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Alex Silgalis | 04/28/2021Family Friendly, Museums, History & Culture, Photography, Road Trip |   

California's Centers - Yes there is more than one

Adventures don’t need to be adrenaline inducing or even hard to get to. Seeking things a bit different or unknown can be the ones that stick in your memory more than attractions themselves. Instead of rushing to Yosemite, why not savor the road trip itself. How about taking in some of the more obscure things along the way such as the “Center Of California” or the "Centers of California".

The state of California is culturally and somewhat geographically divided into two areas: Northern and Southern. Symbolically, Southern California, the land of surf and sun, is where the palm trees exist. For Northern California, the land of rugged mountains and forests, it’s the pine tree (it's even the symbol of Stanford University). The question is; what separates these?  Where is the dividing line?

Where the Palm Meets the Pine

While the origins of the palm and the pine tree are a bit of a mystery, the earliest known history dates back to when California Highway 99 was being built. Stretching almost the entire length of California's great Central Valley this highway has been the primary artery between these two regions from about 1926 to 1972.  Situated smack dap in the divider of the highway, just a few miles south east if the city of Madera, this is where a palm tree in fact meets a pine.

Kids will LOVE it!

To this day, a favorite childhood memory was seeing Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley. The story of why it was built and its location of being an oasis in such an inhospitable environment made me wonder in awe. Despite kids wanting to go to places like Disney World, they’ll remember a road trip filled with pit stops of funky things even more so.

Additional Attractions to Combine it With

Although it may not be the primary destination, it’s the perfect jumping off point to a host of other excursions and places. North Fork is the starting point of one of the most beautiful Byways in the country – the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway. You’re also less than ten miles from what many call the mini-version of Tahoe – Bass Lake. And last but not least, Yosemite’s southern gate is only forty minutes from the geographic center.

From the town of North Fork, head east on Rd 225/Minarets Road for approximately 4.3 miles. Turn right onto Italian Bar Road and drive approximately 2.5 miles. About two thirds of a mile past a sharp switchback over the crest of a ridge, you'll see a small pull-off on your left featuring a short flight of stairs leading up the hillside. At the top of these stairs is the Center.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” You may have a final place to be but set aside some extra time so you can appreciate everything on your way too.

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Alex Silgalis

Alex founded® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

Our annual Visit Yosemite | Madera County Visitors Guide can answer all your questions about visiting California's Gateway to Yosemite. From the park itself to the museums, wineries, art galleries and more throughout Madera County, our guide can help you plan the perfect vacation. Please note that we mail to the USA only, but anyone can download the guide.
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