In his new book, Alta California: From San Diego to San Francisco, a Journey on Foot to Rediscover the Golden State, Nick Neely chronicles his 650-mile trek on foot from San Diego to San Francisco, following the route of the first overland Spanish expedition into what was soon called Alta California. Led by Gaspar de Portolá in 1769, the expedition sketched a route that would become, in part, the famous El Camino Real. It laid the foundation for the Golden State we know today, a place that remains as mythical and captivating as any in the world.
Neely grew up in California but realized how little he knew about its history. So he set off to learn it bodily, with just a backpack, trekking through stretches of California both lonely and urban. For twelve weeks, following the journal of expedition missionary Father Juan Crespí, Neely kept pace with the ghosts of the Portolá expedition―nearly 250 years later.
Weaving natural and human history, Alta California relives his adventure, tells the story of Native cultures and the Spanish missions that soon devastated them, and explores the evolution of California and its landscape. The result is a collage of past and present, of lyricism and pedestrian serendipity, and of the biggest issues facing California today―water, agriculture, oil and gas, immigration, and development―all of it one step at a time.
Join us for a conversation with Nick Neely and Scott Burton, a literary interviewer based in San Diego.
Books will be available for sale and signing, courtesy of Iconoclast Books.
This program was recorded, and can be viewed on our LIVESTREAM ARCHIVE.
Nick Neely holds an MA in literature and the environment from the University of Nevada, Reno, and MFAs in nonfiction and poetry from Hunter College and Columbia University. He is a recipient of PEN Northwest’s Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency, a UC Berkeley–11th Hour Food and Farming Journalism Fellowship, and an AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award. His first book, Coast Range, was a finalist for the John Burroughs Medal for natural history writing. Originally from San Francisco Bay Area, he now lives in Hailey, Idaho.