Love Letters to California – The New York Times

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California Today
Readers share why they adore living in the Golden State.

Over Labor Day weekend, I visited for the first time Lassen Volcanic National Park, a gem in the mountains in northeastern California.
I have to admit: Because there’s so much more well-known natural beauty in California, I was stunned by how impressive Lassen turned out to be.
We trekked through vast meadows of wildflowers reminiscent of Yosemite, explored steaming hot springs — and their heady sulfur smell — and climbed into the crater of an exploded volcano. My camera roll is now filled with images of sparkling lakes, craggy peaks and otherworldly painted dunes.
The trip made me grateful to live in California and to be privileged to keep exploring this vast, wondrous state. (If you’re interested, there are 28 national parks and monuments in California and roughly 280 state parks.)
Today, I’m sharing some notes from readers — lightly edited for clarity — about why you love living in California, whether it’s because of the travel opportunities, or just because you adore your neck of the woods. I always enjoy reading these messages. I hope you do, too.
“I moved to SoCal less than a year ago. I was surprised by how much California lore lived in my head. So many bucket list items live here! The first thing I thought to do was go surfing. As a 55th birthday present to myself, I took a surfing lesson in Newport Beach in May. It was a class for women, and the instructors were so kind and supportive. I met a bunch of women there and we have been surfing every weekend since. I have a girl gang now. We are surfers. I am a surfer! Ann Batenburg, Newport Beach
“The life of a native Californian is filled with stop-in-your-tracks beauty. My family moved to Shasta County, in the far reaches of Northern California, in the mid-1960s, and I soon became acclimated to stunning vistas, picture-perfect views of Mount Lassen from my bedroom window, and gorgeous Burney Falls, Castle Crags and Whiskeytown Lake. My parents built a home close to the Sacramento River where we raised pet goats, grew a garden, harvested cherries from our backyard orchard and endured 120-degree summers. I live in the city now and love it. Yet, these memories have forever set the standard for my definitions of beauty and joy.” Donna Thayer, Gold River
“My wife and I came to California for the first time in 1975 when, fresh out of law school in Tennessee, I accepted a job in Fresno. Though neither of us had any idea what or where Fresno was, I figured we would go to the beach every day just like all Californians did. Arriving in the Central Valley in August was a terrible shock: 100-plus degree temperature, no beach in reach and nothing but dry, brown hills and rivers with no water in them. We hated it, but agreed to stay for two or so years. We have been here ever since! We discovered wonderful back roads for biking through the foothills, multiple mountain lakes, a National Scenic highway, log flumes, gold mining towns, three national parks, great hiking and backpacking all within a short drive, and the beach, the Bay and Los Angeles only a few hours away. Now as we sit in a home we could never afford elsewhere, and I suggest to my wife that we retire to the Central Coast, she responds, ‘Oh, I could never leave these vast open spaces.’” Michael Seng, Fresno
“When I was 10 years old, my parents visited Southern California, and when they returned my mom exclaimed, ‘Everyone was happy in California and it all smelled like orange blossoms.’ I was sold. After college graduation, I packed my car and drove across the country to make Los Angeles my home, figuring that I could always go back. Twenty-nine years later, I haven’t gone back. There are days when the sky is filled with fluffy clouds, the San Gabriel Mountains gleam in the distance, the trees are glowing green, and I let the breeze hit my face and say to myself, ‘It is so glorious here, I am so happy.’” Heather Porter, San Gabriel
“After a heap of fix-it chores and sweating like crazy at 10 o’clock on a recent morning, I asked my wife to go to the beach to cool off for a bit. Twenty minutes later, we put on light wet suits and she swam out on her body board and I went out on my surf mat. The water was delightful and the visibility was better than usual. We paddled around for 20 minutes or so, checking out the underwater scene in an ocean so flat that my wife remarked it was like paddling on a lake. Out of the water, back home in 10 minutes and into the hot tub staring at the Santa Ynez Mountains behind Santa Barbara. Ready for the rest of the day.” Michael S. Brown, Santa Barbara
Tens of thousands of Kaiser Permanente workers have authorized a strike at the end of this month if negotiations fail with the hospital chain, KTLA reports.
A federal appeals court opened the way to block a California law that bans gun advertisements aimed at children, The Associated Press reports.
Environmental groups have called on federal regulators to immediately shut down one of the two reactors at California’s last operating nuclear power plant until tests can be conducted on machinery they believe could fail, The Associated Press reports.
Trustees at California State University voted to raise student tuition by six percent each year for five consecutive years to try to narrow a $1.5 billion deficit, The Associated Press reports.
Contract negotiations between Hollywood studios and striking screenwriters could restart next week, the studios said — a possible turning point in the strike, now in its fifth month.
Bill Maher said his weekly show, “Real Time With Bill Maher,” would return to the air even though entertainment writers, including members of his staff, remain on strike.
San Diego lifeguards rescued a woman suffering from hypothermia who said she had been swimming near the Ocean Beach pier all night, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
The FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried wrote hundreds of pages of reflections and self-justifications while under house arrest, shedding light on how he may defend himself at his trial next month.
University of California regents rejected a proposal to buy a new home for the university’s president, Michael V. Drake, after his current Berkeley residence was defaced by racist graffiti, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Today’s tip comes from Cheryl Nesbitt, who lives in Hawthorne. Cheryl recommends a beach community near San Diego:
“I’m a native Angeleno, and have lived in La Cañada Flintridge, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Redondo Beach and now Hawthorne. One of my favorite getaway day trips is to north county San Diego. Cardiff-by-the-Sea is charming, but becoming quite bougie compared with the ’80s when I lived there. But neighboring Leucadia has somehow managed to retain its hippy-era charm. Highly recommend stops at the Pannikin coffee house for breakfast and the Leucadian Bar just down the street for happy hour and yummy BBQ from its backyard food truck, Smoke & Salt. At under two hours’ drive from Los Angeles, Leucadia is worth the visit.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
A long-running project to restore the Dutch Slough tidal marsh near Oakley is seeing success as a flourishing new ecosystem for native plants, wildlife and even juvenile salmon, The Mercury News reports.
The $73 million project to restore 1,187 acres of wetland just east of San Francisco got its legs in the late 1990s, when a restoration ecologist noticed the land’s rich ecological potential and proposed restoring it as a tidal marsh, saving it from a planned real estate development in the process. In 2003, the state acquired the land and drew up plans for the rehabilitation; construction on the project began in 2018.
With the work now just over halfway completed, the marsh is already home to abundant plant life and at least 22 species of fish, including migrating Chinook salmon. The marsh is also capturing impressive amounts of carbon dioxide from the environment, an important step in combating climate change.
Scientists hope that when completed, the marsh will be a model for future climate-healing projects.
“It’s really complicated. It’s multifaceted,” said Dennis Baldocchi, a professor at the University of Berkeley’s department of environmental science, who has studied the tidal marsh for two years. “Ultimately, we’re trying to protect the water transport system of California.”
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back Monday. Enjoy your weekend. — Soumya
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.
Maia Coleman and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at
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Soumya Karlamangla is the lead writer for the California Today newsletter, where she provides daily insights and updates from her home state. More about Soumya Karlamangla


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