Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Green, Green Grass of Home

Lately I had to drive to Northern California again, somewhat unexpectedly. I always expect to go to Northern California. But the schedule sometimes takes me by surprise.

A great photographer on a trip like this would have stopped before a majestic scene that showed in one sweep the beauty of the entire trip. Being a somewhat mediocre photographer, I took dozens of pictures from the front seat at highway speeds and hoped that a few would come out. Sadly, I didn’t have time to sit and wait for the light to be right on any particular hill or field. You get what you get.

If you’ve seen Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, you may recognize these as the eucalyptus trees James Stewart drives through on his way to and from San Juan Bautista, which is in fact slightly south and east of where I took this picture.

Whenever I see a scattering of dark oaks on a hillside like this, I lump them all together as California Live Oaks, a single species. I’m sure they’re actually a mix of species. Not knowing is easier.

I saw a lot of green, which tells a story of recent rain. Most times of year, the California hillsides are tawny brown, which we call golden.

California supplies farm goods to most of the U.S. On my trip, I drove past garlic fields and asparagus fields, mushrooms and hay (in the barn on the left here), dairies and greenhouses filled with flowers.

House on a hill coming into Paso Robles.

The past couple of decades have seen vineyards sprouting all over the California coastal region, particularly in the Paso Robles area. The wide variety of soils and microclimates contributes to a rich collection of distinguished wines.

The cherry (?) trees from the scene above, taken from closer up. Still moving.

I believe this stretch is called the Priest Grade; after a long inland journey on the “coast route,” it’s the first spot (on the way south) where the ocean comes into view. If you look closely along the bottom of this picture, you can spot the distinctive iron hook and hanging bell that marks El Camino Real in California, the route the Spanish monks traditionally took as they traveled from mission to mission.

(March 19 note: California Girl, thanks for comment gently correcting me: This is the Cuesta Grade, not the Priest Grade. Back to Grade school for me.)

This is from Pismo Beach, where finally I was driving (more or less) along the ocean. It’s a northward look. Stopped here for a few hours, and by the time I was rolling again, the light was wrong for more photography.

1 comment:

California Girl said...

That would be Cuesta Grade north of SLO town. Priest Grade is on Highway 120 just west of Yosemite National Park. It gives you two options, the old grade wihch is steeper and the newer grade which has more turns, but is less steep. I always take the new one. I like your pictures. We just talked and drove.