People often talk about southern California (SoCal) and northern California (NorCal) but rarely talk about Central California where SoCal and NorCal meet. The coast we passed through on the train is one of the most unspoiled parts of the California coast and although inhabited and farmed, the corner we turned into when we left the seaside felt quite un-Californian too.
As we turned inland we wound through hills past ranches and this pattern on a hill-side. Had I not been in California, I would have guessed it was a ski-slope in the winter, but I think the California ski resorts are further north and inland from here.
The train tracks rejoin the same basic path as US Highway 101, up the valley created by the Salinas river. As we entered the valley, the hills were quite narrow and there was not much space for anything but the road, railway and river.
As we travelled north, the valley grew wider and although I couldn’t verify the river really was the water source, the fields all had irrigation systems and I assume the water is pumped in from the river.
And as unexpectedly as some of the changes in scenery were along the southern desert, again I was a little surprised to find an oil field adjoining the farmland. Lots of individual ‘nodding donkeys’ were spread over the field and I was initially unsure what they were pumping. I did catch a glimpse of a label on one pipeline which said ‘crude oil’ which confirmed it was an oilfield. I had never really associated California with oil production before, I did catch glimpses of offshore platforms in the Pacific earlier so there is clearly an oil industry in this state.
Beyond the oil field we continued to travel through this agricultural area of California where lots of fruit and vegetables are grown and shipped all over the US. I spotted lettuce mid-harvest, onions, cabbage, fruit trees, what I think was yellow squash, possibly globe artichokes and a number of crops at seedling stage so not readily identifiable. The irrigation systems which were running were rather beautiful, casting mist in the shape of wings over the field being watered.
All along this journey I was reminded of the South African Highveld in the winter. All the wild grasses are yellow and the sun was shining from a blue sky with no cloud in sight. Sitting in an air-conditioned train added to the illusion of there not being much warmth from the sun which I had experienced in that winter in Johannesburg.
As we approached Salinas, we were also travelling towards low hanging clouds which brought on dusk a lot faster than I had hoped. My seat is on the west side of the train, sunset was due at 7:48 and my dinner reservation wasn’t until 8:45 so I had hoped to witness a pretty sunset. As it happened, after the sun had already gone down, we came out from under the clouds and I was able to capture these pictures of a Californian sunset.
Will be in So Cal later this month…