Now I was a Portland girl. I was used to big tall Douglas fir trees, miles and miles of them in the forests, covering Mt. Hood and the coastal mountains. Green was everywhere, and trees were everywhere, and I took it all for granted.
When I was seventeen we moved to a small town not too far east of San Francisco. And then when I was eighteen, I moved to Los Angeles for college. I had never been to LA before, and it was a shock.
My brother and I were driving south and we came to The Grapevine. This is the section of Hwy 5 that winds through the mountains from the south end of California's Central Valley and over into Los Angeles County. The name accurately describes the winding road--grapevine--all twisty and curly. The highest pass has an elevation of 4, 144 feet so there were steep uphill climbs and plenty of curves.
One would expect The Grapevine to reflect to color of the plant--green. But it didn't.
As I said, it was a shock. The Grapevine wasn't green. Nope. It was yellow and brown. And it was hot. Like over 100 degrees. My brother's Oregon car engine wasn't used to that kind of weather and it overheated. We rehydrated the car and climbed back in and started up the last hills and passed a sign that said, "Angeles National Forest". Ummmm. There were no trees here. Is this a forest? Hahaha! Not like our green majestic forests at home in Oregon!
Back in those days of the San Francisco road trips, I noticed the California state slogan was "The Golden State". I asked my dad one day, "Why is California called the golden state?" He replied, "It's because the hills are gold, not green." Because he was my dad, of course I believed him. I think he must have been teasing me. California is The Golden State because the California Gold Rush of 1849 was the impetus that launched California into its run toward statehood in the United States. I didn't know my American history then.
I have traveled up and down The Grapevine too many times to count in the years since that first trip south to Los Angeles. We drove it twice each direction just in this month. It was cooler in November than it was that August afternoon when I was eighteen, but it still looks much the same.