Cal­i­for­nia’s seashores and moun­tain sum­mits pro­vide in­spi­ra­tion to get out­doors and play

Travel Guide to California - - CONTENTS - BY BILL FINK

Adrenaline Rush


A.K.A. Surf City USA, Hunt­ing­ton Beach draws surfers of all ages, above, into the wa­ter. The town in Or­ange County is known for its prom­i­nent pier that dates to 1904, its 9.5-mile long beach and beach cul­ture. The Cal­i­for­nia ideal of sun, surf and sand has been pop­u­lar­ized in decades of film and TV shows, from Beach Blan­ket Bingo to Bay­watch. But vis­i­tors to Cal­i­for­nia in the sum­mer can dis­cover even more of the state’s nat­u­ral beauty head­ing in­land to ma­jes­tic na­tional parks.


Take a walk to the pier in Man­hat­tan Beach in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia on any given day and you’ll see surfers whip­ping around the waves, vol­ley­ball play­ers div­ing in the sand, and bik­ers and skate­board­ers rolling along the Strand. Drive the hills near San Fran­cisco on a sunny week­end af­ter­noon, and in a mat­ter of min­utes you’ll pass pelo­tons of road bik­ers, and hik­ers, horse­back rid­ers and moun­tain bik­ers launch­ing onto trail­heads. In the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, fleets of sail­boats ride ocean breezes, while the wind pow­ers kite­board­ers and wind­surfers into ac­ro­bat­ics as mel­low jog­gers and their dogs en­joy the spec­ta­cle from shore­line path­ways. North and south, young and old, Cal­i­for­ni­ans love their sports, and the state pro­vides lim­it­less op­por­tu­ni­ties to ply your fa­vorite or try a new one.

On Land

Cal­i­for­nia has some of the world’s best golf, in­clud­ing the leg­endary sea­side Pebble Beach Golf Links, home of Bill Mur­ray’s fa­vorite an­nual event, the AT&T Na­tional Pro-am tour­na­ment. Or try any one of the hun­dreds of pub­lic and pri­vate clubs scat­tered across the state. If you aren’t into the clubs, grab a fris­bee and try some disc golf at one of the more than 200 Cal­i­for­nia cour­ses.

Moun­tain and road bik­ing are great ways to get a work­out while ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the state’s land­scape, whether it be from tricky sin­gle-track down­hill trails around Lake Ta­hoe, flat­ter cross-coun­try trips or per­haps an ur­ban ride us­ing San Fran­cisco’s Bike Share pro­gram. Skate­board­ing is prac­ti­cally the state sport, with skateparks seen ev­ery­where from the sport’s birth­place at Venice Beach to the small­est in­land town.

For a dif­fer­ent sort of ride, make like na­tive son John Wayne and sad­dle up for some horse­back rid­ing on trails near cities, around dude ranches or on multi-day wilder­ness jour­neys. If desert sands don’t ap­peal to you, try those on the beaches of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia that are lined with vol­ley­ball nets for pickup games and pro­fes­sional tour­na­ments. Cal­i­for­nia sun­shine is also good for year­round ten­nis, be it on pub­lic courts or at a posh re­sort. And the fit­ness-crazy cul­ture of Cal­i­for­nia pro­vides plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to join out­door work­out “boot­camps” and yoga ses­sions in city parks.

In Wa­ter

Cal­i­for­nia has more than 840 miles of coast­line along the Pa­cific Ocean, a prime launch­ing spot for ev­ery man­ner of wa­ter sport, in­clud­ing surf­ing, sail­ing, SCUBA and

sea kayak­ing. Cal­i­for­nia has fully em­braced stand-up pad­dle board­ing, with many ren­tal shops bor­der­ing lakes and the ocean. Catalina Is­land and the kelp forests of Mon­terey Bay are pop­u­lar div­ing spots, but be sure to wear a wet­suit in the chilly Pa­cific wa­ters. Surf breaks range from 50-foot mon­ster waves in Half Moon Bay to more gen­tle rollers around Man­hat­tan Beach. Mari­nas dot the coast from north to south, where ex­pe­ri­enced sailors can rent power yachts for deep-sea fish­ing or sail­boats to ride the winds.

Mov­ing in­land, gen­tle streams and scat­tered lakes pro­vide fer­tile sport-fish­ing grounds, while melt­ing moun­tain snow can cre­ate rag­ing rapids for kayak­ing and raft­ing en­thu­si­asts, but those look­ing for a gen­tle river float on an in­ner tube with a beer cooler can still find their spots. Boat­ing is pop­u­lar with wa­ter­skiers and wake­board­ers across the Sacra­mento Delta and at a huge num­ber of mari­nas on lakes and reser­voirs through­out the state.

The Great Out­doors

Cal­i­for­nia boasts 32 na­tional parks, seashores and mon­u­ments, 280 state parks and a plethora of wilder­ness ar­eas, na­ture pre­serves and other out­door play­grounds. With land­scapes rang­ing from the sheer cliffs of Yosemite to the sear­ing deserts of Death Val­ley and the scenic shore­lines of the Chan­nel Is­lands, Cal­i­for­nia of­fers a life­time of out­door op­por­tu­ni­ties for the vis­i­tor. Ex­plo­ration op­tions range from multi-day back­pack­ing trips for the hardy in re­mote ar­eas such as the Mar­ble Moun­tains Wilder­ness to re­laxed, hour-long walk­ing tours through the gen­tle wind­ing paths of Muir Woods, eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble from nearby San Fran­cisco.

A trip to the bub­bling vol­canic pools at Lassen Vol­canic Na­tional Park or to the Dr. Seuss-like trees of Joshua Tree can make vis­i­tors feel they’re on an­other planet, while sun­set in Yosemite Val­ley with views of tow­er­ing water­falls can make it seem like you’re in heaven.

Cal­i­for­nia’s many moun­tains mean climb­ing is a pop­u­lar ac­tiv­ity, be it a hike up 14,505-foot Mount Whit­ney (the high­est point in the con­ti­nen­tal U.S.) or tech­ni­cal rock climb­ing routes from the easy to the ex­treme in leg­endary ar­eas such as Yosemite, Joshua Tree and Pin­na­cles na­tional parks.

Cal­i­for­nia’s state flag fea­tures a bear, and you may see some among the wildlife dur­ing your out­door jour­neys. Black bears, moun­tain lions, rat­tlesnakes and coy­otes put the “wild” in Cal­i­for­nia wildlife, but care­ful vis­i­tors should have no prob­lem with them. Abun­dant mi­gra­tory and na­tive birdlife makes Cal­i­for­nia a prime bird­ing des­ti­na­tion, while at sea, whale watch­ing is a peren­nial tourist fa­vorite. Even with­out an or­ga­nized tour, vis­i­tors can walk to view sea lions on San Fran­cisco and Santa Cruz piers, and ob­serve sea ot­ters play­ing in the surf at Mon­terey.

SAIL­ING in the Santa Barbara Chan­nel off the Ven­tura coast, right; snor­kel­ing at Van Damme State Park, Men­do­cino County, cen­ter; moun­tain bik­ing at Lake Ta­hoe, bot­tom.

YOGA AT BACARA BLUFF, Santa Barbara, above; the fi­nal stretch of the climb of Half Dome at Yosemite Na­tional Park, right.

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