Locums for a Small World Blog

And now 9 offbeat, extraordinary things to see and do in California

Posted by Everett Fitch

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We’ve written about California a lot – and for good reason. It’s a marvelous bit of land. You’ve got the redwoods in the north standing tall next to gorgeous oceanside cliffs. Turn south and both those mammoth trees and the misty monoliths along with them quickly and dramatically turn into gold-sand beaches. Inland, Yosemite casts massive shadows (you’ll immediately fall in love with this wilderness). Then there’s Lake Tahoe nearby where – during any season – the beauty is endless and unerring. Vibrant cultures and communities fringe every last measure of road along the way.

Immensely captivating places like Big Sur provide beatnik refuge. Coastal cities like San Diego, farther south, make you feel like you’re on perpetual spring break. And only a glimmer, a scratch-of-the-surface, is what we’ve offered so far. We know there’s so much more to the Golden State.

This time though, instead of going the more familiar route (like a listing of top places to explore in California), we’re going to give you a full list of the not-so-familiar. Places or things or experiences you may have never even heard of. Have we intrigued you? Are you planning a locum tenens adventure in California? If you answered yes to at least one of those questions, keep reading.

1) The Wave Organ in San Francisco

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Back in 1986 a pair of artists, Peter Richards and George Gonzales, collaborated on an acoustic art piece together. It’s called the Wave Organ and it actually produces sounds, activated by waves of course. (It’s said that the sound is so subtle that you must become sensitized to really hear it.) Go check it out. You may just fall in love with the views of the Golden Gate Bridge from here, too.

2) Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno

Search for this place online and you’ll find that its main website may look a little out of date. Don’t let that deter you. It’s spectacular here. The active slogan on said website definitely rings true: Take a Subterranean Journey to the Mediterranean – in the Middle of California. Interestingly enough, the man who built these underground gardens was a Sicilian immigrant named Baldassare Forestiere (what a name, huh?).

3) The sailing stones of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park

If you can stand the heat, this is a most amazing sight. Not simply for its vast playa filled with polygonal mud cracks but also for its sailing stones. These stones, both big and small, baffled scientists for years. Why? These rocks would leave large, long tracks with no seeming explanation as to how they were moving. Scientists later found out that ice flows and strong winter winds were the culprits.

4) Shark Fin Cove just northwest of Santa Cruz

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The views you’ll find here are utterly dreamlike. There’s an actual rock that juts out of the water here that resembles a shark fin. You may have never heard of this place yet because it’s located just off the side of the road alongside a small makeshift parking lot. Don’t let that fool you. A short walk from the parking lot, you’ll see unbelievable views. And down below, in addition to the shark fin rock, there’s a large sea cave ripe for exploring (be careful of rising water).

5) The Giant Dipper in Santa Cruz

Hey, once you’re done at Shark Fin Cove, you might as well stop by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, right? Right? For sure, this place is a better known site but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting still. We don’t think a trip to this section of California would be complete without taking a ride on the iconic Giant Dipper.

6) Castello di Amorosa near Calistoga

You don't often think Tuscan castle when you think of California but for real, there's an "authentically-built, 13th-century Tuscan castle and winery" here. Now the place wasn’t actually built in the 13th century but it does have all the makings of a castle from that time period – even a torture chamber. You’re welcome to visit for a tasting or take a guided tour, or both.

7) The fire fall at Horsetail Fall in Yosemite

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Sadly, you’ll have to wait until next February to view this fiery phenomenon. Specifically, it’s the last two weeks of February when you’ll want to visit. Horsetail Fall itself is seasonal, flowing solely in winter and early spring. But, like we said, if you visit in late February you’ll catch views absolutely unparalleled. The light at sunset during this time of season hits Horsetail just right and reflects so magnificently it looks as if the waterfall is on fire.

8) Sunny Jim’s Cave in La Jolla


While there is a string of seven sea caves in La Jolla, Sunny Jim is the only one that is accessible by land. It wasn’t originally though. Not until a tunnel was dug in 1903 to access the back of Sunny Jim. Believe it or not, the name itself comes from a cartoon character for a cereal that made its debut in the early 20th century. Force Cereal Malt Flakes, look it up. Check out the wonderful cave, too.

9) Malibu Wine Safari in yep, Malibu


A safari in Malibu? We’re sold already. Explore almost all thousand acres of Saddlerock Ranch from the comfort of a "custom-built open-air Safari vehicle." About 30 minutes from Los Angeles you can taste fine local wine all while taking in resplendent scenery and rubbing shoulders with Hollywood elite. Well not exactly. They’re retired now from the big screen…and they’re animals, but they are exotic (zebras, camels, giraffes, etc.)

Now it’s time to plan a trip to California, don’t you think? Again, we’ve only scratched the surface. In fact, here’s a whole list of more obscure, unusual and fascinating places to visit. Go on, check it out. Oh, and if you’re looking to practice in California soon, you can find both short-term and longer-term locum tenens openings here by clicking the button below.

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Topics: Southern California, Northern California, California, Forestiere Underground Gardens, Wave Organ, Sunny Jim's Cave, Racetrack Playa, Horsetail Fall, Central Valley, Offbeat, Shark Fin Cove, Giant Dipper, Castello di Amorosa

Locum in the land of giants: Or, of mystical coast and titanic trees

Posted by Everett Fitch

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We all remember road trips as kids. Some of us grew up in wood-bodied station wagons and RVs traveling coast to coast in iconic, national-park America. From Yellowstone on the West to Acadia on the East, there was nary a soul who didn’t venture to at least one of the greats.

Still, it’s hard to make it to every last park. The few that I missed out on growing up were the grand and glorious national and state parks dedicated to the California redwoods. I simply didn’t get the chance…until recently.

Before I get to these goliaths let me impress upon you the beauty of the road trip itself. At some point in your life, it’s a must to head down this stretch of California coast. In fact, go out of your way to make this happen. Why? Well, let me paint the picture. There are endless streams of clouds covering the sea. Underneath those big whites are cliffs and bridges and mountains and beaches. And while you’re barreling down that quintessential U.S. Highway 101, those very same clouds make it look like you’re on top of the world. Believe me, other motorists are just as mesmerized.

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Couple that view with this one: huge rocks jut out of the Pacific, up into the cloud lining, just a few hundred yards off. Your eyes focus on the sea and you almost forget why you’re even there. That is, until your gaze meets the massive beasts of beauty rolling up the horizon. That’s right, here come the redwoods.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
(if you’re heading north-south) will be your first taste—and arguably the most magnificent. The park's namesake comes from the gritty explorer, Jedediah Strong Smith who was the first man of European descent to explore inland northern California. His two-year trapping expedition in the early 1800s paved a dogged trail. He journeyed from the Great Salt Lake in Utah to the San Bernardino Mountains in California on through to the coastal belt. The redwood world he saw was much different: more filled with undergrowth, and more importantly, packed tight with those too-big trees.

Yet after years this stretch of forest is still wall-to-wall with redwoods. And just the perfect amount of sunlight finds its way through to the grove floor. The best way to experience this tremendous bit of earth is on the Boy Scout Tree Trail. It's one of the few trails in the park that gives you a first-hand glimpse into the interior redwoods.

Not up for hiking? Take a scenic drive along Howland Hill Road. This dirt thoroughfare is one of the finest redwood drives in all of California, hands down. It's a great avenue for some of the best camping sites in ol’ Jed Smith, too. Word to the wise, you should head for campsites 47 through 58—they’re surrounded by old-growth redwoods, and skirted with a nothing-but-serene river.

South, you’ll find Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. This is the only redwood park perched on a high coastal hillside. That means no lowland giants grow here. That also means some dramatic and extraordinary groves do grow here. When summer fog hits that famous west-facing hillside these herculean woods are in heaven—literally. The higher up the bigger they grow. Here, high-reaching slopes equal more life-giving fog. Plus, there’s less salt (redwoods grow at full potential with less spray-back from the ocean).

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Have you ever seen a photo of mist-filled redwoods surrounded by pink flowers? It was probably taken here. Undergrowth gets big and bold just like the trees. And rhododendrons (those pink flowers) spread like wildfire.

Even though tourists and truckers in sedans and semis roar past this most picturesque union of redwoods, you can still sink your way into solitude along Damnation Creek Trail. It begins with giant, salt-air bleached redwoods; crests with wide-open spruce and huckleberry trees; and ends with bluff-top views of the Pacific. You can just taste that ocean air, can’t you?

Next stop (skipping some state parks) is the Redwood National Park. This stretch of land’s a bit different than the rest. Not as much old growth. That’s because it wasn’t established until the 1960s. By then several housing booms occurred and—by effect—logging took its toll. Fortunately, state parks dodged most of that. Their land was protected at least two decades before.

No matter what, this national park is a can’t-miss. In the 60s, it held the first world record for tallest tree (368 feet/112 meters tall). That actually helped spark the creation of the park. Then it lost the record. Then it won it back again—in 2006 to be exact. That year the towering tree “Hyperion” was knighted. It stands at 379 feet/116 meters tall, nearly twice the size of the Statue of Liberty (minus the foundation). Rumor has it some locals can show you the way to this leviathan but its location is not openly publicized due to conservation efforts.

Luckily, foot and car traffic is sparse in Redwood National Park. Not because there are less frequenters but because it’s much more remote than its state-owned counterparts. If you’re up for a summer-themed, secluded hike there's no better place than the Emerald Ridge and Tall Trees Trail. It includes a few miles along gravelly stream bed crowned with an open-air perspective of monster redwoods. This section of forest shows you how big these trees really can grow. Plus, a cool California breeze beats on your back every last step through this unconfined grove. This place is the stuff of dreams.

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I can't stress enough how spectacular this whole 470-mile (750-km) redwood-drenched land is. Well, maybe I can. Remember when you were young and you saw the ocean for the first time? It was bigger than you could’ve imagined, right? These national and state parks in California stir the very same sentiment. There’s nothing like hiking the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Nature Trail at full morning mist, or catching the energy of the Trillium Falls Trail all while maroon-stained monoliths vault over you. These parks truly place the beauty of the world in perspective.

If you’re wondering the difference between the trees in these parks and the ones in Sequoia National Forest, let me tell you. The coastal redwood is much taller and thinner than its inland cousins. The giant sequoias—on the other hand—are found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and are heavier, wider and with thicker bark. There you have it. If you want to learn more about the differences, click here.

Oh, and please remember these trees are fewer in number than ever. Do your very best to value park guidelines. Not only for future generations but also out of respect for the permanent residents. True, animals of all stripes roam these parts. Deer, gray squirrels, raccoons, redwood chipmunks, bears and mountain lions are among the mammal dwellers. Plus, a slew of birds (Steller's jay, American dippers, thrushes, woodpecker, kingfisher, owl and osprey to name a few) populate on high.

Last, every doctor with an all-encompassing appetite should consider a locum tenens assignment in the Pacific Northwest. It has coast. It has mountains. It has amusement parks. It has giant cities known the world over. Authors, artists and filmmakers have painted invincible scenes of this land. And we have jobs all over. From Washington to Oregon to northern California, Check them out here. The wineries smooth over. The waves break. The redwoods stand tall. This sweep of land is brilliant, my friends.

Not convinced yet? I'll just leave this video here.

Topics: Everett Fitch, Redwood National Park, Jedediah Smith State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Howland Hill Road, Hyperion, Pacific Northwest, Northern California

Locums for a Small World Blog

Twice a month, our inquisitive locum tenens community asks us to tackle topics ranging from cuisine and culture to recreation and entertainment. We also include great storytelling from our doctors. Have a topic you’d like to read about? Let us know.

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