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Need to unwind post-election? Try these peaceful California experiences

Visitors enjoy the Meditation Gardens at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades.
Visitors enjoy the Meditation Gardens at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades. Photograph taken in 2019.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Good morning, adventure-seekers. It’s been a nerve-racking year. It’s been a nerve-racking 48 hours.

People are finding respite wherever they can: a jaunt around the block, a socially distanced hike in the mountains. On Tuesday night, I zipped over to Santa Monica State Beach to livestream the sunset for The Times’ Facebook followers so I could add some tranquility to the ether. Despite the general anxiety, the surfers, runners and fellow sunset appreciators appeared calm, or at least pleasantly distracted by the sunset.

This week, I’d like to share three soothing experiences in California, in case you need a break. One will take you into the heart of Topanga, another will bring you to a Technicolor wonderland in Paso Robles, and a third you’ll find off Sunset Boulevard. Where’s your favorite place to unwind in the West? Let me know — I’d love to feature it in a future edition of Escapes.

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🐎 Horseback riding

In my experience, life usually feels better on the back of a horse. It’s incredible what a little extra distance from the ground can do for your sense of perspective, literally and figuratively.

If you’re interested in changing your perspective, check out Los Angeles Horseback Riding in Topanga, included in our holiday gift guide for people who love to be outside.

I visited Los Angeles Horseback Riding last year, and though I had spent time hiking in Topanga Canyon, I quickly discovered that it’s hard to beat the view from atop a horse.

Novice and experienced riders alike are treated to sweeping views of the San Fernando Valley and glimpses of the ocean as a guide leads you and your horse into the Santa Monica Mountains. As we rode along a wildflower-lined trail, it was easy to forget that we were minutes from civilization. In short, it’s an ideal adventure for anyone hoping to escape for a while.

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LA Horseback Riding trail ride in Topanga.
Experience the wilder side of Topanga on a guided trail ride with Los Angeles Horseback Riding.
(Rachel Schnalzer / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

🦢 The Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine

The Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine is often included in roundups of L.A.’s most serene destinations — and for good reason. With walking paths, meditation areas and a pervading sense of calm, the shrine instills quietude in locals and visitors alike. Last year Times contributor Lori Basheda checked into the shrine for a two-day silent retreat.

For those who wish to visit, new rules are in place during the pandemic. Visit the shrine’s website to make a reservation and learn about safety guidelines.

The Golden Lotus Archway stands at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades.
The Golden Lotus Archway stands at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angles Times )
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✨ The ‘Field of Light’ in Paso Robles


There’s nothing as soothing as gazing at a field of wildflowers bobbing in the wind (as long as you manage to avoid the crowds, of course). The “Field of Light at Sensorio” takes the wildflower experience to another level with 58,800-plus Technicolor lights.

Artist Bruce Munro created this multi-acre walk-through exhibition on a rolling hillside, simulating the effect of a wildflower field by using fiber-optic solar-powered lights. I visited in 2019, with a three-hour drive to L.A. ahead of me. Despite the looming journey, nothing could disturb the dreamy effect of the lights slowly undulating from green to purple to orange and back again.

If you go, expect COVID-19 guidelines; entry is by timed ticket purchased ahead online.

Dusk settles at the “Field of Light at Sensorio” as the lights illuminate.
(Rachel Schnalzer / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)
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🎥 A unique way to explore Los Angeles


The “Made in L.A.” biennial art exhibition has been on view for weeks. You just didn’t know it, writes Times arts and culture writer Deborah Vankin. The exhibition’s official opening date is still in question as museums wait for health officials to weigh in, but several outdoor installations have been unveiled.

You can view artist Kahlil Joseph’s “BLKNWS®” installation at Bloom & Plume Coffee in Historic Filipinotown, as well as at other locations across Los Angeles. The installation blends original video footage with found film clips, social media posts, academic lectures and more. “BLKNWS®” has had a quiet but important presence, even if viewers aren’t always aware it’s art, said Bloom & Plume co-owner Maurice Harris. To find Joseph’s other “Made in L.A.” installations, visit the Hammer Museum’s site.

Kahlil Joseph's "BLKNWS®" at Bloom & Plume Coffee.
(Photo by Jeff McLane; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)
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📰 What I’m reading


  • Is the COVID-19 risk on airplanes really that low? Times business reporter Hugo Martín breaks down what experts say.
  • “It’s the last call for fall in California,” writes Times contributor Rosemary McClure. She explains where you may catch some changing leaves in the Golden State.
  • Heads up for Californians heading East: New York now requires most U.S. visitors to pass two COVID-19 tests with a three-day quarantine in between. Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds explains the new requirement.
  • Attention snow seekers! Advanced and United airlines have set seasonal schedules for flights to Mammoth from Southern California. Reynolds has all the details.
  • Paralympic rower Angela Madsen of Long Beach began her harrowing journey to Hawaii in April, trying to become the oldest woman — and first paraplegic — to row the 2,500 miles. But she never returned. Andrew Lewis tells her story in Outside Online.
  • Every year, thousands trek through the Andean highlands of Peru to celebrate Qoyllur Rit’i, marking the beginning of the harvest season. Danielle Villasana takes readers inside this event in the New York Times.
In mid-October fall colors surrounded Lundy Lake, west of Highway 395, north of Lee Vining.
(Jim Edwards)

💻 Can’t adventure IRL? Here’s one way to expand your horizons

The rugged Desert Keys Ranch is a favorite stop for many in Joshua Tree National Park. Can’t visit the park anytime soon? You can still tour the ranch virtually with historian and author Thomas Crochetiere at 7 p.m. Nov. 13. To register for this free Desert Institute event, click here or call (760) 367-5539.

Desert Keys Ranch can now be toured virtually with historian and author Thomas Crochetiere.
Desert Keys Ranch can now be toured virtually with historian and author Thomas Crochetiere.
(Cristina Gottardi / Unsplash; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📸 Our favorite photo

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Send us your travel photos for a chance to be featured in a future edition of Escapes!

🎸 Road song


Let’s face it: The week has been stressful. But I did have moments of peace as I walked around my neighborhood listening to up-tempo songs such as “On My Mind” by Jorja Smith and Preditah. I hope this song gives you the same jolt of dopamine it gives me.

Blobs of color pop up and around lyrics "On my mind, on my mind, mind mind mind" from song by Jorja Smith and Preditah
(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)


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