A Writer Walks the Path of an Early California Explorer from Spain

From San Diego to San Francisco in five months.

In his new book Alta California: From San Diego to San Francisco, a Journey on Foot to Rediscover the Golden State, writer Nick Neely recounts his 650-mile walk from San Diego to San Francisco in 2016. Neely retraced the route Gaspar de Portolá created in 1769. Portolá led the first major Spanish land expedition across what is now California, and he was deemed the original Governor of the Californias. In an interview with KCRW’s Madeline Brand, Neely describes the emotional toll of his adventure knowing the dramatic impact Portolá’s caravan made on the land and its early inhabitants.

“The trip… it really opened my eyes to how violence and kind of devastation and wonder and regrowth coexist side-by-side. It was a kind of melancholic trip often to see how the landscape had been changed, and to know how people had been displaced, and were still being displaced here and there in gentrifying areas,” he tells Press Play. “At the same time, you can’t walk up California and be consistently awed by this world and the landscape that is California.”

You can read or listen to his full interview here.

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