What is your idea of the quintessential California image?
The Golden Gate Bridge?
Surfers running across a sandy beach, board in hand, rushing to catch the next big wave?
Yosemite's Half Dome?
A grove of mighty sky-scraping sequoias?
The Hollywood sign?
The alpine beauty of Lake Tahoe?
No question, each of these says The Golden State loud and clear but if I close my eyes and visualize California, the only place I've ever called home, the image that comes to mind more than any other is that of an amber suede hill dotted with gnarly ancient oaks.
Recently, while picking up garbage at the Coast and Creek Clean-Up I followed the twisting flow of a little-known creek located a mere stone's throw from an arcade and miniature golf course, in the shadow of a plethora of fast-food restaurants, not even a quarter mile from the junction of Interstate 80 and Highway 680 where thousands of cars whiz by every day.
I've picked up garbage on this stretch of creek numerous times in years past but for whatever reason had never turned left, instead of right, heading upcreek. I had not gone far before I wished I had my camera: The landscape unexpectedly opened up to reveal my quintessential California vista!
The hills so dry they look like they'd ignite from the heat of just looking at them. The branches of elder oaks so curly they actually cork screw, each tree decades if not centuries old. The cinematic bonus of a lichen swathed dry-stacked stone wall - undoubtedly remants from an old rancho - almost too perfect to believe it actually exists. All this here, in this place, yet today? How did I not know? Needless to say, I returned with my camera to capture what I surely always carry with me in my heart...home. For me, California's true gold.
"I swear in the days still left, we'll walk in fields of gold..."
"Fields of Gold", by Sting
All photos taken along Dan Wilson Creek, Cordelia, California