California - some real places to see

January 1, 1970

by Vania Fernandes Magalhaes Marques

Last summer I decided it was time to get to know California. After all I was raised watching Baywatch and following surf stars and filling my head with “Surf in USA” ideals. Anyway, I knew I didn’t want to see the Californian “touristic cards”. I wanted to see the real places, like the natural parks and the desert.  I’m going tell you about two very distinct experiences that certainly left a mark on my journey: The Yosemite Natural Park and ghost town Bodie. How to very distinct landscapes in the same territory could once again make me think about globalisation and the planet resources.

Yosemite Natural Park – the lost parts

The road trip started by driving straight to one of America’s most iconic National Parks, Yosemite. Home to El Capitan and Half Dome (famous geological formations), Yosemite is considered an ecological sanctuary. In the summer time lots of people from all around the world travel there to experience first hand the majesty of this dramatic landscape. Here, of course, everywhere you look there is a perfect Instagram scenario. Almost as if we can come up with a new concept: “fast landscape”. You go there, take the picture, post in online and never think about it again. Do we even look at the view without a camera in the middle? The only problem is that usually where you can spot a good view so can everyone else. So, as always, I went in my quest to look for the real places. As I got to the Valley I realized that every single campground was full. Camp guards even laugh when I asked if they had any free spots. “We’ve been booked for months!” they said. So I had no other option than to move on and look for some other place to sleep. It was getting very dark and, at the time I started to consider sleeping in the car. I was given a campground map, which was basically a hand drawing, but I believed in americans accuracy, so I went for it.

The High Sierras and Tenaya Lake

I drove up to the High Sierras. After a pretty long drive on a dirt and small road – luckily the map was actually extremely detailed – I arrived at a campground where two very nice guys offered to share their space with us (even this one, in the middle of nowhere, was fully booked). At the end, the “bad luck” turned into the opportunity to see an isolated part of this famous park that I don’t think many people get to see. The complete darkness unveiled a starred sky you don’t get to see every day. The real Yosemite. In my rush to find a place to sleep, I didn’t realized I was already 9000 ft high: so that night the temperature was really, really low and I just didn’t have the appropriated camping gear or clothes for those temperatures. I had packed for one of the hottest summers ever in the US. To add some excitement, I heard that a few nights earlier a bear had assaulted a car to steal some food and so, even if everything we had was safely locked away in the anti-bear box provided in every campground, I was still a little concerned. I think I slept 3 to 4 hours tops that night and so very early I headed to Tenaya Lake. It was a beautiful day and I found a paradisiacal landscape. Tenaya Lake is the most beautiful of all Yosemite’s lakes. It’s a mile (1.6 km) long and bordered on three sides by granite peaks and domes. The lake was created by the Tenaya Glacier, which flowed out of the vast Tuolumne Ice Sheet and down to Yosemite Valley.  It’s a long way from Yosemite Valley, so it’s not as crowded as other famous places like Yosemite or Bridalveil Falls, but it’s definitely worth the trip. Anyways don’t expect to have the place to yourself, at least not in August, as I discovered a little later that morning when several families and other nature lovers headed to the sunny shores. No problem, I was ready to move to my next destination.

To know more click – travel real places Yosemite National Park.

California landscape and finite resources – Mono Lake and Bodie

In fact, I was eager to visit Mono Lake, a large shallow saline lake in Mono County, California. The lack of an outlet causes high levels of salts to accumulate in the lake and form these unique salt tower-like sculptures. It was a reality check to find out that this desert lake is slowly disappearing due to climate change and the severe drought. I learned it has a highly productive ecosystem based on brine shrimp, and provides critical nesting habitat for two million annual migratory birds, and so most parts are closed to any water activities. California has such a great ecosystem variety that you can easily go from 9000 ft Sierras to the hottest desert.  It also has some very particular places that show how resources can change the territory and the way we relate to that. You can easily find ghost towns in several parts of the state. One of the most famous is Bodie, a town frozen in time in a “state of arrested decay”.

Ghost town Bodie

Bodie is an gold mining town from the late 1800’s. It started with about 20 miners and grew to an estimated 10,000 people by 1880! By then, the town of Bodie was filled with families, robbers, miners, merchants, gunfighters, prostitutes and people from every country in the world. At one time there was reported to be 65 saloons in town but as gold started to scarce, fights and murders started booming. It was hell on Earth. There’s even a story about a little girl whose family was moving from San Francisco to Bodie, who wrote in her diary: “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie”.When the mining profits went down the town was abandoned and you can still see all kinds of personal and lifestyle items left abandoned in their original places. As if people had just left (adding lots of dust, of course). It was definitely very interesting for me to visit such a place. It reminded me how quickly a community can collapse when the natural resources that sustained its economy get exhausted. This town’s sudden collapse is as a very contemporary metaphor, that we could definitely make good use of.

To know more click here –  travel real places Bodie



Tenaya Lake in Yosemite Park, California, Usa


High Sierras Yosemite Park camping


Bisons in Yosemite National Park


Tenaya lake view, Yosemite National Park


View of Bodie Ghost Town, California


Abandoned sallon in Ghost Town Bodie, California


Bodie Ghost Town California


Night camping in Yosemite National Park

Vania Fernandes Magalhaes Marques

By Vania Fernandes Magalhaes Marques

I'm a Portuguese girl who is very interested in finding the real places, the real people and the real traditions in every journey that i am lucky to make. I write on a regular basis to some travel and sports magazines and now i'm giving blog writing a try. I would like to think i can contribute a little to keep the diversity alive and well in all the different territories of the world and prevent mass tourism from turning every last bit of landscape into an Instagram post.


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