California Sun

Happy Sunday.

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

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Sun sampler


From left: Sisters Quinn, Kate, Sophia, Luna, and Camilla near their Merced farm.

Yana Yatsuk/Rolling Stone

The Sisters of the Valley is not your typical religious order. In fact, the nunnery on a marijuana farm in Merced County is unaffiliated with any religion at all. The feminist sisterhood was formed on a lark in 2013 as a repudiation of the establishment, but its members appear to be sincere about their stated mission: to heal the world — one joint at a time. Rolling Stone paid a visit and got some fantastic pictures.


The Japanese have a word for the dance of sunlight filtering through the forest: komorebi. SFGATE's Ashley Harrell heard that nowhere in California is the phenomenon more dramatic than along Damnation Creek Trail in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, where the fog, redwoods, and sloped trail align perfectly for the sun's rays. She walked a ways down the trail, then turned around and gasped at what looked like an exploding firework shooting through the canopy. “God is talking,” a stranger nearby said.

Below, a few views from the park.

Ron Niebrugge/Alamy

Sveta Imnadze

Dukas Presseagentur GmbH/Alamy



Dutch Faro was filming the scenery near Pyramid Lake, a short distance northeast of Santa Clarita, when he caught sight of something emerging from the brush in his peripheral vision. “Didn’t take long to snap into reality it was a f—n cougar,” Faro wrote in an email to Backpacker magazine. He ran, but the cat followed. So Faro turned toward the animal and let out a roar, a gambit that he later explained was driven by "primal instincts." It worked. Faro posted the video on his Instagram. 👉 @du7chfaro


Hole In The Wall campground in Mojave National Preserve.

Cultura RM

To become truly immersed in the California desert, drive 140 miles east of Los Angeles and hang a left into the wilderness at the heart of the Mojave Desert. There, a campground called Hole In The Wall sits beneath the some of darkest skies of the Mojave National Preserve, shielded from the lights of Las Vegas and Los Angeles, with surrounding trails that wind along wide-open desert vistas and sculptured volcanic walls. For those reasons, the desert environmentalist Chris Clarke named Hole In The Wall one of the nine best winter campgrounds in the California desert. KCET | Outdoor Project


"Double Standard, 1961" — a Los Angeles streetscape — is held at The Museum of Modern Art.

Dennis Hopper

“He wore the camera around his neck all day long.”

Dennis Hopper wanted to be remembered as much as a photographer as an actor. While living in the Hollywood Hills in the 1960s, he produced a huge body of photography that evoked the freedom of the "Easy Rider" generation. He shot Timothy Leary, Robert Rauschenberg, and John Wayne, and brought his camera to the March on Washington, the Sunset Strip riots, and San Francisco's Human Be-In. Flashbak published a collection of 16 Hopper photos.

See more pictures at the New Yorker and AnOther magazine.


Aretha Franklin in the documentary “Amazing Grace.”


Fifty years ago last week, Aretha Franklin entered a Baptist church in Watts and put on a performance for the ages. The resulting double LP, "Amazing Grace," became a landmark American album, her biggest seller and the top-grossing gospel collection of all time. A film of the performance was supposed to be released in 1972, but it languished for decades because the director failed to sync the audio and images correctly. When it finally debuted in 2018, critics gushed: "utterly joyous," "soul-shaking," "nothing short of a miracle."

Writing in Vanity Fair, K. Austin Collins called it a genuinely religious experience, no matter how secular you are:

"Amazing Grace is a rare object: something truly mythical, something we’d only ever told stories about, that having finally arrived somehow lives up to its name. That’s saying something. The film is just as exhausting and beautiful as the recording sessions it documents, just as overflowing with those inexplicable qualities — that unquantified ability to reach directly into the soul that only the greatest art approaches."

Here's the trailer. The film is on Hulu, Apple TV, and other streaming services.


The closed Great Highway in San Francisco during the pandemic.

Joseph Caruso/Alamy

During the pandemic, San Francisco closed a 2-mile stretch of stretch of road flanking Ocean Beach, transforming it into a promenade for pedestrians and cyclists. Whether to reopen the Great Highway to cars became an acrimonious battle, with city leaders ultimately deciding to reintroduce vehicle traffic Monday through Friday. On Monday, the N.Y. Times included the reimagined thoroughfare in a feature on "52 places for a changed world."


Thanks for reading!

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

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