Two sisters, two coasts, one blog

Postcards from California


Beach Lupin. (photo courtesy of Justine Belson)

Something has come over me in the last few months; a state of mind which has taken me somewhat by surprise.  I’ve really started to have a love affair with California.  Is that weird?  I mean I’m hardly the patriotic type and I’ll admit it, I’m the queen of “the grass is always greener” (somewhere else).

I think it started awhile back when I found myself driving behind a huge white truck, the kind with monster wheels that just oozes machismo. On its back window was a decal sticker of a knuckle duster (you know, the brutal weapon used in hand to hand combat) which was in the shape of…the state of California.  Aghast, but yet somehow perversely proud, I think my immediate reaction was “Hell Yeah!”

True Story.

But it seems that my ardor has been enflamed during this year’s summer vacation. Little road trips here and there have revealed to me the beautiful  and unique geography of this land. I mean I am truly amazed at all there is to see and do in my home-state, most of it accessible within just a few hours’ drive time.  Maybe I’ve been taking it all for granted, couldn’t see the forest for the trees as it were, but this summer has really opened my eyes to everything that is right here at our fingertips.

So, just as East Twin regaled us sometime back in this post, with her love-letter to Raleigh and the cool finds of her newly adopted city, allow me to flick through and show you some of the delights of California that I have discovered lately.

Sunset State Beach, trail from Dunes Camp. (photo courtesy of Justine Belson)

Picking up where I left off in my last installment, we recently went on a camping trip to the beaches of central California. We stayed at Sunset State Beach, located in admist the strawberry plantations, west of Watsonville.

There are several great beaches all along this stretch of coast but we have come to love the grey, rugged beauty of Sunset. It’s never really warm enough but there is always a plethora of wildlife to be spotted (we saw owls, little bats, pelicans, dolphins, sea otters and sand dollars by the thousands).

I also love being in the natural landscape with the native plants which thrive in this sandy, cool environment. I identified Lupin, native Artemisia, Monkeyflower and many others as I went out for an early constitutional one morning.

view from beach trail, Sunset State Beach, (photo courtesy of Justine Belson)

Ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis) to control dune erosion , Sunset State Beach.

I also gathered several handfuls of seeds from the gorgeous Nasturtium which were gobbling up the more developed embankments near the beach-front housing. Not native, but gloriously strong specimens, I am planning to plant these in my front yard, where I currently have a Lupin grown from a seed brought back from last year’s camping trip. I know one is supposed to ‘take only memories’ from our state parks, but I like to think of it as a little act of supplication; honoring our local Californian landscape by nurturing my own patch of it at home.

chilly but beautiful, Sunset SB

When we tire of being cold and laying on the beach in bundles of clothes, we have found that we just need to head back up the road (less than two miles) to Manresa State Beach.

This year the gal at the ranger’s station booth confirmed what we already suspected. “Oh yeah,” she said “it’s always warmer here”. Temps around 80, with a clear blue sky made it appealing to get in the water, and  yours truly even had a couple of turns on the boogie board. It was a blissful and easy day and made me feel a little giddy, like one of the chosen few, those famed and charmed “California Girls” from the song.

Another beautiful day at Manresa State Beach (photo courtesy of Justine Belson)

Warning!! This post is gonna include a couple of bikini shots (albeit a “mom” bikini – hey, it is what it is.) because quite frankly, I’ve been laying around in one alot and have the pictures to prove it. Besides, it’s how we roll here…..

When not hitting the beaches of California’s coast, we have spent plenty of time on the rocky ‘beaches’ of California’s rivers.

Sunning! at Manresa Beach and on the banks of the American River

A few weeks ago we found ourselves heading up to Lotus, in California’s gold country. We were picking up my oldest son from a river tubing trip , and the meeting point was at Henningston Lotus Park.

While we waited for my boy to arrive, we tried our best to wade in the icy river and watched the groups of  whitewater  tours and kayakers arrive and depart. This sunny launching point on the South Fork of the American River is a popular base for many of the the area’s rafting tours, so we learned.

my boys playing at Henningsen Lotus Park

South fork of the American River

All kinds of folks were coming and going in these massive yellow rafts with great smiles on their faces. Might be fun? I thought. Funnily enough that next day I saw a friend’s post that she’d braved her fears and accepted an invitation to ride the rapids on a rafting trip with Beyond Limits Adventures right there at the south fork.

After seeing her pictures, now I’m really inspired!

Wild ride! Friends, Valerie (top right) and Lorraine (2nd on right) enjoying the rapids on a whitewater rafting trip, near Coloma CA (photo courtesy of Valerie Boesen)


Our travels also took us into the redwoods this summer.  California is home to almost half of what remains of old growth Coastal Redwoods…and we wanted to see some! On advice, we stopped in at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Parks near Santa Cruz on our way to go camping.

(By the way I just stumbled across this great image, from this great design blog. I love that it’s a kind of visual information ‘postcard’ ):

We arrived at Henry Cowell early in the day, as the sun was just starting to reach the tops of the massive redwoods. We had the Redwood Grove Trail to ourselves, through some of the parks most ancient trees, which was a good thing for exuberant boys who’d been cooped up on the long drive. Despite their noise, it was still so enormously quiet in there.

sunlight filters through the towering redwoods, morning at Henry Cowell State Park

Old, old beings these trees, who’ve seen the march of time and yet have continued to stand in silent witness. It was like a sermon, without church.

ancient trees, family memories....

undisturnbed undergrowth, seen from the Redwood Trail Loop, Henry Cowell State Park


More gold country adventures when we drove up highway 49 just the other day. On our way to see friends in Placerville, my husband decide to stop in at the cemetery where some of his ancestors are buried on the way. It was the most perfect weather, still and warm, when we got to the small historic cemetery in the town of Plymouth.

While we never did find the grave site of his relative, it was charming a kind of tender to wander through this piece of history. Many of the graves dated back to the earliest residents and the gold rush heyday of this mining town. The rustling wind and the shambley beauty of the old plots were so peaceful and somehow reassuring. Another testament to Time.

headstones at Plymouth Memorial Cemetery, Plymouth CA

Plymouth, CA

On the way out I caught a few shots of the rustic landscape from the car, pledging to come back again and soak in a little more of this living history. There is still so much to see in this unique place in which we live, and it’s all right there waiting.

And for me, the rose-colored glasses of a love affair of gratitude and fascination with all that California has to offer, has had me sighing, “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home….”

The abundance of California right outside my doorstep. Welcome Home!


7 Responses to “Postcards from California”

  1. Mia

    I agree, I don’t anything could tear me away from Cali. There’s nothing more a girl could ask for in a home.

  2. ursula

    it was great to see you guys. so glad you got to see our little corner of the world (my village!). i’m in love with SC too .. ready to go back any time. i wish i had even a little shack there don’t you?

  3. frances Newcross

    wonderful piece of gratitude for you location in life! Love it. Keep up the writing. It seems it is your gratitude journal.

  4. maija

    “it was like a sermon without church” — I love this! A great way to describe the feeling of being in the presence of things that bear witness to ancient time!

  5. Norman Ross Powers

    Two years ago we were in the Henry Cowell grove on a warm and windy fall day. We virtually had the place to ourselves. The sun dappled the forest floor while breezes lifted up delicate, earthy fregrances. We listened as a hundred vast, woody monoliths creaked and murmered among themselves. It was a special, lucky afternoon. Too bad we argued, then, over where to eat our lunch.


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