I plan to stay overnight in all of the counties of California

One of the many cool things about travelling along the Pacific Crest Trail is that it guides me to visit parts of California I never paid much attention to before (for example, I didn’t know that San Bernardino county had its own mountain range before, let alone that the San Bernardino mountain range has the highest mountains in southern California). This has whetted my appetite for getting a broader understanding of the various corners of California.

In Taiwan, I dutifully visited every single county, and stayed overnight at least once in most of them, which was not so hard since Taiwan has only 11-18 counties (the number depends on how one defines ‘county’ and ‘Taiwan’ and if you really care about understanding this go to Wikipedia).

California does not have nearly as confusing a system for classifying counties as Taiwan, so I can say that California has 58 counties without qualifications. On the other hand, that is a lot of counties. I cannot even name them all off the top of my head (whereas I can name all of the counties in Taiwan off the top of my head). However, it would be cool to have the same experiential grasp of California geography as I have of Taiwanese geography, and I think the best way to do that would be to go to every single county in California.

But what counts as having been in a particular county? I don’t think passing through a county on a road is enough to ‘count’. Even a day trip does not feel like it would be enough. There as also places in California which I visited when I was very young and I barely remember them. Thus, in order for a county to ‘count’, I need to distinctly remember staying overnight in the county. If I can remember what year I stayed in the county and why I was there, that counts as ‘distinctly’ remembering it.

Here is a map of California, and I have shaded in all of the counties where I distinctly remember staying overnight at least once.

A map of California with San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Orange, Yolo, Santa Clara, Placer, Trinity, San Luis Obispo, Shasta, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, Kern, Siskiyou, San Bernardino counties shaded in.

First of all, I find it amusing that this map makes it look like I am much better travelled in Southern California than the San Francisco Bay Area, when that is not the case at all. This is partially because the Southern California counties are so big because most of the county boundaries were determined in the decades after the gold rush when the Sierra Nevada mountains had a relatively high population and southern California had a relatively low population (nowadays it is the complete opposite, which is why Los Angeles county is still a single county in spite of having more land AND a bigger population than San Francisco / Marin / Contra Costa / Alameda / Santa Clara / San Mateo combined, and why the Sierra Nevada has so many counties in spite of having a small population). Also, all of the Bay Area counties are so close to San Francisco that I can visit them all on day trips. Thus, in the Bay Area, only San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, and Santa Clara are shaded in. I have only stayed overnight in Marin because of camping trips, and I have only stayed overnight in Sonoma because of an overnight elementary school trip. I lived in Santa Clara county in my late teens, though by far my most ~distinctly~ memorable night in Santa Clara county was before I lived there – the night of December 31, 1999.

But what is the most funny is that Alameda county … is not shaded in. Yet. I’ve lived in Alameda county for more than a year, I’ve visited Alameda county way more times than I can count, I have more living relatives in just BERKELEY than EVERYWHERE ELSE IN THE UNITED STATES WEST OF MISSOURI COMBINED, I have probably visited Alameda county more than any other county in California other than Santa Clara county, heck I WAS BORN IN ALAMEDA COUNTY, and yet, I cannot distinctly ever staying overnight in Alameda county, and thus I cannot honestly shade it in.

I could just ask one of my cousins in Berkeley if I could stay at their house for one night, but since there is a two-day trail in Alameda county which has caught my interest, I plan to go camping instead.

Yes, one of the reasons I went to San Clemente was so that I could scratch off Orange County on my bucket list.

A lot of these counties which are currently shaded are counties where I have only stayed overnight because of trips on the Pacific Crest Trail. Heck, I stayed in Kern, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties overnight for the first time ~this very calendar year~ because of my long section hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. One of the main reasons I decided to stay in San Clemente on my way back home is so that I would be able to stay overnight in Orange County (I also wanted to arrange to stay in Imperial County, but that turned out to be impractical, so I guess I will save it for my next trip to Southern California).

And hopefully I am going to shade in a lot more counties on my upcoming Pacific Crest Trail hike this summer through Northern California and Central California, yes I am going on the Pacific Crest Trail again this summer, are any of you surprised?

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3 thoughts on “I plan to stay overnight in all of the counties of California

  1. This is really interesting! May I ask how you made the map?  I would be interested in making a similar one for myself.

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