Thursday, 16 November 2017

California I'm coming home

Just a taster tonight – I have been somewhat over-extended and have yet to go through any photos from what was unanimously declared by my kids to the best holiday ever. We went to California for a fortnight, hired a camper van, and drove up the coast from Los Angeles to San Francisco. We spent the weekend in the city and then returned to LA via Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. The freedom that the van gave us and the scenery it allowed us to be part of was nothing short of sensational. We camped in some amazing places, Los Padres National Forest, the pacific coast at Big Sur, underneath the Half Dome in Yosemite during the solar eclipse, and amongst Giant Redwoods in the Sierra. Nearly every night involved a family meal around a camp fire under the stars, and with the van having a shower, toilet, fridge and freezer you could hardly say we were roughing it. Cold beer and barbecues, a 6.2L V8 engine and 12mpg, we truly lived the American dream for two glorious weeks.

We had been talking about this trip for years, but had never quite managed to simultaneously have the time and money to make it happen. I lived in California as a child, in Santa Barbara, and my love for the State is undimmed by the intervening years and yet despite this I hardly ever go there. Mrs L and I did almost exactly this trip following more or less the same route about 15 years ago before we had kids, but that is the only meaningful visit in decades, and we had always wanted to repeat it once they were old enough to appreciate it. A shame that when we finally went America is in the grips of an extraordinary crisis of identity, but the ethos in California is about as far away from the myopic world vision of the current White House as you can get, and people went out of their way to apologise for the state of their – my – nation. Many people we spoke to described it as “a difficult time”, which indeed it is, but in truth it did not detract from our trip at all. The magnificent American landscape transcends politics thankfully, and whilst Trump and his army of clowns are trying their best to change that, for now the places made famous by John Muir and Ansel Adams remain awe-inspiring.

There was not a lot of birding. Whilst the RV put us in amazing places, it was not as if I could get up early without disturbing the family and scoot off to various hot-spots. I was largely restricted to the campgrounds and wherever we went hiking. This was sufficient to notch up well over 100 species though, including around 10 ‘new’ birds – I say new, I am not entirely sure. Back in 2002 Mrs L and I kept a list of what we saw, but I unfortunately lost that precious bit of paper many years ago and simply could not remember much of it at all. My one recollection was of Dark-eyed Junco, and bird I subsequently saw in Kent! This trip was therefore an opportunity to put that right, and so every day felt like a new experience even if it probably wasn’t. There will be a separate post about the birds but they were a sideshow really. The scenery and the travelling en famille were what it was all about. For anyone thinking of doing a family trip like this, just do it, it was unforgettable.

Thumbs up indeed!

1 comment:

  1. I shit you not, I am reading this with the Red Hot Chilli's crooning Californication through my speakers. All I need is cash and a borrowed family and I too can do this! Dear reader, do YOU have cash and a family I could borrow for a while? I have a track record of not being a serial killer or thief, if that helps? Thanks in advance, folks...