Last weekend, my best friend and I drove from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe, an eight-hour drive where you can see how California changes from south to north, from sea level dry mountains, from perfect humidity to a dryness that chaps those lips like nothing else. (If there’s one thing we don’t have in California, it’s bad humidity. My family sometimes complains but they do not live in southern China, so.)
Starting in Los Angeles, we didn’t actually drive past the beach (that’s not how freeways work here, lol), but we’ll start with the beach nonetheless.
You might be picturing long, sandy beaches with plenty of lifeguard stations and volleyball nets, which we do have. The coast from Torrance all the way through Malibu pretty much looks like the photo above. But we also have our share of rocky and pebbly beaches full of tide pools, caves, and outcroppings.
As you leave the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, you drive through the mountainous desert scrub brush–low-growing bushes and scraggly trees, dusty hills and lots of red rocks in different striations.
Moving up in altitude towards central California, the Joshua trees will start to pop up (doesn’t mean you’re in Joshua Tree National Park, they grow outside the park as well.)
The Central Valley is naturally desert-y, but human intervention and irrigation has made verdant patches where a lot of US food production takes place. There are so many small farming towns you find in rural California, and they often look like the “Old West”, but you’d be surprised at how often they look like the Midwest or the South. (Including the Trump 2020 signs, eeeeek.)
Continuing up U.S.-395 you start to see the Sierras rising up in the West, still topped with snow in the middle of summer thanks to heavy rainfall last winter and spring (thank god, we were in a drought for like eight years and we needed it).
As you continue northward the elevation steadily creeps, leading to more green meadows and taller redwood trees. This is where you find the likes of Sequoia National Park, Yosemite, and Tahoe.
I’ve traveled to places far and wide, and sometimes I forget to appreciate the beauty of my home state. This doesn’t even cover half the amazing landscapes we have in California, so come see it for yourself!