It began with a visit to the Santa Barbara Mission and gift shop some sunny spring afternoon a few years back. Pinned on a thick adobe wall of thimble-sized shop was a map of the California missions. I stared at them, sixteen dots stretched across the state we visited often. I counted, one, two. That’s it? We’ve only seen two of the old missions? It wasn’t long before I was surrounded by my curious family. Our eldest child stared into the map lamenting under her breath about how many we might’ve visited if only we’d known better. Shocked I wouldn’t have to force-feed them the idea to visit all the missions, I quietly slipped away to purchase a white cross, smiling to myself.
It would be nearly a year before we were able to visit the second mission. Near Lompoc, not far from some secret military base we made a stop at La Purisma, the mission featured on an episode of Ghost Adventures. Ghost app in hand, we wandered the expansive grounds. With a number of outlying buildings, there was much to explore in a short period of time. Some areas felt spooky, and a couple spots yielded words on the ghost app, known as EVPs to you non-ghost chasers out there.
Funny enough, it was the mission bathroom that yielded the bulk of the EVPs that day. At the gift shop, we asked about spectral activity and the shopkeeper lit up. She had never seen anything out of the ordinary, but her co-workers frequently reported unusual sights. She vowed to volunteer at the Halloween event the following autumn in hopes of coming away with her own chilling story. The history of La Purisma is enough to warrant a visit, and if you are traveling with young ones iI guarantee they will be talking about the donkey for years to come.
Outside the danish town of Solvang rests the Santa Ines Mission. Actually the building doesn’t exactly rest. It is a working church, hosting Sunday services and the like. The day we visited the church was just emptying from the morning service.
After paying a small fee we entered the mission through the small, unique adjoining museum. Well worth a walk-through, the museum includes some interesting relics and items that detail the Chumash people and original days of the church. The museum leads to the back of the chapel. My children gawked at the dark wooden confessional. Raised as patchwork Christians, they’d never seen such a thing.
The chapel interior is awash in the bright colors of Southern California, aquas, pinks, and oranges. It was a beautiful space and I longed to see it in action, alive with the devout, wiggly children and the deep words of a sermon.
We exited to the surrounding garden and cemetery grounds. Our family shutterbug kept busy snapping shots of the building exterior, fountain, unusual outdoor altar and cemetery.
In all, we’ve visited four of the sixteen missions. This quest has added a rich layer to our California travels. It takes us off the beaten path to discover something new about one of our favorite places.
What motivates your travels and what things have you found as a result? I can’t wait to hear back from you!