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Graphic Arts Center Publishing Co., Portland, OR, 1989

“There is no better travel writer around than Judith Morgan, and this book shows her at her best.”

--Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle

Book excerpt:
“Everything you have ever heard about California is probably true. Every roiling rumor can be confirmed somewhere along California’s thousand-mile coast, or in the fastness of the Sierra Nevada, in the long farm valleys with their year-round crops, or out in the lion-colored deserts. No exaggeration is too big for this most populous state, where the sun does shine an inordinate number of days each year.

“California is an audacious showroom for the great triumphs and errors of nature. The world’s tallest trees, the mighty redwoods - thrive near the wet north coast. The highest waterfall in the nation pounds into Yosemite Park. One county contains the highest and the lowest points of the contiguous forty-eight states - Mount Whitney and Death Valley. Between those two geologic monuments are stands of bristlecone pines, among the oldest living things on earth. Alaska and Texas are both larger than California, but neither has such diversity of climate and terrain. California stretches from the border of evergreen Oregon to the frontier of Mexico. The same latitudes along the eastern shore of America would reach from Cape Cod to Savannah, and touch eleven states.

“With so much land, there is room to spread out, although Californians generally don’t. Most of them crowd near the coast in joyful noise, like guests at a cocktail party. They lead fast-paced lives in cities held together by freeways. They drive miles to work and more miles to play.

“Multiple images of California flash around the world, gleaned from Hollywood films or a bleep on the evening news. Pop songs and postcards spread cheery words about Disneyland and mission bells, space ships and cables cars, beaches and bikinis. There is truth, though not the whole truth, to such images. They flourish in the minds of the millions of people for whom California fills a need. Like a gorgeous, willful child, California stirs up feelings of admiration, amusement and envy. You can love California’s idiosyncrasies, or laugh at them, or both. Californians do...

“In the race toward the future, orange groves have given ground for instant cities, and foothills have been flattened into malls. Airports and freeways and cul-de-sacs of suburbia have pushed tongues of concrete toward beach and forest. Still the land prevails. Amid a rubble of false starts, Californias have established the capacity to rise up and reform, to turn whims into law, to set off in new directions to preserve the pristine. They lobby fiercely for earth, sky and sea; for mountains, shore, and desert; for creatures large and small and sometimes human. Californias explore their state with pride, celebrating its majesty. They hug trees, stalk trout, and lock gazes with patterns of fleeting fog. They treasure hideaways where calm can be replenished and spirits find room to soar...

“Each new wave of Californians speaks with affection of ‘back home’, but most who move West stay. They put down roots in this rootless state and begin to establish traditions. No long bound by old orders, they set out to make their mark. Aspirations are high. They tend to believe that anything is possible. Thus, myths of the Golden State are perpetuated because they are real. Or perhaps they are real because they are perpetuated.”