the trees. We saw a few leftover hives.

Central California's landscape is quite different than the coastal region, but it has its own special beauty. The sky was immense!

Blue skies and fluffy white clouds, all the way to Oregon.

In southern Oregon, we crept through the landscape around Mount Shasta...

...and enjoyed a final sunset before heading back east.

It was good to get away, because we've got a lot of changes happening here. Todd's days at Indiana University are winding down. I send him a daily reminder in his lunch...

Tomorrow he will receive this cookie, and our next adventure will begin!

Have a great week!


  1. Beautiful! Nice work Jaime!!

  2. Thanks! I had so much fun taking these pictures.

  3. Your photos are amazing. They tell a story without words!