California is inherently knowable, having been indelibly forced into our collective imagination. Even when not playing itself, it manages to leave a mark on our psyche, like a subliminal message begging us to explore.
There’s a reason for this. Northern California is not Central California is not Southern California. You can go from lakes to oceans, redwoods to deserts, canyons to cliffs, farms to cities, all in a matter of hours. Even within a single city the terrain and climate can shift within a matter of blocks. The state has an aura all its own that everywhere else wants to claim for themselves.
But, despite its myriad of popular representations—instantly recognizable sites, easygoing attitudes, an occasionally mocked lifestyle—California also contains a multitude of hidden delights, pockets of surprise, things you didn’t know were there. Staring through the crystal-clear water in Lake Tahoe; stumbling upon LucasFilm during a walk through the Presidio in San Francisco; watching the sun set over you on a ridge in Sequoia, while you look out at the whole forest; climbing a quiet path near the Hollywood sign in the hills of Los Angeles; occasionally running into other people enjoying their own moments of serenity. Beach shacks and roadside restaurants and holes-in-the-wall serving the freshest food. Driving through endless orange groves or hugging the coastline on Route 1 or approaching the mountains, increasing in size with every inch forward. You never totally know what you’re in for. California is nothing if not serendipitous.