● By Enjoy Magazine
Executive Editor Record Searchlight
Photo by Melinda Hunter
In 2006, when our son Emerson was born, Kristen and I decided to move away from The Best Place on Earth.
We had lived in San Luis Obispo off and on since the early 1990s, when we first met there in college, and there were great things about life in a college town on the Central Coast. Our friends, horrified at the thought of triple-digit summer days and a town with a Walmart, took bets on how soon we’d move back (I don’t know this for a fact, but I strongly suspect it). When I say “Best Place on Earth,” it’s because that’s literally what people there call it.
And Redding is, indeed, hot. One day in the summer of 2006 I was walking to my car in the Target parking lot when I noticed a flapping sound. It was the sole of my right sneaker. The glue had melted. But we never moved back to SLO. We never even seriously discussed it. Life in the North State is so much more than the cost of living, but that’s a good place to start. I truly believe Redding is the last great affordable city in California. People with middle-class jobs buy houses here. They own boats and RVs and nice hunting rifles and mountain bikes. If you haven’t lived in a place where the median price of a home is half a million dollars, it’s hard to appreciate what a big deal this is. It’s freedom.
Then there’s our location in this natural wonderland. We are nearly encircled by opportunities to get outside, breathe clean air and splash cold, clear water on our faces. The Sacramento River Trail, the single tracks, the lakes and streams, the peaks, the volcanoes, the caves, the historic sites, the charming small towns – each one is a destination. That, too, is liberating.
As a parent, I have watched Emerson thrive in schools that gave him enormous opportunities to grow, explore – even learn Chinese. We have found our tribe here, and he’s found his. And that may be the most liberating feeling of all.