California Dreamin’

With each return from my haven in the hills I become more comfortable assimilating to the cultures that shaped my youth.

I get these feelings of positive anxiety whenever I visit Southern California. The consistently warm weather, the friends and family, the nightlife and the energy. Mostly, the weather. All other factors stem from the weather. Other Diegans will admit that sunshine dictates their moods, and many agree that a region such as the Pacific Northwest seems uninhabitable. Err…depressing. Er…just not for us.

I start to feel it before I leave the mountains. Listening to hip-hop transports me to nightclubs and house parties. Images of running barefoot on the beach or going sleeveless into the early hours of morning trigger my stoke-meter and get my blood boiling. Although I know deep down that I’ll never fully accept the entire SoCal package, I still enjoy myself immensely during the semi-annual rendezvous; I do my best to go as hard as my body and wallet will permit.

Luckily I have Interstate 15 to thank for a smooth transition into city driving. When my car’s feeling frisky (rarely and never unappreciated) she’ll let me push her to 80+ on the stretch between St. George, UT and Barstow, CA. Some may refer to this territory as ‘Bat Country’. I know it as ‘the longest 4 hours I’ve endured since the Tijuana taxi ride from hell’. Still, I-15 serves as good preparation for city driving, where we adjust to 45 mph in-town vs. the 15 mph limit in Crested Butte.

Balancing outdoor time with indoor/drive time is crucial:

-I began with a 3-day prequel at Lake Arrowhead. Clean and sound-proof air for maximum penetration; ‘howdy'(adj.)-neighbors and cable-free tv; the scent of pine and a fresh pot of brew…and that’s it.  A great way to rejuvenate and relax before I fully took it to the streets.

-Not all streets, however. There’s a great network of trails near my mom’s house; it’s easy to remain on dirt almost the entire run, as long as you don’t mind re-tracing your steps a few times between the numerous trail junctions.

-Being at sea-level doesn’t hurt much, either. Energy levels increase as elevation decreases, and the oxygen here allows me to push harder and further than usual. I impress myself when I exercise here, yet I search for motivation back in Colorado. (Interesting sidetone – I excel through workouts with a vivid imagination; visions of charging up a mountainside in order to get ahead of the pack and capture the perfect shot; or digging a partner out from under an avalanche debris field while his clock quickly ticks away.)

-Although the surf is currently “poor-fair”, visiting the ocean can be therapeutic; almost immediately after descending to sea-level I do my best to race toward the horizon. Just being on the sand or taking a dip in the salt water works wonders for the soul.

-Traffic is more manageable as I adapt to 6-lane freeways and learn to better avoid rush-hour. Knowing when to refrain from certain freeways/neighborhoods is very beneficial. (So is having a passenger with hand-held GPS capabilities.)

-Getting out to capture photos doesn’t come quite as “second-nature” in the city. Without the panoramic views and outdoor activities surrounding us, the urge to shoot just isn’t as prevalent as I’m used to. This is not to say there aren’t terrific shots to be found; I just have to look a bit deeper to create them. These photographs usually provide the most satisfaction because they surprise and entice me with fun and interesting new perspectives.

“As years passed away I have formed the habit of looking back upon that former self as upon another person, the remembrance of whose emotions has been a solace in adversity and added zest to the enjoyment of prosperity.” – Simon Newcomb

Some of the better shots from the past two weeks:

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