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The Irvine Connection: James Irvine and the Redwoods

Learn how James II’s tree-hugging efforts in the 1940s were rewarded

Among the network of paths at Prairie Creek is the James Irvine Trail, named for the founder of The Irvine Company. After the 1906 San Francisco quake, James Irvine II (1867-1947) relocated to the family ranch in Orange County, but kept his ties with Northern California. He joined the Save the Redwoods League in 1921 and remained a $2-a-year member for 23 years. A $15,000 donation to the league established a grove of redwoods that bears his name, and he provided an additional $85,000 to help the league purchase more of the ancient forest from timber companies. Read more...

Death Valley National Park

9 California Wonders Every Local Must See

Despite its forbidding name, Death Valley isn’t a desolate wasteland. The otherworldly landscape intrigues with charms that are both subtle and severe—immense, colorful volcanic craters; layered, water-carved canyons; silky sand dunes; and a radiating heat that seems three-dimensional. Even when the park fills with visitors pursuing spring wildflowers, the vast emptiness swallows sound and light, and opens a path to restful silence, joyous starry skies, and unending wonder about the planet’s origins. Read more...

Joshua Tree National Park

9 California Wonders Every Local Must See

After the deaths of an infant son and then her husband, South Pasadena socialite Minerva Hoyt (1866-1945) found peace and consolation in the beauty of the desert. But the avid gardener turned activist in the 1920s as the rage for exotic landscaping, accelerated by affordable autos and paved roads, took a toll on the land. Named to a state commission, “The Apostle of the Cacti” prepared a report, recommending parks be created in Death Valley, the Anza-Borrego Desert, and the Joshua tree forests. Read more...

Channel Islands National Park

Our National Parks: 9 California Wonders Every Local Must See

Variously ranched or used as Navy bombing ranges, five spits of land that never were part of mainland California are windows to its distant past. The vestiges of civilization have been dismantled during the past few decades, and native plants and animals have rebounded. More than 140 species can be found only here. Read more...

Pinnacles National Park

Our National Parks: 9 California Wonders Every Local Must See

The nation’s newest national park—christened last year—is an inspiring testimony to the awesome power of plate tectonics combined with erosion: sheer rock spires rising out of the scrubby Gabilan Mountains. Its beauty was apparent to Schuyler Hain (1861-1930), a homesteader from Michigan, who led valley and cave tours, and acted as caretaker, until Pinnacles was deemed a national monument more than a century ago. Read more...

Sequoia National Park

Our National Parks: 9 California Wonders Every Local Must See

Certain that ancient trees had a highter purpose than becoming fence posts and shingles, George W. Stewart, the 21-year-old city editor of the Visalia Delta, penned an 1878 editorial calling for a state ban on cutting giant sequoias. For the next dozen years, the newspaperman battled mining, livestock, and timber interests, and spurred state and federal officials to secure the park’s first 76 square miles. Read more...

Kings Canyon National Park

Our National Parks: 9 California Wonders Every Local Must See

Strong-willed, heartily disliked, and highly effective Interior Secretary Harold Ickes (1874-1952) took an interest in wilderness preservation that went beyond most: parks without roads. Wheeling and dealing—which inluded selling FDR on the idea with commissioned Ansel Adams photographs—Ickes got his wish in Kings Canyon. Read more...

Yosemite National Park

Our National Parks: 9 California Wonders Every Local Must See

Yosemite forever changed Muir. Soaring granite monoliths, icy streams that tumble like feathers over cliffs, stately groves of sequoias, and wildlife around every bend. Muir championed Yosemite not just for its natural beauty, but its ecological significance, too—a template for dozens of national parks that followed. Read more...

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Our National Parks: 9 California Wonders Every Local Must See

A place of beauty, yet volatile and violent. Among the clear lakes, grazing mule deer, and fields of wildflowers sleep all four types of volcanoes—cinder cones; shields, which spew lava in all directions; composite, which emit lava, ash, cinders, and blocks; and plug domes, whose lava piles up inside the crater. More than 20 years before Lassen Peak last blew its plug, Muir wrote: “Miles of its flanks are reeking and bubbling with hot springs, many of them so boisterous and sulphurous they seem ever ready to become spouting geysers ...” Read more...

Redwood National & State Parks

Our National Parks: 9 California Wonders Every Local Must See

Ironically, the construction of the Redwoods Highway (now U.S. 101) for the logging and tourism industries led to the creation of three state parks in the 1920s and ’30s, to save the world’s tallest trees. The Save the Redwoods League, the Sierra Club, and the National Geographic Society long lobbied for a national park, but a 1960 Sunset magazine cover story, “The Redwood Country” by Martin Litton, proved to be the turning point. Read more...

The Thinking Person's Vacation

Not that you asked, but some of the smartest people in America have chosen their favorites from among the nation's 58 national parks. Read more...
READ NOW: Serial Killer Seduction

Our "Center of the Universe" story is being read all over the world right now. Click here for the story.


Who Did Randy Kraft Seduce?

Current photos of author Jay Roberts.


A Fact-Checker's Journey to a 1980 Afternoon

Our intrepid intern tracks down the details in Roberts' story.


Why Isn't Randy Kraft Dead?

Our original piece on one of California's deadliest and most depraved serial killers. 


Editor's Letter, October 2013

Our editor considers "Center of the Universe" to be compelling—and incredibly frightening. Click above to find out why.