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A Great Honeymoon Destination: California (just back from two weeks there) PART 1

I just got back from two weeks padding around mostly Northern California primarily in search of sublime geology, but also renewing old friendships and meeting fantastic new people. If you’re a nature-lover looking for a place to go on your honeymoon that’s fascinating, charming, surprising, sometimes awe-inspiring, relatively inexpensive, and not crowded, consider some of these places in Northern and Central California.

I flew into San Francisco August 10, where my old poet-music-festival-producer friend Franklin Zawacki and his wife Aura hosted me “high on a hill.” Of course, San Francisco overflows with charm, beauty and fascinating things to do, but it wasn’t my main destination this trip. The next day I rented a car and took off for the Monterey Bay. Destination: Point Lobos.

Point Lobos is the “jewel of the California State Park system.” I had visited there twice before, but the last time was 18 years ago, way before I went professional or digital. My friends who used to live in nearby Pacific Grove had moved down the coast to Cambria, so I stayed in a nearby Airbnb (see below). My day hiking along the beaches and trails of Point Lobos was enormously rich. The rocks were even more beautiful than I remembered, and the bird life was abundant. There’s even a place called Bird Island, only the first of several near-shore rookeries, populated mostly by cormorants, but the seagulls and pelicans have their own separate communities.

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One of the beautiful hikes on Point Lobos is Cypress Grove. I saw it near sunset and made the surprising discoveries of orange moss and the lace lichen (Ramalina menziesil) that looks like Spanish moss.

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Also on this hike was a worn down cypress bench, where I seemed to recognized a classic photo of wood grain by Edward Weston, which he identified only as “Point Lobos.”
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That was on Wednesday. Thursday I crossed the state to my Couchsurfing digs in Visalia, close to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, that I had always been curious about. Of the two, Sequoia has much more to offer. It’s one thing to see photos of these big trees, usually the famous ones or the ones in the best shape; it’s quite another to take the 2.8-mile hike through the Sequoia-dominated woods and see the burn marks, the stumps, dead logs on the ground, and the upturned root systems. These other moments in the Sequoia life cycle are often much more interesting visually than the healthy tree in its prime—which could last 2000 years.

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Bottom of the trunk of the General Sherman tree, reputedly the largest living thing in the world.

10                                               Forest fire at Kings Canyon National Park.

Leaving Kings Canyon I crossed the state again, through groves and groves of fruit trees, where posted signs screamed out “No Water=No Jobs.” The drought is hitting the state hard, and the governor was trying to get residents to conserve, while leaving agriculture—the greatest water consumer—alone. Residents protested, but it’s not just profits that are at stake, it’s the food supply!
I stayed with old friends in Cambria on the coast, a beautiful area that includes gorgeous rocky beaches, elephant seals, and the Hearst Castle at San Simeon. A lesser known attraction of Cambria is Nitt Witt Ridge, the “outsider architecture” construction of the town’s eccentric trash collector, Harold Beal, over a 40-year period.
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Nitt Witt Ridge, former home of the late Harold Beal, who put it all together.

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17 Zebras, descendants of those from William Randolph Heart’s zoo. They attack horses but are fine with cattle.

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Elephant seals. They mate in January.

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Tafoni honeycomb pattern on Moonstone Beach, near Cambria
23                                                                        Tidal pool.
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When I wasn’t staying with friends I was staying either with Couchsurfing contacts or at Airbnb’s. Couchsurfing is an organization with a website that connects people traveling with people who want to hose them, just to meet people from far away. It’s a wonderful way to get to know people in the far-flung regions you might be visiting, or to meet people who need a place to crash who can tell you about their far-off homelands and their travel experiences. I’ve played both roles.

Airbnb’s are more formal; you have more privacy, and you pay, but you can always look for something in a price range you specify. I met some wonderful people who kept a spare bedroom to rent out to travelers. It is ideal for couples, too. Just go to the Airbnb website and follow the instructions.

Cambria is a charming town with two “village” downtowns, rich with antique shops, rock shops, art galleries, artisana and chi-chi restaurants. Here are some of my discoveries there.

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The Vault Gallery, Downtown Cambria Village, with proprietor Laylon.
28                                                            Evans & Gerst Antiques
29                                                            Evans & Gerst Antiques
30                                                              Evans & Gerst Antiques
31                                                             Evans & Gerst Antiques
32                                                            Evans & Gerst Antiques
33                Amphora Gallery, a remarkably varied contemporary collection with echoes of antiquity.
34                                                                  Amphora Gallery
35                    Brenda Gale of the Amphora Gallery, proprietor and author of the paintings on the walls.
36 Planet Yachats, purveyor of gorgeous minerals, polished stone jewelry, crystals and geodes of all sizes, and wonderful fossils. I bought a trilobite as a gift, and it was very well-received.
37                                                                  Planet Yachats

Leaving Cambria I headed north on route 101, but first stopped in at Mission San Miguel, of the series of the famous California missions established by Spanish Jesuits in the 18th Century. It was beautifully restored, combining a sense of mission life with a museum of religious art and artifacts of the period.
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Windows were covered with oiled parchment, since glass was too expensive.

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45                                    Polychrome statue of Archangel Michael slaying a dragon
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The church interior
48                                                               The church altar

My next destination was over 200 miles north, the town of Bodega, near the coast, about two hours north of San Francisco. My Couchsurfing host was the young artist Nikki Bloom, who turned out to live in the family compound with his mom, dad and sister. His father, Alain Bloom, a very well-preserved 70-years-old, was a master artist who had filled his studio-gallery with a lifetime of work. I was overwhelmed. Now he spends most of his time cutting a polishing semi-precious stones, mainly turquoise.

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Entrance to the Bloom family compound

50                                                                   The main house

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The studio, gallery, art storage area and stone cutting and polishing workshop
52 Alain Bloom’s painting studio and gallery
53                                            The Gallery, continued—not enough wall space

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More Gallery

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Alain Bloom
58                                                        Nikki (left) and Alain from above
59                                                              Son and father silhouettes

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