The months of December and January rocked the communities of northern Ventura and southern Santa Barbara counties. A wildfire raged through the hills and communities, tearing through areas that hadn't burned in almost a hundred years. It burned 281,893 acres, making it the largest fire in modern California history, and its seventh most destructive, destroying over a thousand structures, including a large apartment complex several blocks from my home, and two people lost their lives. You'll still find signs around the cities declaring "Ventura Strong", "Santa Barbara Strong", and "805 Strong."
I'm on the search for the best tacos in Santa Barbara, and I started my quest at two of Santa Barbara's favorite taquerias: Lilly's Taqueria on Chapala Street and La Super-Rica Taqueria on Milpas Street. Both popular taquerias (you'll often find a line out the door at both) serve their tacos on soft corn tortillas, but I think that's where the similarities end. But who has the better taco in Santa Barbara?
San Francisco is a great food city. There's plenty of Michelin-starred restaurants helmed by celebrated chefs. Locally sourced ingredients feature heavily on most menus, and you can find excellent examples of cuisines from all over the world there. It's a city where like to spend money on food, and dining out is a form of entertainment. But is it possible to eat well and cheap in San Francisco?
Earlier this month, I rode the Coast Starlight, an Amtrak bi-level Superliner, from San Jose to Seattle. The entire route goes from LA's Union Station to King Street Station in Seattle. Each way, the trip from San Jose to Seattle takes around twenty-four hours and costs about $111 each way. Certainly, it's a longer ride than flying and costlier, but there's a certain romanticism attached to train travel. The slow and steady chug of the wheels, the sweeping vistas that in a car you're passing too quickly to truly absorb. But there are other reasons to take the train beside great views.
Located in south Los Angeles is Exposition Park. The 160-acre park and future site of the summer 2028 Olympics is home to the John C. Argue Swim Stadium, Banc of California Stadium, the future Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, California Science Center, Exposition Park Rose Garden, California African American Museum, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park preserves mainly forest and riparian areas in the San Lorenzo River watershed, including a grove of old-growth coast redwood. Established in 1954, this 4,623-acre park is located near the town of Felton in Santa Cruz County and includes the non-contiguous Fall Creek Unit.
Southern California draws visitors from all around the world with its many urban attractions (Disneyland, Hollywood, Los Angeles) and its world class beaches. Central California has the giant sequoias and the big granite walls of Yosemite. Northern California brings wild beauty: volcanoes, endless miles of redwood forest, and waterfalls. This is a guide to my ten favorite northern California spots.
I walk the short paved path to Lower Falls. Pushed into a narrow slot between basalt columns, Lower Falls is the smallest of the falls but has the best swimming area above and below it. Even in the early morning, people are out fishing right at the edge of the falls. I follow a stairway up to a picnic area to get an overlook of the entire area. Later in the day, we follow the dusty River Trail to a secluded swimming area.
An hour east of Redding are the towering volcanic peaks of the lower Cascade mountain range and green meadows of Lassen Volcanic National Park. One of the least visited national parks in California, Lassen Volcanic National Park is an excellent choice for hikers looking to get away from the crowds of Yosemite and Sequoia Kings Canyon National Parks. With a number of different landscapes to offer from sulfur vents to mountain peaks, Lassen is one of my favorite national parks.
My time in Ventura is coming to an end. I will be gone for almost the entirety of May visiting friends in Croatia and we move up to the Redding land in June. With my move-out day growing closer, I wanted to write a smidge about my time spent eating in Ventura. While the list is not exhaustive of every place I've eaten here, it's pretty close. If you're not up for an extensive review of seventeen different Ventura restaurants then I would skip this post. Or if you're hungry and the only thing left in your cupboard is an expired can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup.
Hiking is my favorite form of exercise. I can't think of anything better than enjoying beautiful nature, breathing fresh air, and the exhausted feeling of accomplishment when I finish. I don't hike nearly enough anymore. The rain this season put a hamper on a number of weekend days that I could have been hiking. Then there's my general laziness since I got a desk job. The only way to remedy that is to get out and do it more.
There's another post dedicated to my love of Fall Creek Unit in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. I can wax poetic about the verdancy of the ferns, the towering heights of the second-growth coastal redwoods, and the rushing creeks forever. I love taking people to Fall Creek and manage to get out there at least several times a year, even though I don't live in Santa Cruz anymore.
I recently reduced my work schedule from five days a week to four days a week due to mental burnout and feeling like I never get away from my computer screen (yes, I am typing this on my computer). This affords me the time to get up out of my uncomfortable secondhand store chair and out into great outdoors. I'm slowly building my hiking abilities back up again. There's nothing like a desk job to decrease physical stamina and increase lethargy.
A 250,000 acre enclosed grassland plain, Carrizo is the largest single native grassland remaining in California. Gazing over the wide expanses of grasses and wildflowers, it is a look back at the Central Valley three hundred years ago, before grazing cattle and industrial agriculture pushed out native plant species and invasive monocultures took over.
Almost ten years ago to the day, I graduated from UC Santa Cruz. More known for its radical politics and drug culture than academics*, Santa Cruz is not the most traditional of college campuses. This applies not only to its politics and choice of mascots (go banana slugs!), but to the physical layout of the campus itself; it's not what you see in college movies. Buildings sometimes resembling Soviet space bunkers hide amongst towering redwoods. In the morning, fog creeps down the bridge covered gullies and canyons, making it a magical walk to those 8 a.m. classes. It is the complete opposite of Stanford University.
Sitting in the shadow of the Santa Ynez Mountains tucked between the Santa Barbara Mission and the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, the 100-year-old museum houses collections of mammals, birds, insects, and marine animals; a planetarium, several gardens; an auditorium; a research library; and a rotating exhibit (an exhibit of the history of botanical drawings were there when I visited).