Looking for the Earthquake Capital of the World

I never planned on looking for the earthquake capital of the world. In fact, when I got on the plane to California last month, it was to get away from the shakes and quakes of my hometown.

But I should have known, given California’s own shaky history, that I wouldn’t be able to escape it altogether.

So when, by chance, I came across Susan Elizabeth Hough’s book Finding Fault in California (An Earthquake Tourist’s Guide) while in Temecula, I figured it was an omen – that I couldn’t go to California and simply ignore California’s earthquake history.

Reading the book, I soon realized that everywhere I planned to go had had the shakes at one time or another.

That being the case, I figured I might as well go with the flow and head to straight for the source – Parkfield, California, the so-called ‘Earthquake Capital of the World’.

Located in the Cholame Valley of Central California, this small town with 37 residents sits astride the San Andreas fautline, where the Pacific Tectonic Plate meets the North American Tectonic Plate.

Heading there seemed like a good idea at the time.  As I drove further and further into the hills, with the road getting narrower and narrower, I started wondering if really was all that wise.

But I’d come to far to turn back, so I just kept on going, wondering all the while if, when I got to Parkfield, there would be any sign of life or any coffee, and more importantly, praying that this wouldn’t be the day that Parkfield lived up to it’s name.

Happily, it didn’t.

And there were a few hardy souls around.

But sadly, the infamous Parkfield Café was closed.

Timing, as they say, is everything.

The locals told me if I had shown up a couple of days later, I’d have found a much different Parkfield, one overrun by bluegrass music fans attending the annual Parkfield Bluegrass Festival.

I can’t help but wonder, though, if any of them would choose to sleep at the Parkfield Inn…



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