California Sun

Happy Sunday.

Here are a few stories you missed in the California Sun over the last week.

Get the daily, ad-free newsletter at 33% off using this link.

Sun sampler


"Lava Bob" was only 16 pounds when discovered in July.

Axel Hunnicutt

As wildfires spread across 3,800 square miles of California this year, the deaths of untold numbers of animals have gone uncounted. Saving them falls to people like Axel Hunnicutt, a state wildlife biologist who slogs through charred landscapes with a dart gun at his side in search of injured animals. In July, he found an emaciated and burned bobcat near Lake Shastina in Siskiyou County. Weeks later, "Lava Bob" is almost well enough for release. “Now he yowls and growls and drools, and comes stalking toward us. We must look delicious," a veterinarian joked. "He’s gorgeous.” Record-Searchlight


Kunisha Fernandez and Steven Fitch on BLM land in Colorado.

Blake Gordon, via Bay Nature

Kunisha Fernandez and her husband Steven Fitch met in San Diego, where she worked for a medical records company and he was a mover. They bounced around in search of affordable rent before inspiration struck. Gathering their four kids together, they asked: “How would you like to live outside full-time?” They sold their things, traded their car for a used minivan, and on June 5 set off for a new life on public land, joining a growing contingent of Americans who describe themselves as “homeless by design.” Bay Nature


Amusement park visitors in Santa Cruz.

Dick Rowan

In 1971, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a groundbreaking photo project designed as a "visual baseline” against which to measure progress on cleaning up our air, land, and water. About 100 photographers roamed all 50 states for the Documerica series, capturing the ecological toll of rapid development but also everyday American life. I combed through the digital archive's roughly 900 California images to bring you these 26 favorites. 👉 California Sun


Marie Wilcox in 2016.

The last fluent speaker of Wukchumni is gone.

For many years, Marie Wilcox was a guardian of the Indigenous language once commonly spoken in Central California. In the 1990s, she began writing down words as she remembered them and didn't stop for two decades, ultimately producing a complete compendium of Wukchumni. On Sept. 25, Wilcox died at a hospital in Visalia. She was 87. N.Y. Times

“It’ll just be gone one of these days.” Wilcox was featured in an acclaimed short documentary in 2014. 👉 YouTube (~9 mins)


Deep within the Sonoran Desert, beyond Palm Springs and the Salton Sea, is one of the poorest places in America. The squatter community known as Slab City scratches out a hand-to-mouth existence on an abandoned military base. The photographer Daniel Skwarna declared it both "America the Great and the toxic end-product of American capitalism." A photography magazine selected Skwarna's brilliant Slab City series as a 2021 Critics Choice winner. LensCulture | Dodho


Esther Wong, pictured in 1980, has been eulogized as the “godmother of punk.”

Iris Schneider/L.A. Times via Getty Images

In the late 1970s, Los Angeles' Chinatown was struggling. Asian Americans were flocking to the suburbs and the recession had non-Chinese customers avoiding downtown altogether. So when promoters asked Chinatown restaurant owners if they could rent their upstairs banquet spaces to music acts, many agreed. An unexpected alliance was born. Here's a great look back at how the 1970s and 80s West Coast punk scene was incubated at Chinese restaurants. 👉 Topic


There's a California beach where you are almost as likely to see elk as people. Gold Bluffs Beach is located where Humboldt County's exquisite Fern Canyon opens up to the Pacific. Surrounded by dunes, wetlands, forest, and sea, it attracts abundant wildlife, including herds of Roosevelt elk, a majestic species that stands up to 5 feet at the shoulder. There's human habitat too: a campground of 26 sites with fire rings and tap water. The Guardian once named Gold Bluffs Beach one of the 10 best beaches along the entire West coast.

Below, a few views.

Gary Crabbe

Tom Reichner

Duncan Images


Thanks for reading!

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

The Sun is built by Marquee on Proof.

Consider becoming a member.

Please tell us how we can make the newsletter better. Email

California Sun masthead
The California Sun, PO Box 6868, Los Osos, CA 93412
Wake up to must-read news from around the Golden State delivered to your inbox each morning.