• Alta California

  • From San Diego to San Francisco, a Journey on Foot to Rediscover the Golden State
  • By: Nick Neely
  • Narrated by: Tristan Wright
  • Length: 17 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 3.9 out of 5 stars (16 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

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 and a tent, trekking through stretches of California both lonely and urban. For 12 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 together natural and human history, Alta California relives his adventure, tells a 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 historical and contemporary California, 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.

©2019 Nick Neely (P)2020 Dreamscape Media, LLC

What listeners say about Alta California

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A good idea badly executed

I have lived, walked & ridden this same part of SoCal for 60 years and know it well. I was unable to finish this book largely because of the recurrent and awful pronunciation of places and things, which tore deeply into the credibility of the effort. Tule is not "tool", it's "two-lee", the avocado is not "hahs", it's "hass" there seemed to be one of these irritants at every page. But the content- Neely spent way too much time telling us about himself- if he was cold or hot or scared or tired- to the extent the core issue of the tie between the expedition of Portolà and what is before us today is badly diluted.
I stopped listening just short of Lompoc. It's possible it got better as he moved closer to home, but my time was better spent elsewhere

7 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Way, way, way too long

Although I learned a lot about the Portola Expedition and the history of California, the book was hard to finish. The story drags on way too long and the thing is: nothing really happens. Nothing funny, nothing exciting, nothing interesting. It's just a guy that hikes a very long distance (kudos for that by the way) and talks about birds he sees and how cold the nights where.

Decent performance by the narrator.

2 people found this helpful

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Alta amazing

This is one if the most interesting stories. The author got very detailed and really brought this book alive. All California residents or those born and raised in California should read the history of the state. Even if you are not a California person, it would make a great read of a one mans journey to relive the beginning of a beautiful state. The author is to be complimented in the detail and desire to learn about the beginnings of California and how important the missions were.

1 person found this helpful

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Unique and wonderful

This is the sort of book I’ve always wanted to read. There is a particular pleasure in reading a book by someone with whom I have some things in common: I’m just few years older than the author, I grew up in and have spent 3/4 of my life in California where I did lots of hiking, camping, botanizing, and long distance running. Also like the author, I moved out of state some years ago and my knowledge of the Indigenous Californian peoples was limited to the short module on the California Missions most Californian kids do in elementary school. A great deal of California’s population were born in other US states or abroad, and while this diversity is enriching, in my experience this made a sense of history and place the more elusive for it.

It was a pleasure to read Neely thoughtfully unpack the historical records of early California, weaving the narrative of his journey with those of the people and environments he encountered along the way. I know and love many of the places he passed through and it was really meaningful for me to learn more about the history of these places. What a wonderful way to contextualize modern California.

The audiobook narrator has a pleasing voice and cadence, better than many I’ve come across. However the majority of Spanish words and names are badly mispronounced, and some common English words are too. It’s a shame that the producer didn’t attempt to remedy this. I can’t see why the reader couldn’t have been given more help with the Spanish language words. It’s rather insulting to the sincerity and reverence with which Neely clearly has for California’s multi-cultural history and high numbers of Spanish speakers, especially for a book that is so focused on the Portola Expedition.

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decent book, awful narration

it was a struggle to listen to this narrator butcher the pronunciation of everyday words as well as names of California places, flora, and fauna. if you're interested in this title, save yourself the frustration: get a paper copy and read it yourself.