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The view of Hearst Castle from Highway 1. Photo by author Steven T. Callan.

In the Shadow of the Castle

The view of Hearst Castle from Highway 1. Photo by author Steven T. Callan.

I tried to find the most interesting view of Hearst Castle from Highway 1. The huge rock on the left made the difference. Photo by Steven T. Callan.

Kathy and I have always been fond of California’s Central Coast. We try to make the trip down Highway 1, from Monterey to Morro Bay, at least once every year. Weather permitting, we do it during late winter, when most of the tourists are away and the gargantuan beachmaster elephant seals are rumbling up and down the shore, chasing would-be suitors from their harems.

A Gulf fritillary rests on a Zinnia in the garden of author Steven T. Callan.

An Island of Our Own

A Gulf fritillary rests on a Zinnia in the garden of author Steven T. Callan.

Annuals, like Zinnia, attract several species of butterflies to the island, including tiger swallowtails, monarchs, pipevine swallowtails, buckeyes, painted ladies, and this gorgeous Gulf fritillary. Photo by Steven T. Callan.

Over the years, Kathy and I have often dreamed of escaping today’s fast-paced, hectic world and moving to an island of our own—an island of trees, flowers, and abundant wildlife, where we could experience the joys of nature without leaving the confines of our own property. Realizing that buying an island wasn’t a realistic option, we decided to do the next best thing and create one on our three-acre patch of oak woodland in the foothills of Northern California.

Every fall, aspens put on a magnificent display in California’s Eastern Sierra. Photo by Steven T. Callan.

Golden Trout and Golden Trees

Every fall, aspens put on a magnificent display in California’s Eastern Sierra. Photo by Steven T. Callan.

Every fall, aspens put on a magnificent display in California’s Eastern Sierra. Photo by author.

The first time I experienced the awesome grandeur of California’s Eastern Sierra was in 1975, when, as a rookie Fish and Game warden, I drove there on assignment to work the Crowley Lake trout-season opener. That spring, the majestic mountains to the west were covered with snow, and the entire scene, from Mount Whitney to Mammoth Lakes, looked like something you’d see on a Christmas card. Over the years I’ve visited again and again, sometimes in the spring, sometimes in the summer, and sometimes in the fall.  Whatever the season,  the Eastern Sierra always offers an eyepopping display of color and natural beauty.

Mount Shasta as it appears from Castle Crags State Park.

Siskiyou County: The Land Beneath the Great White Mountain

Majestic Mount Shasta as it appears from Castle Crags State Park.

Majestic Mount Shasta as it appears from Castle Crags State Park. Photo by author.

When the Outdoor Writers Association of California chose Siskiyou County as the site for this spring’s writers conference, I couldn’t have been more pleased. I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for this unspoiled land at the top of the state since I first discovered it fifty-three years ago.

A herd of bighorn sheep in Valley of Fire State Park. Photo by Author Steven T. Callan.

Just Add Water

A herd of bighorn sheep in Valley of Fire State Park. Photo by Author Steven T. Callan.

What a thrill to encounter bighorn sheep during our visit to Valley of Fire State Park. Photo by author.

When people describe the desert, words like hot, dry, desolate, bleak, bare, brown, inhospitable, and intimidating are often mentioned. Those descriptions change dramatically when water is added to the mix!

Rocio Nesbitt, author John D. Nesbitt, author Steven T. Callan, and Kathy Callan celebrate at the Orland Alumni Association Awards Dinner.

Orland Alumni Association Awards Night

Rocio Nesbitt, author John D. Nesbitt, author Steven T. Callan, and Kathy Callan celebrate at the Orland Alumni Association Awards Dinner.

Just like in the Statler Brothers’ song, the Orland High School Class of ‘66 had its dreams. In June of 1966, all 138 of us spread to the wind and set out to live our dreams, much like the Orland High School classes before us. Some went on to college,  some served in the military, some pursued occupations  elsewhere, and some remained in this wonderful little Northern California farm town for the rest of their lives.