California Hills in October



In October of 2015 I visited my brother’s family in Clayton, California. He took us all over from Napa to The Golden Gate Bridge, yet I was fascinated with the dry, tawny hills rolling on just beyond the houses of his neighborhood. They have a painting in their home of the same tawny hills with the sparse disbribution of trees, three as I remember maybe like the first image I put here, under a cloudless blue sky by a local artist. Lone trees whether surrounded by velvety looking beige hills or mangroves here in Florida standing solitary with their prop roots in shallow water seems to strike a chord in all of us. I don’t know if it is just a sense of aloneness or if it is that there is room without distraction to appreciate the beauty of the tree and the sweep of its branches.

I made the mistake once about velvety looking hills when I was living at Clark Field in the Philippines in 1969. Off base there was a hilly area, vertical almost really with ridges covered with what looked like green velvet. I snuck off base with a friend and we climbed the velvet hills only to find them dry and hard and brittle.  Branches from the low shrubs simply came out of the dry dirt as we grabbed them to climb. We did eventually reach a plateau and found an easier way back down. California’s tawny velvet and sundrenched hills are probably not ideal for climbing either for the lack of shade or moisture. It is a wonder there is enough for the scattered trees. Certainly not much to grab onto if you were climbing a steep section.

Often when posting I love to find a perfect quote or perfect poem to support the images and how I felt about the place I was. Something beyond my often meager prose offerings. And I did find a perfect poem when searching about California’s dry hills out of curiousity. Ordinarily I would post the poem which I have done with many written much longer ago for convenient reading, but this one has a recent copyright and I need to respect that and offer you the link to the author’s site instead. My dry hills were October’s but the poem by Dana Gioia, California’s Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2019, is entitled California Hills in August.  

Do go and enjoy the poem and browse his other writings. The dry hills led me to an interesting poet.



Tawny velvet grasses cover the gentle swell of earth’s bosom.

Parts of Clayton reminded me of Italy. These trees in the foreground are Italian Cypress Trees and beyond the  beige hills.


Many days were devoid of clouds but it is not always so. Here the velvet hills and trees are beneath a blanket of fleecy clouds. No rain though.

For a Floridian used to a much flatter geography and moister climate, Clayton, California was an alien landscape I’d look forward to exploring again!!





~ by Judy on October 5, 2019.

14 Responses to “California Hills in October”

  1. Landscapes are not your usual subject, and really you should show these more often, they are fantastic. Particularly that last one. Beautiful.

    • I actually do enjoy landscapes. Originally I went into the glades to take pictures of scenic cypress scenes. Then I discovered the birds and landscapes without them seemed like no one was home, empty. But, I am always pointing my camera at interesting scenes and trees and love seascapes too. You encourage me to show more of those images from time to time and happy for it.

      • I guess the same applies with me. I love the English countryside. But I also love to get in real close and personal with the details. And mostly those details are flowers and fungi and berries and butterflies and swans that are total posers!
        Do keep those landscapes coming. Show us the bigger picture

      • I guess what it is with me is that I am a completer nerd about detail…bird feathers, tree bark etc. Since I haven’t really been hiking lately, its an opportunity to revisit places I have been and show some other things. Why is it so hard to go back though? If never shared its still new, right?

      • Indeed. I pull out photos from a couple or three years back for Crimson’s Creative Challenge, photos I’ve not used before elsewhere.

  2. Ah, what a thirsty looking landscape!

  3. I also had trouble taking my eyes off those golden hills, the first time I visited Southern California. I drove down to Ventura from the Bay Area, and spent my time driving around and sightseeing. Remember driving up into the Santa Monica mountains for a closer look. Thanks for a reminder with your photos!

    • I’m sure that visitors must as a whole be interested in that landscape. It certainly rings through the local art and poetry. Viewing the hills from afar gives them that golden velvety look with the play of light and shadow on them. Up close definitely dry and crunchy. California has so many environments, not all so barren. Along the ocean road we traveled it was different, more forested and fog rolling in at the slightest provocation. Fascinating state. I’d love to do a couple of weeks (maybe more) just driving the Pacific Coast Highway to see what I could see from California to Washington.

  4. What wonderful images! I see what you mean about being alien to a Floridian! But your word painting accompanied by rich photographs makes it feel comfortable.

    Very nice, Judy. Thank you so much for sharing views from a different part of our world.

  5. I love these photos, and my level of nostalgia is off the charts at this point. For one year, I made the drive from Berkeley to Rio Vista in the Sacramento delta once a week. The hills always were glorious, but in late summer and autumn, they were breathtaking. I wouldn’t live in the Bay Area now, for a variety of reasons, but if I could, I surely would visit, just to drive those roads and see that breaktaking scenery.

    It’s odd. The coast and the redwoods — or the Napa Valley in fall, and so on — are dramatic and real draws for thousands of people, but the subtleties of the California grasslands are just as attractive to me.

    Now, I’m listening to the song that also brings that time back. There’s nothing like driving those Cali roads with John Stewart’s “Gold” playing. Volume up, windows down, and the world as good as it ever will be.

    • Loved playing the song and can totally visualize the scene you set. Happy that the images brought some good memories to mind. In 1968 when we drove across country to Travis Air Force Base in California for our departure to Clark in the PI, all I saw of California then was fog with hints of wispy trees through the murk. A state that bridges many latitudes is bound to have wide ranging climates to offer. The idea of a long PCH ride has always appealed to me, and as well a long drive from Florida to New England. I always like that idea North with the Spring…start south in spring and follow it with a northward journey and especially along the coast for all the quaint towns, marinas and lighthouses.

      Did you happen to click on the poem California Hills in August. I thought it really rang true.

  6. Beautiful pictures !

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