REDDING, Calif. — The deer heads mounted on the walls of Eric Johnson’s church office are testament to his passion for hunting, a lifestyle enjoyed by many in the northernmost reaches of California but one that Mr. Johnson says surprises people he meets on his travels around America and abroad.
“When people see you’re from California, they instantly think of ‘Baywatch,’” said Mr. Johnson, the associate pastor of Bethel Redding, a megachurch in this small city a three-and-a-half-hour drive north of San Francisco. “It’s very different here from the rest of California.”
Mr. Johnson lives in what might be described as California’s Great Red North, a bloc of 13 counties that voted for President Trump in November and that make up more than a fifth of the state’s land mass but only 3 percent of its population.
From Hollywood to Silicon Valley, California projects an image as an economically thriving, politically liberal, sun-kissed El Dorado. It is a multiethnic experiment with a rising population, where the percentage of whites has fallen to 38 percent.
California’s Great Red North is the opposite, a vast, rural, mountainous tract of pine forests with a political ethos that bears more resemblance to Texas than to Los Angeles. Two-thirds of the north is white, the population is shrinking and the region struggles economically, with median household incomes at $45,000, less than half that of San Francisco.
Jim Cook, former supervisor of Siskiyou County, which includes cattle ranches and the majestic slopes of Mount Shasta, calls it “the forgotten part of California.”
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