State by State

Apparently there is an entire country between Boston and San Francisco.

stone

by Damian

The world is full of beautiful valleys. Innumerable interesting rock formations are waiting to be discovered. There are many more grand panoramas and breathtaking waterfalls that you will ever have a chance to visit. Rarely though they are all put together in one place in a perfect harmony and a spacing of an almost kitschy painting. Yosemite is an impossible place.

Unfortunately it's also very accessible: few hours drive from Los Angeles and San Francisco, and everything in between. If you don't take a shuttle bus, which is not very well advertised, you spend a lot of time trying to circle the parking lot, looking for people who might leave soon vacating a parking space.

It's not much better on the trail. It feels more like pilgrimage than hiking in some places. The good news is that the higher you go, the more of a trail you have to yourself. It never gets empty, but first you leave behind the families with strollers lured into wilderness by asphalt pavement. Then families with little kids in tow give up. Higher still random couples in flip flops. Although some dedicated flip-floppers choose to carry their unfortunately chosen footwear and go bare foot. 3 miles from a trailhead and a good mile after pavement abruptly ends you mostly see fellow hikers with a lost soul here and there.

The views are stupendous. And it seems to bring the worst in people. That was nice, a very pleased mother said to her 10 years old daughter after the latter threw a rock down the cliff. Actually - it was kind of stupid, I could not resist pointing out. And I am not even sure what was more stupid: rock throwing or encouraging one's child to throw more rocks. Of course they had the upper hand, and probably the last word, since the trail zig-zagged down and they could just kept on throwing rocks at me. But may be my angry retort did some good since we survived.

On days like this my feeble faith in humanity is thoroughly tested. Maybe all intelligent people are just sitting at home watching reality TV?

trip

Our Lonely Planet California Trips (Regional Travel Guide) has a serious case of coastal bias: out of 68 itineraries, less then a quarter venture inland. And needless to say it doesn't contain a trip focused on avoiding crowds in California national parks without spending a fortune. Once again we are left to create our own trip: national parks, cheap motels and fresh fruit pit stops. Time: 7 - 10 days. Distance: 1000 miles. Best time to go: April - October. Start: Palm Springs. End: Folsom.

gourmet

A group of French tourists were trying to find out what chipotle is. You see - French are not like us (as in the rest of the world); they actually care what they eat. Although, if I were French, I would try to find out first why there is sand in my mashed potatoes. The result of the inquiry was awkward bordering on hilarious. There was not enough chipotle in the soup to serve as a useful hint. The waitress in surprisingly passable (for central California) French was trying to explain that it's a type of 'poivre'. Oh là là the French exclaimed in an unintended self-parody. The English language, for all its pride in the size of its vocabulary, is one of the few that do not have separate words for pepper corn (poivre, pieprz) and peppers (piment, papryka): the French had every right to be comically surprised. I was on the verge of testing limits of my French and of my Android wikipedia app to point out that chipotle est un type de piment. But before I could humiliate myself the French tourists switched their attentions to dessert and were trying to order le sheescake. The hilarity continued.