Hearst Castle Sculpture Garden
Turn of the century botanist-poet Blanche Trask took up residence on the subtropical island in 1897 and after the tourists had abandoned the then tent city of Avalon for the winter months she did what few men or women then did. Hitching up the layers of skirts and petticoats, she trekked into the “Interior”, the area beyond the hills pushing Avalon against the sea, hiked up to “the heights so full of mystery and beauty, seldom seen by any”. She hiked through canyons, across meadows and over mountains to the low lying double exposed isthmus town of Two Harbors. She kept going to the northern tip of the island. Today, the 37 mile Trans-Island Trail takes visitors from Avalon to the West End, which remains undeveloped and untamed. When not on buffalo trails or the few dirt roads existent on the island, hikers are scaling fire breaks, most of which cut straight up and drop straight down thousands of feet at unbelievable grades. The Silver Peak Trail that follows the spine of the island affords 360 degree The-Hills-Are-Alive-With-The-Sound-Of-Music views for almost ten inspiring miles.
Inhabitants of the giant kelp forests that grow in the frigid coastal waters from Santa Barbara’s Coal Oil Point to Half Moon Bay, Southern Otters were hunted to near extinction at the turn of the last century. Conservation efforts conducted by organizations like the Aquarium of the Pacific have ensured that they are protected by law so that there are now approximately 2,800 otters living along the California coastline. The newest addition to the otter family at the Aquarium, is Betty, (named in honor of longtime supporter Betty White), who was found as a week-old pup upstate. As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deemed her non-releasable because she had not yet learned the necessary skills to survive in the wild, she was transferred to the Aquarium where at ten months old she has earned the nicknamed of “Banshee” for wailing loudly when she isn't served her favorite meals.
Along a stretch of shimmering black pebbled shoreline dozens of diehard winter wave rogues bob on boards in the early morning wake as harbor seals and sea lions hunt in the kelp below. Coastal fog slowly rolls back out across the Pacific as the sun rises and by mid morning, just as the surfers are dragging their boards ashore to head off to their day jobs, the sky is once again cloudless. As is often said in SoCal, it’s just another perfect day in Paradise.
Built primarily by Chinese immigrants in 1887, the red shingle turreted Hotel del Coronado, referred to by locals as "The Del", with panoramic views of the Pacific was the first resort in the world to offer electric lighting and oil furnace heating. The largest turret looming ten stories above sea level capped a gilded ballroom, theater, and observation deck. A salt water pool, Japanese tea garden, and ostrich farm lured princes and presidents, as well as a host of Hollywood starlets. A makeshift tent city surrounded the hotel providing economy rooms for seafaring families on a shoe string budget.
Fourteen miles south of San Diego and five miles north of the land where Tequila pours like honey is the surfing Mecca known as Imperial Beach, known locally as "IB." With 3.5 miles of mostly undeveloped coastline and the presence of the Tijuana Sloughs, three offshore reefs that create consistently large waves, it's little surprise that IB’s Boca Rio Beach became a notable training ground for serious enthusiasts and professional competitors despite the stingrays, sharks and killer whales. A walkable Surfboard Museum, a series of upright surfboard silhouettes with identifying plaques, commemorates 25 legendary Slough Riders that put this puny place on the map, including Dempsey Holder and Bob Simmons. IB was the setting for surf noir classic, Tapping the Source, and holds claim to the most southwesterly saloon in the nation.
Bok Tower, east of Tampa and south of Orlando, with its huge brass door depicting images from the Book of Genesis shining like gilded gold, was built by Ladies Home Journal editor, Pulitzer Prize winner and peace activist, Edward Bok. Encircled by a reflecting pool, the 205-foot art deco, neo-Gothic carillon bell tower is set amidst 50 acres sanctuary of old growth moss cloaked oak groves and landscaped gardens designed by conservationist Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. that had surrounded Bok’s 1930s Mediterranean-style mansion, Pinewood Estate. Bok had intended to create a place that would "touch the soul with its beauty and quiet." The sanctuary, originally called the Mountain Lake Sanctuary and Singing Tower, provides visitors meandering trails and cloistered reflective spaces tucked back among ferns, azaleas, camellias and magnolia and besides a swan graced reflective pond. Daily concerts are held beneath the oaks at 1 p.m. and again at 3 p.m. at the Lake Wales National Historic Landmark. Adult admission is $12; Children’s tickets sell for $3.
Wildflower-draped ledges overlook one of the first designated underwater preserves along six miles of California coastline thick with bull kelp forests. Aside from diving and kayaking in the treacherous surf slamming the shoreline, Salt Point State Park in Sonoma County offers 20 miles of trails through Douglas firs, redwoods and through a rare pygmy forest, as well as across windswept meadows where century-old blocks long ago quarried to cobble the streets of San Francisco have been left in stacks.