California is awesome, there's no skirting around the fact. It is grand, exquisite, beautiful, humbling, big, delicious and sunny. For my birthday, I treated myself to a tour de California at the end of August, making good on promises to friends around the state that I'd come visit them.

I started with FYF Fest in Los Angeles, a few days to roam Venice and West Hollywood. Then took a comfortable Greyhound bus to Santa Barbara, where I spoiled myself with solo hiking and beach sunsets.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was renting a car out of SB and driving to June Lake (near Mammoth Lakes). That road trip was a delight, beautiful views on the I-101 S, the rolling hills and orange tree farms on I-5 S, and the Mojave Dessert, Sequoia National Forest, and White Mountains that followed me up US-395 N to Mammoth.

Never having been to any west coast national parks, my time in Yosemite was jaw dropping. Grand and exquisite are the two adjectives that come to mind.

The trip ended with a brief 18 hours in Oakland, with Lake Merritt as my compass, before flying back via SFO.

I'll be back, California.

Must start trip with stereotypical Venice beach palm trees!

Runyon Canyon gives off gorgeous views of the city and Hollywood hills + sign. Dog and phone friendly.

Santa Barbara is full of nooks and crannies leading to secret beaches.

Hendry's Beach in Santa Barbara is the perfect place to catch sunset and a little privacy.

You can rent SUP or kayaks at a few places on the main beach in SB, but check the prices bc they vary per rental place. Beware of taking a selfie while on a standup paddle board... may invoke accidental dropping of phone...

I got off on a random exit off 395N to enjoy a walk through the joshua trees. Gorgeous.

The open road in California is really something. This reminded me of the Looney Tunes.

From Santa Barbara to Mammoth Lakes the terrain changes every 40 minutes or so - this was nearing Yosemite

First stop: Rainbow Falls, Mammoth Lakes

The environment in California is too breathtaking. I liked it too much.

One day in the Yosemite area, we rented a boat on June Lake. Even though it was August, it was pretty windy and chilly. We caught no fish and I was freezing. But, it was beautiful!

Gorgeous skies.

Enjoyed the contrast of a plane on the bright blue sky near Lower Falls, Yosemite.

After hiking the Lower/Upper Falls, we found a field near the parking lot to have a picnic.

The view. Traffic was brutal, but it's legit. I finally understand the El Capitan OS.

The stark white boulders against the green pines and the blue sky were incredible.

And then we had this fricken sunset so go figure. If you're not in love with California yet, stop reading.

Shoutout to Forsake (http://forsake.com/) my favorite pair of hiking boots to date.

Tenaya Lake - another sight for sore eyes.

To close the trip, I enjoyed a beautiful early AM run around Lake Merritt in Oakland. Lata Cali!