I moved to California 16-and-a-half years ago -- intentionally and with great appreciation for this state 3,000 miles from the one in which I was raised. My then-boyfriend, now husband, and I drove from New Jersey with our two cats in tow and exclaimed, "We're home!" as we crossed the border from Nevada.
Since then, we've explored a lot of our golden state but mostly the obvious places, and so during a weekend in the Sierra foothills, we make a goal to sleep in every county in California. There are 58. We have 36 to go. Napping in the car doesn't count.
We've visited -- or most likely -- driven through more than 22 counties, but in staying the night we get to know towns we otherwise would have just passed through and people we otherwise wouldn't have stayed to meet.
The inspiration for this idea was sparked in Calaveras County, and so the towns of Murphys and Arnold still hold a special place in our hearts.
With vineyards dotting almost every region, we've drunk our share of local wines, including at the annual Lodi Zinfandel Festival in San Joaquin County. We've cuddled with rescued farmed animals at a sanctuary in Glenn County, hiked up the river at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in Monterey County, and had the best gourmet vegan meal in Amador County in Plymouth, a town whose population was 1,000 at last count.