Audio Road Trip: Unearthing California's Hidden Gems

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Did you know you could go ziplining in Sonoma County? Host Sasha Khokha interviews zipline guides high above the redwoods. (Suzie Racho/KQED)

California is full of incredible, unique places. Even for those of us who have lived here all our lives, there are unusual, off-the-beaten-path spots we’ve never even heard of. The California  Report Magazine has been exploring some of those places as part of our Hidden Gems series.

In 2017, Sasha Khokha hosted our Hidden Gems show from a zipline in Sonoma County, with help from producer Suzie Racho. They soared above the redwoods with their microphones, headphones and tape recorders.

"I’ve hiked through redwoods and tried to put my arms around them," said Khokha, "but I’ve never flown above them suspended from a cable or seen the treetop canopy from a 100-foot-high platform. It gave me a different perspective on one of California's greatest treasures."

This week, we reprise that show. And we're happy to report that all of the places we visited back then are still around and open to the public.


At Nancy's Airport Cafe, steps from the tarmac in rural Glenn County, the pie is so good that small-plane pilots fly in just for the food.

Tricia Lawson has worked as a server at Nancy's for 26 years. She still wears the nametag she got when she started. (Lisa Morehouse/KQED)

Madame Ganna Walska, an eccentric Polish opera diva, planted lush gardens near Santa Barbara where you can still walk among plants that predate the dinosaurs. She called it Lotusland.

Madame Ganna Walska poses for a photographer in the garden. (Courtesy of Lotusland)

Want to get giant, fresh and legendary strawberry doughnuts near Los Angeles in the middle of the night? Meet the Donut Man.

Katelyn Johnson displays The Donut Man's calling card: the strawberry donut.
Katelyn Johnson displays the Donut Man's calling card: the strawberry doughnut. (Peter Gilstrap/KQED)

Nestled among the vineyards of Napa County, there's a place dating back to when California was part of Mexico. At 36 feet tall, the Bale Grist Mill's waterwheel is one of the tallest in North America.

The Bale Grist Mill. (Ryan Levi/KQED) (Ryan Levi/KQED)

Layers of sandstone form buttes and towering cliffs. Joshua Trees stand guard on the desert floor, and there are way more lizards than people. It’s no wonder this place has been the backdrop for a lot of Westerns. Not far from Hollywood, Red Rock Canyon State Park is a scene-stealer.

Red Rock Canyon looks a little like Utah, except for all the Joshua Trees.
Red Rock Canyon looks a little like Utah, except for all the Joshua Trees. (Alice Daniel/KQED)