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« Blue Highways: Beckwourth Pass, California | Main | Blue Highways: Reno, Nevada »

Blue Highways: Hallelujah Junction, California

Unfolding the Map

Click on Thumbnail for MapAnother border is crossed with this post, and it's a special one to me because it's the border of my home state.  As you'll see in this post, I am a veritable font of no knowledge when it comes to my own state.  It's sad when one has to learn about his state from others, but there you go.  That's what Littourati is for, in stimulate knowledge and imagination.  Click on the map thumbnail at right, and you'll locate the place that has inspired a classical piano piece.

Book Quote

"I headed north out of Reno, crossed into California at an intersection once called Hallelujah Junction because it meant arrival in Eurekaland, then turned west on state 70."

Blue Highways: Part 5, Chapter 11

Hallelujah Junction Wildlife Area. Photo by the California Wildlife Conservation Board and at the California Department of Fish and Game. Click on photo to go to site.

Hallelujah Junction, California

One of the projects that has been percolating in the back of my mind would be an actual travelogue.  I have been astounded, even amazed, at how little I know about the state I lived in for 22 years, and where I grew up.  This is the state I have visited every year since then, for about 25 years.  It's embarrassing to me, really, that there are such huge gaps in my knowledge about California.

Here's a little example that my wife continues to relish and gives me a bad time about.  One year, during a visit to see my mom in Fort Bragg, she suggested that we check out a little winery about 10 miles up the coast from our house.  The Pacific Star Winery was a lovely place, dramatically perched on the bluffs.  It had a tasting room, and a little area for a picnic lunch.  The day was bright, as sun glinted off the water.  We started with doing some wine tasting.  As I was speaking with the man who was pouring, I asked him how long the winery had been around.  I was expecting to hear a year or two.  Instead, he said that the winery had started 10 years previously.  At that, my wife hit me and exclaimed "You mean we've been coming to this area all this time and you have never brought me here?"

She had a right to exclaim.  The fact is that my family never really looked any farther northward than a few miles above my hometown.  Fort Bragg sits about 180 miles north of San Francisco, and about 370 miles south of the Oregon border.  All of that area directly north and northeastward I knew nothing about, because we never went there.  I was born in Eureka, about 135 miles north of where I grew up, but remembered nothing about it.  I once went with a friend's family to Benbow, about an hour north, but that's it.  As for the northern interior of California - forget it.  I've never seen one of my state's most striking national features, Mt. Shasta.  I've never seen the rugged wilderness up in that area.  As my wife said, it was if my family's map was stamped Here be Dragons north of my hometown.

But it just wasn't the north.  I never saw much of the Central Valley or Southern California either.  We never traveled farther south of San Francisco than Santa Clara.  I went once to Yosemite National Park, and that was when I was in college.  I didn't visit Los Angeles until I was in my early 40s.  I've never been to San Diego.  The coastal stretch of highway high above the Pacific Ocean along Big Sur exists only in my imagination because I've never been there.  I'd say that as a Californian, I've seen maybe only 25 percent of my state.

My book, should I ever write it, will be called Coming Home: A Californian Discovers California.  From what I know and have read, California is the United States in microcosm.  You can find the most cosmopolitan of people, and the reddest of rednecks.  You will find mountains, valleys, oceans, and deserts.  I've barely scratched the surface of my own state.

Another example.  While many people will know even the tiniest communities in their state, I never knew that Hallelujah Junction existed.  However, I now know that a famous American composer wrote a piano piece inspired by the place.  As LHM travels through California, I will also be on a journey of discovery in a part of the state that I am barely aware of.  He doesn't spend much time in California, but hopefully my knowledge of my own state will increase as I plot his course.

And most importantly, perhaps it will spur me onward to write my own travel book about my own state, a state I barely know.

Musical Interlude

American composer John Adams wrote a piece for two pianos entitled Hallelujah Junction, named after the place in northeastern California.  There are two videos to get the whole piece in.

If you want to know more about Hallelujah Junction

Hallelujah Junction Wildlife Area
Roadside America: Hallelujah Junction Shoe Tree
Wikipedia: Hallelujah Junction

Next up: Beckwourth Pass, California

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