Amid COVID reopening, take a Northern California road trip

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Good morning, fellow Escapists. We are officially in an almost fully reopened California, with mask-wearing now optional in many public settings.

Although the reopening is welcome news for many travelers, others may be alarmed. That’s why, in this edition of Escapes, you’ll find outdoor adventures to consider if you’re planning a road trip north through San Luis Obispo or even as far away as Shasta County. You’ll also see Alaska cruising and museum-going to consider if you feel comfortable easing into pre-pandemic travel.

Where are you traveling this summer? As always, drop me a line and I’ll include your destination in an edition of Escapes.

🏞️ Go on a waterfall road trip in Northern California

After I moved West, I was dismayed when I hiked to my first Southern California waterfall, which was a trickle in the 2015 drought. Those feelings disappeared, at least temporarily, a few months later when I laid eyes on Northern California’s mighty Burney Falls.

Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds included McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park on his list of 40 best outdoor experiences in California. The 129-foot falls lie 65 miles northeast of Redding and can be accessed by a short walk from a nearby parking lot. If you’re looking to further scratch your waterfall itch, Reynolds recommends driving 45 miles northwest to McCloud Falls, a series of three cascades in Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Bring your walking shoes — it’s a seven-mile round-trip hike to see these falls.

Burney Falls spills into a pool of water with large rocks and plants.

Burney Falls is a top California outdoor experience.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

🚢 Cruise season is back in Alaska

A few weeks ago, I included a story by Times contributor David Swanson explaining that Alaska’s cruise season appeared to be canceled for a second summer. But good news for all who love to cruise: New legislation signed in late May allows the big ships to cruise Alaska’s Inside Passage.

Swanson reports that seven cruise lines say they will sail round-trip from Seattle this summer. Celebrity Cruises will start the season on July 23, offering nine seven-day sailings to Ketchikan, Juneau, Endicott Arm and either Skagway or Icy Strait Point.

As we noted in a previous edition of Escapes, there are plenty of non-cruise-related Alaska adventures to be had. From exploring Denali National Park to riding the rails around Alaska, here’s how to experience the state without boarding a cruise ship.

Two glacier trekkers stand on the Mendenhall Glacier in southeast Alaska.

Glacier trek on the Mendenhall Glacier in southeast Alaska.

(David Swanson)

💌 Read “love notes” in SLO

If you’re passing through San Luis Obispo on your next road trip, take a minute to explore the city’s Plaza Pop-Ups, next to the mission. Each month, a different pop-up will be installed, intended to “create happiness, hope and love for San Luis Obispo from residents and visitors alike,” according to the city’s website.

More than 150 community members created June’s “Love Notes” in coordination with the Gala Pride and Diversity Center. Visitors can walk through the installation’s series of wooden frames containing messages from the community.

You can find more information about San Luis Obispo’s monthly art installations on the city’s website. And while you’re in the plaza, take a short walk to glimpse one of California’s “moon trees.”

illustration of love letters in envelopes sealed with a heart.

(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

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🏛️ USC Pacific Asia Museum’s new goal: decolonization

Last fall, the USC Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena announced a new initiative to “deconstruct Orientalism through collections management, exhibitions and programming,” according to museum director Bethany Montagano.

Montagano recently spoke with Times contributor Scarlet Cheng about the newly reopened museum’s efforts to rethink and reprogram its collections. Scholars and community advisors are working alongside curator Rebecca Hall to examine whether inherent biases have impacted how the museum’s collection of 15,000 objects is classified.

The museum also is studying the history of where its objects came from and how they were acquired. As Cheng reports, many Asian antiquities were stolen from original sites or taken before antiquities laws were enacted or enforced.

The Pacific Asia Museum is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays. Tickets cost $10; $7 for students with a valid ID and seniors 65 and older. Admission is free for children ages 17 and younger.

A workman removes plywood from the front windows of USC's Pacific Asia Museum.

The newly reopened USC Pacific Asia Museum is working to examine whether inherent biases have impacted how the museum’s collection of 15,000 objects is classified.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

📰 What I’m reading

  • Should we be worried about ticks on Southern California beaches? Travel writer Christopher Reynolds and assistant travel editor Mary Forgione offer advice.
  • The redwoods meet the vineyards in California’s lesser-known Anderson Valley wine region, Annie Fitzsimmons writes in Afar.
  • Las Vegas is betting on gamblers and tourists returning. But will jobs come back? Times national correspondent Kurtis Lee reports on hospitality workers who wonder whether they’ll ever make up their losses.
  • Want free accommodations when traveling? Try housesitting, suggests’s Kathy Kristof in The Times.
  • The Caribbean is calling, Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon writes in Travel + Leisure. She offers inspiration and information for travelers yearning for an island vacation.
  • Getting on a plane for the first time in a while? Times contributor and former travel editor Catharine Hamm reports on some pitfalls to be aware of.
  • The highest railway in the U.S. has reopened, Chadner Navarro reports in Condé Nast Traveler.
Photo illustration of ticks on a beach ball and a bottle of sunscreen, with palm trees.

(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

💻 Can’t adventure IRL? Here’s one way to expand your horizons

Ride the rails of Norway’s famously scenic (and steep) Flam train line with this virtual experience created by Expedia.

By using your mouse to rotate around the 360-degree experience, you’ll be treated to stunning views from Hardangervidda National Park, the Flamsdalen Valley and the Rjoandefossen waterfall.

📸 Photo of the week

A surfer walking out of the water and a dog on the beach at dusk.

A surfer finishes a day in the water as a dog roams the beach.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

🎸 Road song

“Lead the boys and girls onto the beaches.”

A summer of splashing in the waves and dancing in the sand is upon us, thanks to Lorde’s new single, “Solar Power.” Hope you have a beach adventure in your future too.

Illustration of sun and sunrays

Listen to Lorde’s “Solar Power” to give you some energy this reopening week.

(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)