I arrived in California 23 years ago today and began living under Western skies.
I define myself as a Californian now, but, as this blog reflects, my great discovery has been the American West. As I drove here from the Midwest in 1993, I looked at the desert covered with chaparral, mountains capped with snow and the long slopes of scree between them. There were boulder-strewn stream beds and fields of jagged black lava. I wondered, “What would it be like to walk out into that? Or to hike in those mountains at 9- or 10,000 feet?
Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to get off the highway, out of the car and see what’s in those mountains, across that expanse of desert or under those trees in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. There are glaciers, sand dunes, ancient cities, rivers and lakes, bald eagles, elk, bear, wolves and even the elusive pika: I saw them.
I arrived in the 2nd most populous city in the United States, have lived here in L.A. since then and can find my way around its sprawl comfortably. I’ve gotten acquainted with other western cities: Phoenix, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Seattle, Portland and Anchorage. Hundreds of smaller cities, towns, villages, dusty frontier settlements, abandoned rail depots and seaside resorts, too.
I’ve visited libraries, museums, concert halls, seen the world’s largest trees and forests of cacti. I’ve traveled long stretches of the western coast and seen the Pacific Ocean from northern Mexico to the sands of Malibu, rocky ocean crags in Oregon and Washington, orcas in Resurrection Bay and sandhill cranes flying above Kachemak Bay in Alaska.
The accommodations haven’t always been 5-star, although there were a few bona fide 5-star venues in the mix (not always a guarantee of the nicest place to stay).
I’ve met people: I have no idea how many. People with interesting jobs or no jobs at all to speak of: scientists and engineers, writers, lawyers, photographers, designers, lighting directors and accountants. Also artists, silversmiths, musicians, park rangers, potters and architects. I met them in conference rooms, studios, hotel lobbies, galleries, on stage at a few small clubs, on mountain trails, in restaurants and on the Hopi Mesas where people have lived for hundreds of years.
They all had stories when I made time to ask them something, which one never does enough of. They spoke Italian, French, German, Dutch, Spanish and, occasionally, Navajo, Keres and Hopi, although they were all gracious enough to speak English with me, given my limitations.
I like to think I’ve learned a great deal. I hope I spent more time looking than shooting photos and listening more than I talked.
After being here for 16 years, I started this blog so I could write about some of what I’d learned, and I met you. Thanks for reading. Yes, I’ll continue to write about subjects and places not related to the West, but the inspiration to start arose here.
Best of all, I’ve had company. I saw the wolf pack in Denali with my father, as well as the little pika scurrying through rocks in the Cascades and we had a too-close encounter with a mother grizzly and her cub on a trail in Glacier National Park.
My primary travel partner, though, was also the reason I moved to California. Many of you have encountered The Counselor in these posts, and she’s been with me from below sea level in Death Valley to boreal forests on the top of mountains and a lot of memorable miles in between.
We’ve all had the experience of walking into a library, realizing, “So many books yet to read!” That’s what it’s like living here in the West: so many trails, canyons, towns and sights yet unseen. Thanks, Counselor, for getting me here. There is so much more to discover.
I look forward to having all of you along with me.
Below, only a sample of what we’ve seen. I think of all that remains! Click on the first for full view, then click right arrow to see the next.
Key (links go to corresponding blog posts):
© Brad Nixon 2016. Devil’s Postpile and Oregon coast photos © Marcy Vincent 2016, used by kind permission.