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TRAVEL PHOTO TRIP - PARKFIELD, CALIFORNIA

TRAVEL PHOTO TRIP - PARKFIELD, CALIFORNIA

Let’s have some fun going on trips without going viral.   Explore the back roads, and find some scenic treasures! That's what we did, and you can too. Just don’t take anyone with you that has a fever and dry cough.  
This is not intended to minimize the seriousness of the current situation by any means.   You can still travel and have a blast doing what you love to do without the fear of catching a serious illness.  We’d like to help pave the way.  Follow us as we travel to some hidden gems around Central California.  Let’s start with Parkfield, California.
On Sunday, March 8, 2020, Shelly and I threw our cameras in the back of the Tahoe, and headed out to “The Earthquake Capitol of the World”.  We had so much fun, and got some amazing pictures.  We’d like to share our adventure with you in hopes that you will plan some of your own Travel Photo Trips.
Shelly and I left our house at about 10:00 am, took mostly back roads, stopped dozens of times, had a long stop for lunch, and still made it back home well before dark.  

First stop:  Harris Ranch

Located alongside Interstate 5 and State Route 198, Harris Ranch is the largest beef producer on the West Coast.  But you don’t have to be a meat eater to enjoy a visit to Harris Ranch.  It’s also an exquisite resort and fine restaurant.
People fly in to Harris Ranches airstrip in their private planes from all over the Western States just to have lunch!  It is also a vacation destination, and a popular wedding venue.
Checkout their website for more information: https://www.harrisranch.com/
If you are hungry, there are a variety of options to satisfy your needs, from fine dining, to sandwiches, to coffee and a pastry.  We stopped there for coffee, then strolled around the resort and took some photos of flowers, fountains, and a great horned owl.  (Okay, the great horned owl, was plastic.  That’s probably why it let me take a picture of it from only a few inches away.)  Inside the dining area, we found  interesting old photographs of cattle drives, cowboys and valley life from the past.

Second stop: Coalinga

Maybe you’ve lived in the valley all your life, but never had the hankering to go to Coalinga.  Well, give it a try.  It’s a cute little town with a ton of community pride.  
You probably know that much of the town was destroyed in1983 by an earthquake registering 6.7 on the Richter scale.  Downtown was rebuilt, and modernized.  
There’s a surprisingly large museum right on State Route198 in the heart of Coalinga that’s well worth checking out.  It’s called the RC Baker Memorial Museum, and is only open on the weekends.  It is housed in several buildings, taking up just about an entire block!  It is loaded with local and region a history.    We got there before it opened, so we had to settle for looking in the windows, and decided it was worth a trip back on another day to check it out.  
The museum is open on Saturdays from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm and on Sundays from 1:00 to 5:00 pm.

#3:  Photo opportunities on SR 198

Shrine on North side of Hwy 198
From Coalinga, we headed up 198, through unpopulated rural areas into winding mountainous roads.  We stopped many times along the way to photograph whatever caught our eye.  There were fields of working oil derrick pumps, one was even painted to look like a zebra.  
The most unique feature we saw on State Route 198, before reaching the Parkfield Grade Road, was an elaborate shrine built on a hillside with cement and tile steps leading up to it.  It was covered with decorations, dozens of memorial candles, and other colorful features.  
We’d love to know the history and story behind the shrine.  So far, Google hasn’t solved the mystery.  Maybe you can?
14 miles from Coalinga, is where Parkfield Grade Road intersects with State Route 198.

#4:  Sites on Parkfield Grade Road

Feed me Shelly!
The Parkfield Grade Road is one of the most interesting rural roads in central California, especially in the spring.  The green grass and wildflowers, against the backdrop of rugged mountainous terrain and rust colored rock outcroppings make for spectacular opportunities for photographers.  
There are parts of the road that go through a gentle rolling terrain before heading up a steep ridge.  We stopped and took pictures of a couple of very friendly horses dining on pasture grass.   
If you like scenic overlooks, then this is a must.  We stopped a number of times and set up our tripods to get what we thought was the best view, only to find an equally grand overlook just around the bend.   As the road climbs up to the top of the ridge, the view of the big sky, rugged mountains, and the valley is incomparable.   There are plenty of spots where there aren’t any signs of civilization.  
At the top of the ridge, we stopped at a large flat area under an oak tree to photograph a most incredible view of the mountains, with the valley off in the distance.  
The summit is about 3500’ in elevation.  There is an interesting monument at the top detailing the history of the families in the area. The monument is on one side of the road, and there’s an entrance to a cattle ranch on the other.  It was easy to tell it was a cattle ranch from the artistic rusted metal entrance over the driveway.    
We took one final look of the open view before heading down the other side of the ridge and on to a very different side of the mountain range.

#5:  Sites on Parkfield-CoalingaRoad

Keep your eyes open for Cows and Critters
Parkfield Grade turns into Parkfield-Coalinga Road near the Fresno/Monterey County line.  About 5 miles of this road is unpaved.  It was easy to drive on when we went.   Regular passenger cars should be able to make it over this road.  However, it wouldn’t be a good idea to take this road if it is raining, or if the visibility is poor. 
The view changes because of the coastal influence.  It is greener and lusher than the east side.  Pine trees and oaks grow all over the mountain sides, but they don’t obstruct the expansive view of the valley where Parkfield sits. 
The views are strikingly beautiful, yet relaxing to look at.  There are ample opportunities to pull over, get out, set up a tripod (or not) and get a stunning wide angle shot that can provide you with the memory of your trip for the rest of your life.  
We stopped several times to take pictures and just to enjoy the scenery.  We did not see one other car the whole time we were on Parkfield Grade or Parkfied-Coalinga road!    

#6:  Parkfield!

Before long, we were in Parkfield, population 18.  It’s was easy to recognize, since it’s the only group of buildings we saw on our whole trip after leaving State Route 198.  
Downtown Parkfield isn’t exactly bustling.  You could probably reach from one end of downtown to the other (if you have very long arms).  
There are only a few buildings, which are more quaint than can be put into words.  They have a rustic look, but they are beyond cute and picturesque.
Parkfield's claim to fame as "The Earthquake Capital of the World" has attracted geologists and earthquake enthusiasts for years.  The San Andreas Fault crosses right through Parkfield.    Parkfield has had an  earthquake registering about 6.0 on the Richter Scale, approximately  every 22 years.  There are more studies conducted by the US Geological Survey than any other place in the world.  Scientists gather data from Parkfield in hopes of being able to predict large earthquakes in other parts of the world.
Pull up a Seat Partner
Here are the things you don’t need to worry about when you get to downtown Parkfield:
• Crime
• Getting Lost
• Getting Co-vid 19 from being amongst a crowd of tourists
• Finding a good place to eat
About the finding a good place to eat part: Parkfield Cafe.  It’s open for lunch and dinner Thursdays through Sundays.  We guarantee it will not disappoint you.  https://www.v6ranch.com/cafe
Parkfield Cafe is a hidden gem in California. The building is made out of logs.  The inside is like no other.  It is inviting, interesting and cozy.  There’s lots to look at and photograph, from the saddles to sit on at the bar, from all of the branding irons hanging from the ceiling.  It is a photographer’s delight as long as you have a fast lens, and fairly high ISO.
We have to talk about the food, now.  This is no greasy spoon.  Their food is gourmet! The prices are reasonable.  Their beef is grass fed and they get their produce locally.  They serve local area beer and wine.  
Our lunch was delicious. We would take a trip back to Parkfield just to have lunch or dinner.  It’s that good.

#7:  San Andreas Fault

Parkfield’s most interesting feature cannot be seen, but can certainly be felt occasionally. Right in the heart of Parkfield, there’s a bridge across Cholame Creek, marking the dividing line between two tectonic plates, and the exact location of the San Andreas Fault.  On one side of the bridge is the Pacific tectonic plate. On the other side, is the North American tectonic plate.   Signs clearly mark the location. 
After crossing over the fault line from the Pacific plate to the North American plate, Shelly and I headed back to the highway, turned left on Highway 41, and went towards Kettleman City for our last stop before going home.

Last Stop: Bravo Farms

If you’ve been through Kettleman City, you probably noticed Bravo Farms.  It’s modeled after an old western town.  Maybe you’ve stopped to use the bathroom, get coffee or fill up with gas nearby.  But have you ever really taken the time to look around?  
Shelly and I are usually in a hurry to either get to the coast, or get back home from the coast. On this day, we made it part of our adventure.  
Bravo Farms has an infinite assortment of very unique one of a kind gifts, or get locally made food items.  It also has lots of attractions to look at, and photograph.  One of our favorites is the Slab o’ Time.  It’s a huge slab cutoff of a 2000 year old Giant Sequoia that was felled in the 1950’s.  The tree rings are visible and labeled with historical events that took place during that year of it’s growth.
Here’s a link that may entice you to check it out the next time your go to the coast:  https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/47501
From Bravo Farms, we got back on Highway 41, and arrived home refreshed and invigorated from our adventure.
It was a GREAT DAY!  As Huell Howser  would have exclaimed, “It’s A-MAYE-ZINGGG!”  And we have a bunch of pictures to keep the memories fresh.  Our travel photo trip to Parkfield inspired us to check more hidden gems around Central California.  Stay tuned for more Travel Photo Trips!
Thanks for reading!  We look forward to seeing pictures from your TRAVEL PHOTO TRIP! And if you have any ideas or suggestions email us info@hotnphoto.com
Images look better with wine.