Cool California Day Tripsby Isaac Wolf on Jun, 22 2012
Now that summer jobs, internships, and another round of summer school are all underway, routines and priorities have changed, at least temporarily. Pretty soon, we’ll be clamoring to get back to Berkeley (if we’re not there already), and its craziness which we love to hate. Yet, summertime only comes once a year, and it’s nice to experience the slower pace that it gives to daily life.
The nicest part of summertime is that we have the opportunity to travel and explore so many cool and interesting places. I’d be lying if I told you I wouldn’t want to go on some of my peers’ globetrotting adventures. However, we’re blessed to live and study in a state which is intricate, fascinating, and totally worth exploring, even if only for a day. There are so many places within the Golden State that are off the beaten tourist path; places where you can see the many states of California, in the words of the State Parks System. If you are in one of these areas and you’re looking for a cool place to spend the day, check out these places:
Greater Sacramento Area:
Lake Natoma and the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail
What’s nice about the lake and the paved multi-use trail, commonly called the American River Trail, is the accessibility to crisp Sierra snowmelt, which is especially important for escaping the 100 degree days which can make summer in Sacramento unbearable. Take your boat and your rod out on the lake and fish for a fresh trout dinner, or your bike under the welcoming shade of the trees. If you’re observant, you can observe the same forms of wildlife, including deer, egrets, and certain types of snakes, that have roamed here since long before Jedediah Smith, the man who first explored the West, wondered into the Sacramento Valley.
To get to Lake Natoma from downtown Sacramento, take U.S. Highway 50 east until you reach Folsom. Exit the freeway at Folsom Boulevard and head north until you hit Parkshore Drive and the lake. The Trail runs from downtown Sacramento and follows the river through Folsom and behind Folsom Dam.
San Francisco Bay Area:
City Guides Walking Tours
You see, City Guides tours are not tourist traps: volunteers from the San Francisco Public Library lead these little-advertised walks through certain San Francisco neighborhoods and simultaneously tell the tales that have contributed to the rich flavor of the Bay Area. I took one tour of the Mission District and discovered the many murals that have colored that neighborhood’s walls, the funeral parlor which was converted into a non-profit that helps kids with their writing, as well as the Buddhist seminary enclosed within a Gothic church. I wouldn’t have dreamed that such things even existed, but they do. The best part of these tours is that they’re free, although donations are appreciated, and they’re available in all corners of The City.
Visit www.sfcityguides.org to find a part of San Francisco that interests you, then lace up your walking shoes and take a camera. Trust me, you’ll need it.
Greater Los Angeles Area:
Upon his death in 1927, Henry E. Huntington, the man responsible for introducing streetcars and the expansion of business in Los Angeles, left behind $50 million (in 1928 dollars, mind you) worth of paintings, manuscripts, and other artifacts. Not bad for a guy that started his collection of fine European goodies upon entering his sixth decade.
Fortunately, Huntington’s will decreed that the public have access to all of his nice things. The Library, which opened in 1928 in the hills above Pasadena that make up the city of San Marino, is a research library in its own right, and houses, among other things, a manuscript of Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and a copy of Shakespeare’s Hamlet dating from 1623. While you need to have a Ph D. to actually be able to get your hands on these relics, there is nothing stopping you from wondering through the Library’s many rooms as you learn how only a handful of men created our nation’s second-largest metropolis and about many of the vast jumps we have made in science in the past century. Not to be outdone, the Library’s botanical gardens surround the Huntington House feature plants from every corner of the globe. Apparently, this man’s interests knew no borders. A day here is like going to a fascinating lecture on campus, except it’s hands on and there are no finals to worry about at the end of the day.
From Downtown Los Angeles, take the 110 Freeway north until you reach E. California Boulevard in Pasadena. Head east on E. California until you reach Sierra Bonita Avenue. Turn south on Sierra Bonita and then west on Orlando Road. From there, take a right on Drive Palm. It’s $12 for students during the week and $13 on weekends, but the first Thursday of the month is free for all. Visit www.huntington.org for more information.
San Diego County:
The California Institute of Technology, or Caltech, offers a jumping-off spot for your trip through the universe. This observatory is an active research spot that houses 5 active telescopes, some of which point towards nearby asteroids while others scan the skies for signs of extra-terrestrial life. Yet, George Ellery Hale, an accomplished 19th century astronomer who discovered much about sunspots and other things, wanted the public to learn about the fundamentals of our universe. The 200-inch Hale Telescope, which bears his name, is the “workhorse of modern astronomy,” according to the official Caltech website on Palomar, and was the largest working telescope for 45 years. Some of the pictures taken from here have produced clearer images than those taken from the Hubble Space Telescope, which is obviously a little closer to the stars and galaxies posing for the camera. I have no doubt that Professor Filippenko will be impressed when you linger after an Astro C10 to tell him about your visit to the Observatory. Maybe he’ll even let you join him on his next research trip.
From Downtown San Diego, take California Route 163 until you reach Interstate 15. Head north until you reach County Road S6 in Escondido. Follow Road S6, which briefly joins with, and then splits away from, State Route 76, all the way up until you reach the Observatory. For more information, visit, astro.caltech.edu/palomar.
This is by no means an exhaustive list: it would be impossible to name all the cool places that dot every corner of the state. But hopefully it’s a start for a great adventure with your friends, or maybe a break from your parents (or even a way to bond with them.) In any case, take a day and get away from it all; you’ll be glad you did.