Author John Steinbeck, if he were alive today and thinking back on his novel Cannery Row, would appreciate the irony that the sardines have had quixotic ups and downs in their population levels off his beloved Monterey Bay in California.
John Steinbeck's house in Salinas and the National Steinbeck Center two blocks away acquaint a traveler with the life and novels of this literary icon, who wrote the classics, The Grapes of Wrath and Cannery Row.
There are still plenty of “nuggets” in the cultural stream for the modern traveler venturing into the Northern Gold Country of California along Highway 49, after leaving I-80 at Auburn and heading north.
If enjoying natural beauty in California is on your life-enhancement list, the annual pageant of fall color in the aspen trees along Highway 395 in the eastern Sierra should be high on your to-do list.
The Mendocino Coast intrigues visitors and ranks as one of California’s loveliest and most popular coastal areas. It takes a while to get there, and the road in, Highway 128, is one of California’s more pleasing back-country routes.

The Monterey Aquarium

One of the great travel pleasures of Monterey, California, today is that its Monterey Aquarium enhances so superbly the area’s earlier legacy of nature attractions. The Aquarium presents the wonders of the sea, such as fish in a huge kelp forest, as a diver would experience them offshore. This wonder, so thoroughly scientific and precise, does not need enhancement with amusement park attractions.
The Eastern Sierra of California along Highway 395 beckons with its Fall Color, Bristlecone Pines, Rowell Mountain Light Photo Gallery, Erik Schat's Bakery, Eastern California Museum with Paiute Indian baskets, Manzanar Japanese internment site, Lone Pine Film History Museum, Alabama Hills movie site, and Whitney Portal views of Mt. Whitney.
Mono Lake in the Eastern Sierra of California is noted for its tufa spires, which are otherworldly limestone deposits. Mono Lake's ecosystem has been an environmental regulation case because the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power earlier tried to drain water from much of the lake, causing coyotes to eat the migrating birds resting and nesting on the tufa. Draining the lake also endangered the brine shrimp and brine fly populations due to excessive salinity.
What are the oldest living things on Earth? The current consensus is that they are trees, the bristlecone pines, in the White Mountains of California, east from Bishop. Stop at the Schulman Grove Visitor Center.
What are the best beaches both north and south of San Francisco, as well as in San Francisco? My recommendations: Baker Beach in San Francisco, followed by Ocean Beach and Fort Funston. North, consider Limantour, then Heart's Desire, Bodega Dunes, Goat Rock, and Manchester. South, try Montara and then Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and Ano Nuevo.