California is full of incredible, unique places. Even for those of us who have lived here all our lives, there are still secret, off-the-beaten-path spots we’ve never even heard of.

Every summer, we put together a special show about some of those hidden gems.

I decided to host this year’s show from a zipline in Sonoma County, with help from our intrepid producer Suzie Racho. Soaring above the redwoods — with our microphones, headphones and tape recorders — was nerve-wracking.

I’ve hiked through redwoods and tried to put my arms around them. But I’ve never flown above them suspended from a cable or seen the treetop canopy from a 100-foot-high platform. It gave me a different perspective on one of California’s greatest treasures.

Some of This Year’s Hidden Gems

At Nancy’s Airport Cafe, steps from the tarmac in rural Glenn County, the pie is so good that small-plane pilots fly in just for the food.

Tricia Lawson has worked as a server at Nancy’s for 26 years. She still wears the nametag she got when she started. (Lisa Morehouse/KQED)

Madame Ganna Walska, an eccentric Polish opera diva, planted lush gardens near Santa Barbara where you can still walk among plants that predate the dinosaurs. She called it Lotusland.

Madame Ganna Walska poses for a photographer in the garden. (Courtesy of Lotusland)

Want to get giant, fresh and legendary strawberry doughnuts near Los Angeles in the middle of the night? Meet the Donut Man.

Katelyn Johnson displays The Donut Man's calling card: the strawberry donut.
Katelyn Johnson displays the Donut Man’s calling card: the strawberry doughnut. (Peter Gilstrap/KQED)

Nestled among the vineyards of Napa County, there’s a place dating back to when California was part of Mexico. At 36 feet tall, the Bale Grist Mill’s waterwheel is one of the tallest in North America.

The Bale Grist Mill. (Ryan Levi/KQED) (Ryan Levi/KQED)

Layers of sandstone form buttes and towering cliffs. Joshua Trees stand guard on the desert floor, and there are way more lizards than people. It’s no wonder this place has been the backdrop for a lot of Westerns. Not far from Hollywood, Red Rock Canyon State Park is a scene-stealer.

Red Rock Canyon looks a little like Utah, except for all the Joshua Trees.
Red Rock Canyon looks a little like Utah, except for all the Joshua Trees. (Alice Daniel/KQED)
An Audio Road Trip: Unearthing California’s Hidden Gems 7 September,2017Sasha Khokha

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Sasha Khokha

Sasha Khokha is the host of The California Report  weekly magazine program, which takes listeners on sound-rich radio excursions around the Golden State.

As The California Report’s Central Valley Bureau Chief for nearly a dozen years, Sasha brought the lives and concerns of rural Californians to listeners around the state. Sasha’s reporting helped exposed the hidden price immigrant women janitors and farmworkers may pay to keep their jobs: sexual assault at work — and helped change California law with regard to sexual harassment of farmworkers.  She’s won a national PRNDI award for investigative reporting, as well as multiple prizes from the Radio Television News Directors Association and the Society for Professional Journalists.

She began her radio career in waterproof overalls, filing stories about the salmon fishery at Raven Radio in Sitka, AK. She has produced and reported for several documentary films. Calcutta Calling, about children adopted from India to Swedish-Lutheran Minnesota, was nominated for an Emmy Award.

Sasha is  a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and Brown University, and is the mother of two young children.

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