Get to know these 10 California parks

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California is home to nine national parks and hundreds of national monuments, seashores, trails, historic sites and preserves. Ranging in size from 3.3-million-acre Death Valley National Park to smaller spots such as the 13-acre Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site, these properties are overseen by the National Park Service. Some, like Yosemite National Park, are famous around the world, but many others are overlooked jewels.

We’ve excerpted 10 lesser-known properties from the new book, “Travel Features and Photos: California’s National Parks, Monuments, Trails, Seashores and Historic Sites,” published by San Francisco’s Bay Area Travel Writers, the largest regional organization of professional travel writers, photographers and broadcasters in the nation. It celebrates the Golden State’s properties as the National Park Service gears up for its 100th anniversary in 2016. The book is available as a free PDF download on the BATW website, .

Channel Islands National Park: Camping in California’s Own Galapagos

While the great majority of visitors to the islands off the coast near Ventura are day-trippers who hop on the last boat back to the mainland as the sun sets, the Channel Islands offer a different experience at night, one you can only get by camping.

Shining your flashlight around camp at night on Santa Cruz Island, you might see a dozen or more pairs of glowing eyes. They belong to the native island fox, an adorable little critter that was nearly driven to extinction but that now rules the night, a night in which you snooze in your tent while the little foxes pad around trying to figure out if you were careless and left a snack within reach.

April Orcutt


Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge: Watching Eagles at Play

Each winter, just as surely as frost laces the trees and ice begins to silence the wetlands, hundreds of bald eagles congregate in a “fly-in” at Northern California’s Klamath Basin. If you’re willing to rise before dawn and brave sub-freezing temperatures here, you’ll witness one of the most spectacular events a wildlife enthusiast will ever see.

Best of all was the eagles’ unforgettable courtship ritual: A pair climbs so high they are nearly invisible, circling one another with elaborate swoops and chases. Then the two birds lock talons and cartwheel head-over-tail, plummeting in a death-defying freefall until the very last moment before crashing to Earth, when they separate and glide off in apparent nonchalance.

Laurie McAndish King and Jim Shubin


Coso Rock Art National Historic Landmark: Petroglyph Stronghold in Kern County

It’s early morning on a sunny day with perfect blue skies and crisp high desert air as we walk into the Little Petroglyph Canyon. Our small group enters a narrow rock gallery. We are surrounded by images carved into the rocks depicting humans, animals, and who-knows-what figures from 10,000 years ago. Our guide tells us early artists used a hammerstone to peck at the black-brown patina, revealing the lighter-colored basalt underneath.

Little Petroglyph Canyon is one of several sites in the volcanic bluffs above the Pleistocene bed of China Lake. The Maturango Museum organizes the only tours to this amazing area, containing the largest collection of rock art in North America, with more than 14,000 carvings in the major canyons alone. The remoteness of the site, as well as the carefully controlled, guided visits, contributes to the pristine condition of the art.

Diane LeBow and John Montgomery


Lassen Volcanic National Park: Best-in-the-West for Solitude

Name virtually any national park in the Western U.S. and I’d say, “Been there, done that.” So which is my hands-down favorite? Lassen Volcanic National Park in north-central California, off the well-trodden national park path and far from the madding crowd of tourists you’ll encounter in those better-known parks. Lassen Peak, and the park in which it lies, are snowbound in winter. But in summer and early fall, it’s a wonderland of wildflowers and steaming hydrothermal hot spots.

Like the other mountains in the Cascade Range, Lassen has blown its top; its last explosive eruption was in 1915. Today, you can visit the park without having to worry about being hit on the pate by a flying piece of hot pumice.

Dick Jordan


Liberty Ship SS Jeremiah O’Brien: WWII Survivor Finds Pier 45 Berth

Launched in 1943 to carry WWII troops, the restored Jeremiah O’Brien sailed in April 1994 from her San Francisco home for Normandy, France, to participate in the 50th anniversary celebrations for the D-Day landings, the only still-functioning member of that day’s original 5,000-ship armada.

Many people thought she’d never make it, but she did so, and in record time. The voyage took her down the Pacific Coast, through the Panama Canal, up through the Caribbean and across the Atlantic to England and France. The crew consisted of 50 or so mostly old salts, average age 72, plus a smattering of cadets from the Maritime Academy. This was no glamorous cruise; the deck gang fought rain and icy wind while the crew in the engine room sweltered below.

Monica Conrady


Death Valley National Park: Golfing in the Mojave Desert

While Pebble Beach may be heaven on earth for golfers, Furnace Creek Golf Course in Death Valley is sometimes referred to as “the golf course from hell.” The average daily temperatures here in July and August sizzle well into triple digits, and the mid-120s are common. That means the primary concern is staying hydrated.

“People perspire out here without realizing because it evaporates so quickly,” says Kip Freeman, the head golf professional . “After hitting each shot, it’s best to hurry as fast as Wile E. Coyote to find some shade.”

Robert Kaufmann


Eugene O’Neill’s Tao House: A Room with a View

Hidden on the side of a hill in Danville, Tao House overlooks the San Ramon Valley and Mount Diablo. Here Eugene O’Neill (1888-1953), considered America’s Shakespeare, wrote his most celebrated play, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” O’Neill is the only American playwright to receive a Nobel Prize for Literature as well as an unprecedented four Pulitzer Prizes.

O’Neill’s office upstairs is the most restored room, with two desks, filled bookcases, pencils and a view of Mount Diablo. Here, the writer sequestered himself daily, composing by hand. Both O’Neill and his wife, Carlotta, were interested in Eastern philosophy, particularly in Taoism. They designed their home according to Feng Shui, arranging structures and colors in harmony with cosmic energy. The house’s lines are simple, two stories of white adobe blocks crowned by a dark tile roof. A brick walkway winds from the house down the hillside to a swimming pool.

Sandy Sims


Kings Canyon National Park: On the John Muir Trail

It was hard to resist obsessively staring at the wall of rock we had to ascend. Mather Pass (12,100 feet), in the middle of Kings Canyon National Park, loomed ominously above our campsite. Hikers rhapsodize about the striking beauty of the High Sierra, but Mather wasn’t beautiful. On the contrary, it resembled a slag heap of crumbling gray granite.

One of the things I had learned on the John Muir Trail is that I prefer lower elevations where forest creatures scamper about under the protective canopy of trees. Both are in short supply in the rarefied air above 10,000 feet. Sitting beside the gurgling creek, looking across at the jagged peaks of the Palisades, I could, at least, enjoy the warm afternoon sun.

Inga Aksamit and Steve Mullen


Presidio Yacht Club Bar: Marin County’s Scenic Hangout

A flute or pint will do with this view. Presidio Yacht Club Bar in the Travis Marina is my secret haunt, with the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco anywhere on the bay. Live music and local beers on tap — plus champagne — make this a destination par excellence.

The Presidio Yacht Club Bar is hidden on the edge of the harbor in Horseshoe Cove at Fort Baker. Up a flight of rickety wooden stairs there is no sign, but Christmas lights invitingly wink and twinkle as jovial banter floats out the open door. Seagulls wheel overhead, while sea lions pop up from the sea bream and bark. The long, polished bar across the scuffed wooden dance floor is populated by various local characters. It’s a hangout. Nary a tourist in sight.

Lisa Alpine


Point Reyes: North Coast’s Enticing National Seashore

At Point Reyes some remarkable meetings take place: Ocean meets bay, rolling green pasturelands meet crashing surf, and unpretentious country life encounters cosmopolitan sophistication.

The most dramatic coming together of all, though, can’t be seen. It’s the meeting of two of the six great plates that form most of Earth’s crust. There, the Pacific plate meets the American plate in a rift zone that contains the infamous San Andreas Fault.

Clearly a place of contrasts, Point Reyes is a surprising sanctuary. It’s a windswept peninsula where the 65,300 acres of Point Reyes National Seashore are accessible, rarely crowded and rich in seasonal delights. The handsome beaches and trails of adjacent Tomales Bay State Park stun the eyes. In winter, the peninsula that juts 10 miles into the ocean becomes prime whale-watching territory.

Carol Canter

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