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Dispatches from the Road

A selection of travel logs from both near and far.

Filtering by Tag: california


Laurel Dailey


It starts in February.

In the last days of the month, you have a pretty good indication of the kind of winter it’s been. Mild, sure, that’s a given for much of California. But specifically: how much rain has there been? The bulk of our rains soak the grounds in January and February, so by the end of the second month, you start asking the inevitable question: What about the wildflowers?

And what about them? They’re finicky, to be sure—prone to fits and starts like any delicate thing. It can neither be too hot or too cold, and timing is everything. But the most important element is rain. The best blooms happen when there’s a whole lotta rain—buckets of it.


The winter of 2018-19 produced just such a scenario wherein a super bloom was likely. Beginning in February, I was checking the DesertUSA report daily, monitoring the bloom along with thousands of other flower nerds. By late march, Carrizo Plain National Monument was nearing its peak.

It was worth the 4.5-hour trek to the grasslands east of San Luis Obispo to see these hills awash in vibrant yellow—bursting with it, oozing with it. Positively resplendent.

Come February 2020, you’ll know where to find me: feverishly hitting refresh on my browser and asking that crucial question: What about the wildflowers?

The view of Soda Lake

The view of Soda Lake

MALIBU CREEK | After the Fire

Laurel Dailey


The Woolsey Fire swept through the Malibu hills in November 2018, decimating nearly everything in its path. There’s a curious result of the destruction, though: the fire actually cultivated a scenario in which wildflowers flourished the following spring. The heat above ground melted the protective casings surrounding flower seeds buried deep in the soil, and the following winter rains prompted those seeds to germinate. The charred hillsides are now covered in abundant new life. The images you see today were taken at dawn in Malibu Creek State Park in March.


There are times—usually every six months or so—where I’ll feel intensely claustrophobic living in Southern California. The sprawl, like a creeping dread. People stacked on top of one another, cars woven into the unending plait of traffic, space a premium whose cost only ever rises. It’s a lot to take sometimes.

The first time I discovered it was in college. Feeling stir-crazy, I set out to drive until I was the only car on roads winding through lonely countryside, just like I’d done growing up. Except it never ended, the sprawl. The houses never thinned. The grid flexed itself tighter as I crept along a busy avenue, feeling panicked.

So every few months, the feeling materializes, and with it, all the resignation and revulsion one might feel about a latent sore throat or the first stomach-dropping flip of the flu. Except that now, I have better coping skills.

Now, I know that one of the ways to fight That Old Feeling is to wake before the sun and sacrifice sleep for that breathless hush of dawn. It means I plan ahead and do some research before I set out for an adventure. A certain kind of wandering spontaneity is lost, sure, but it matters less when what’s gained is a view like this one, barely removed from the grind, yet still miles away from That Old Feeling.


“Wow,” I said to my hiking companion. Wow, to the sunrise. Wow, to the lupine-blanketed hillsides. Wow, to the bare trees, limbs still charred. Wow, to the golden creek wending its way through the valley below. Wow to all of it, wow because no other words came close.

BIG SUR | New Years

Laurel Dailey


Here’s a fun fact about New Years in the U.S.: Wherever the hotel or Airbnb, you’re guaranteed to pay an arm and a leg booking a spot to sing “Auld Lang Syne” with your kin. Things get booked months in advance, and it’s generally a lot more difficult to wrangle your wiliest friends to commit to ringing in the new year when it’s barely months into the current one.

Faint sunbeams have me thinking about the early weeks of every new year. You find yourself wondering, “Is this how the year will be?” Squinting into the future, as ever, in futility.

Faint sunbeams have me thinking about the early weeks of every new year. You find yourself wondering, “Is this how the year will be?” Squinting into the future, as ever, in futility.

But here’s another fun fact: New Years is, of course, in the dead of winter. Which means that campsites aren’t nearly as packed and plans don’t have to be decided upon eight months out. In California, where the winters (at least in certain areas) tend to be milder, taking advantage of a few extra days off means there are even more campsites to choose from.

In kind, I celebrated the advent of 2019 in Big Sur, waking up under the trees with my nearest and dearest. It isn’t a bad way to ring in the new year, and I’m making good on my forever resolution to #getouttadodge.