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We flew back from San Francisco on Sunday and I reported for jury duty in downtown Brooklyn on Tuesday, hopping from one favorite place to the next. I will not gripe about jury duty anymore. Tuesday morning Raj rode the subway with me, walked with me to the building and didn’t leave until I went inside. I thought he was being nice when actually he knows me well enough to suspect I’d turn around and draw this jury duty thing out a little longer, which I would have. But at last it’s over and I can go back to missing California.

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We had Fisherman’s Wharf kind of to ourselves. Thanks, downpour.

It’s only been a few years, but I forgot how it feels to walk among the redwoods in Big Basin. The region was deep into a drought on our last trip here. This time we balanced on fallen trees to skirt stretches of sludgy mud. Streams ran and creeks babbled so hard they graduated to Chatty Cathy status.

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Our first hike of 2019.

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Along the way we crossed paths with banana slugs,

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rare albino redwood,

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and the tallest tree in the park, over 500 years old.

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Though California smacks a bear on every souvenir, the state animal is Ursus californicus, there are no bears in Big Basin. I asked every ranger I saw and they all confirmed. I was asking for a friend. A friend was just wondering. I love Big Basin for its trees and birds and views and trails, but mostly for its lack of bears.

Oh, but you know what? There are mountain lions. They said this so casually I was stunned into WTF. How are they cool with mountain lions?

How do Californians hike, camp or bike at ease in mountain lion habitat? That amazes me. It seems like they’re everywhere. We stayed in Mountain View during the week for work. On a free afternoon, I decided to run to the Rancho San Antonio Preserve a few miles from our hotel. You know what I didn’t notice on the website? Warning of mountain lion activity. Fortunately I didn’t miss the sign posted on the trail I’d planned to run. I found another trail and tried to enjoy running in this beautiful place where mountain lions live. Soon enough I was back on pavement pretending suburban streets with squirrels and lemon trees were just as thrilling.

There are worse ways to travel home than a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway (plus a plane ride).

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We reached the highway with an hour of daylight remaining. The only downside of visiting California in winter is the shortened days. With the exception of enjoying an Irish coffee, trying Fernet-Branca and building a fort for pillow fights, most of we wanted to do was outside.

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Rain held off just long enough for the sun to set over the Pacific. Then it was just us in the rain on a dark highway with a thousand speeding lunatics. Hint. Hint. Okay, West Coast. We’re leaving.

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Free brownies if you can you tell me what this is? To be clear, free brownies for me. I will eat the brownies.

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