California Sun

Good morning.

This is just a reminder that I'm off this week. The newsletter will be back in your inbox on Monday, Jan. 4.

To tide you over here is a collection of 10 of the most popular California Sun items of the past year. 👇

ICYMI, 2020 edition


A nail-biter of a duel between a bobcat and a venomous rattlesnake was captured by a trail camera in Angeles National Forest. Since being posted online in October, it's gotten more than 2.3 million views. I won't give away the ending. YouTube (~2:30 mins)


Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt County.

Sinkyone Wilderness. Phantom Falls. Red Rock Canyon.

The California Sun gathered recommendations from outdoor experts of not-to-be-missed natural wonders across nine California regions. Their picks, 45 in all, amount to an ultimate outdoor bucket list for the Golden State. California Sun


"The East Bay is Brooklyn."

"It is impossible to find a good bagel here."

"It's interesting that people here wear whatever they want."

Here's the comedian Alexis Gay on things New Yorkers say when they move to San Francisco. 👉 @yayalexisgay


Trona is an isolated community on the road to Death Valley.

"After 53½ years, if I'd have searched this whole world over, I could have not found a better wife."

California, a place the size of a country, is many things. Among the more unusual is Trona, a Mojave Desert community that locals joke exists beyond the edge of the known world. Here's a moving little portrait of life there by the director Dave Ma. 👉 Vimeo (~3 mins)


Tad Jones in New Mexico in 1975.

Ishan Vest/The Hanuman Fellowship Archives via N.Y. Times

Tad Jones lived as an ascetic in the forest along the coast near Santa Cruz. A Vietnam veteran, he took a vow of silence that lasted nearly 40 years. He knew his way around, but he couldn't outrun the wildfire that swept through the mountains on Aug. 18. The minivan he used to try to escape was found scorched near a steep ravine, his remains nearby. N.Y. Times


"Step five: Correspondence. 'Dear mother, I am. Love, your daughter.'"

Madelaine Turner, a Southern California TikTok user, created a Wes Anderson-inspired guide to surviving the coronavirus lockdown. It's pretty great. @madelaineturner


Marilyn Monroe went over her lines during the filming of "The Misfits."

Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos

Nobody photographed Marilyn Monroe like Eve Arnold, the first female member of Magnum Photos. In 1960, she spent two months with Monroe on the set of "The Misfits" in the Nevada desert. The images she captured are haunting. "My most poignant memory of Marilyn is of how distressed, troubled, and still radiant she looked," Arnold recalled. Within 18 months of shooting, Monroe would be dead. Magnum Photos | Vintage Everyday


A film agency sent a 4K drone over some of Los Angeles's most recognizable places during the height of the coronavirus lockdown back in March and April. The footage is both haunting and beautiful. (Sound on recommended.) YouTube (~6 mins)

Similar views of San Francisco. 👉 YouTube (~3:30 mins)


After his unlikely win, Andy Ruiz Jr.'s team was ready to conquer the world. It wasn't to be.

Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

In the summer of 2019, Andy Ruiz Jr. — the hefty son of Mexican immigrants from California's Imperial Valley — stunned the boxing world by walloping one of the sport's biggest stars at Madison Square Garden. The new heavyweight champ of the world, he was dubbed "Rocky Mexicano." There was a parade. It was the best story in sports. A year later, a reporter set out to find Ruiz and discovered that something was awry. Ruiz seemed to have checked out. ESPN


A nelder plot at Blodgett Forest.

Along the slopes of the Sierra west of Lake Tahoe, several oddly symmetrical groups of trees rise from the middle of the forest. Shaped like wagon wheels, they are known as nelder plots and were planted in the 1990s as part of a study at the Blodgett Forest Research Station. The aim was to glean insights into resource competition among trees, said John A. Helms, a silviculturist involved in the project. "It's a little bit like putting rats in a cage or people in a tight suburban environment," he told the Sun. "People behave differently when they're jammed together."

To visitors viewing the plots at ground level, the trees appear little different than the surrounding forest. Send up a drone, however, and their full magnificence comes into view. A great drone's-eye view rising up from a plot. 👉 @mirandaleconte


Thanks for reading!

The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.

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