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  • Published: 9 June 2020
  • ISBN: 9781640094444
  • Imprint: Catapult
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $32.99
Categories:

Alta California

From San Diego to San Francisco, A Journey on Foot to Rediscover the Golden State




This national bestseller chronicles one man’s 650–mile trek on foot from San Diego to San Francisco—sure to appeal to readers of naturalist works like Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, Paul Thoreau’s On the Plain of Snakes, and Mark Kenyon’s That Wild Country.

In 1769, an expedition led by Gaspar de Portolá sketched a route that would become, in part, the famous El Camino Real. It laid the foundation for the Golden State we know today, a place that remains as mythical and captivating as any in the world.

Despite having grown up in California, Nick Neely realized how little he knew about its history. So he set off to learn it bodily, with just a backpack and a tent, trekking through stretches of California both lonely and urban. For twelve weeks, following the journal of expedition missionary Father Juan Crespí, Neely kept pace with the ghosts of the Portolá expedition—nearly 250 years later.

Weaving natural and human history, Alta California relives Neely’s adventure, while telling a story of Native cultures and the Spanish missions that soon devastated them, and exploring the evolution of California and its landscape. The result is a collage of historical and contemporary California, of lyricism and pedestrian serendipity, and of the biggest issues facing California today—water, agriculture, oil and gas, immigration, and development—all of it one step at a time.

“Rich in little–known history . . . Up the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo county coasts, then inland into the Salinas Valley to Monterey Bay. Somewhere along here, the owl moons and woodpeckers do something you might not have thought possible in 2019: they make you fall, or refall, in love with California, ungrudgingly, wildfires and insane housing prices and all . . . What a journey, you think. What a state." —San Francisco Chronicle

  • Published: 9 June 2020
  • ISBN: 9781640094444
  • Imprint: Catapult
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $32.99
Categories:

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Praise for Alta California

NATIONAL BESTELLER Long–listed for the 2019 Northern California Golden Poppy Book Award in Fiction “In the summer and autumn of 2016, Nick Neely walked from San Diego to San Francisco Bay—a six–hundred–and–fifty–mile trek that took him twelve weeks to complete. He was following the trail of the Gaspar de Portolá expedition, a Spanish convoy that made its way up the California coast in 1769. Portolá’s men are traditionally called explorers, but they were really invaders . . . That grim history has been much in the news in California in recent weeks: indigenous activists have toppled statues of Padre Junípero Serra, who travelled with the Portolá expedition. Alta California, Neely’s account of his improbable journey, touches on many other layers of California’s fiendishly complex history. An uncommonly sensitive writer, Neely trains his eye equally on the natural landscape, on plant and animal life, and on the variegated human worlds through which his strange itinerary takes him . . . What results is a kind of rhapsody of Californian chaos, emerging in densely packed but lyrically shaped paragraphs." —Alex Ross, The New Yorker "Neely is a skillful writer, wry and watchful . . . Alta California is also rich in little–known history, much of it pulled from the journal of Franciscan father Juan Crespi, who accompanied Portola . . . up the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo county coasts, then inland into the Salinas Valley to Monterey Bay. Somewhere along here, the owl moons and woodpeckers do something you might not have thought possible in 2019: they make you fall, or refall, in love with California, ungrudgingly, wildfires and insane housing prices and all . . . What a journey, you think. What a state." —Peter Fish, San Francisco Chronicle "Constantly vibrating at the background of Neely’s journey is his single–minded focus on the original trek . . . That ghostly 650 miles of the original trek, known as the El Camino Real, is a great way to talk about how much has changed, but it’s also an artful way for Neely to think critically about some of our founding mythologies . . . Neely also is an excellent field guide . . . He is, moreover, a thoughtful observer of people in public, the way we live and the way we work, and the decisions we’ve made about how to manage our land, the so–called 'built California' he’s spending months traversing . . . Immensely rewarding." —Nathan Deuel, Los Angeles Times "His eye for detail is sharp and incisive. The best parts are when he gives a natural history to the unnatural landscapes of places like Legoland. How wild and scary was California 250 years ago, and how wild and scary is it now?" —Heather Hansman, Outside "Neely’s prose is luminous; his eye for detail ensures that you can practically envision yourself in the surroundings, but he doesn’t lose sight of the bigger picture, either. In addition to telling the story of his journey and providing a vivid history of California’s evolution, the book also tackles contemporary issues like oil and agriculture, immigration, public land issues, and development." —Jaime Herndon, Book Riot "Neely’s naturalist, erudite work will appeal to readers of Thoreau’s Walden and Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire." —Publishers Weekly "Throughout the narrative, the author offers precise and often lyrical descriptions of landscapes and vistas, sky and sea, flora and fauna . . . A sprawling record of a unique adventure." —Kirkus Reviews "Neely's account is a solid mix of adventure story and history lesson. Recommended for anyone interested in California history." —Library Journal "[Neely's] travel

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