An entire blog devoted solely to California can’t begin to touch the surface of the vastness of this state. From deserts and empty ghost towns, to sky scraping peaks, to Hollywood and up the coast, this state has it all. While the traffic and pollution in some areas was overwhelming, I can see why people flock to this wonderland in droves.
We entered California through Bishop, on the eastern side of the Sierras. A sleepy climbing mecca of a town, Bishop attracts outdoorsy folk who spend days grinding on world-class climbs and then take a break with a soy latte or microbrew. Jagged snowy peaks loom in the background next to sand colored boulders and trout-filled streams. We were lucky enough to camp next to our own private hot spring before waking up to tackle a few climbs ourselves.
The next day was a big one as we beelined it for the coast, bombing through smoggy Bakersfield, where we had to hold our breath for an hour and a half. Coming from the clean air of Montana, we were shocked at the pollution humans are capable of. But who are we to judge? Oil wells dotted the fields and factories spit smoke out into the sky, but we rely on what produces that pollution as much as the next person. Gas, textiles, meat. Sad, but true.
We pushed through the smog and traffic and then – finally! The gorgeous California coast. At last we could take a deep breath of fresh salt water air. We made it to Cambria, a tiny coastal town at the southern end of the famous Big Sur section of Highway 1. I immediately felt the weight and stress of traveling float away with the waves. Rolling green hills with old farmsteads rolled right over the cliffs into the ocean. Elephant seals napped on the rocks, and a light breeze moved the wildflowers just slightly as we walked along the ocean trails. We spent three days exploring Big Sur in an almost euphoric state. I couldn’t help but burst our laughing every once in awhile at the ludicrous perfection. A picnic with cheese, a baguette, and wine, on the soft grass overlooking the rocky cliffs of Big Sur? Please.
As much as we wanted to stay forever, reality called and north we headed to Los Altos, to visit my aunt whom I hadn’t seen in over ten years. She and her husband live in an adorable artistic home that she has owned for forty years. While staying there we were able to drop Gloria and go explore Santa Cruz for the day. Dave drug us on an “accidental” 16-mile grueling bike ride that left both of us without quads, but we made up for it by having two dinners in Santa Cruz. Or was it three? Either way, we stuffed our bellies and went to watch surfers tackle the unusually large swells that were hitting the coast, as the sun set beneath the horizon.
Next stop: Oakland! Since we had both visited San Francisco several times, and didn’t want to drag Gloria through the crowds, we decided to visit Oakland for the first time. Luckily an old friend that I have known since kindergarten took us under his wing and showed us the neighborhood around Lake Merritt. We enjoyed a delicious lunch, walked around the lake, spotted a few gnomes, and were on our way. Want to know how to see Oakland in four hours? Ask @bisontooth.
The quick trip was worth it, since we saw a wonderful friend and got our city fix before heading out to the fields of wine country. Google “where to go in wine country” and a flood of kitschy promotional ads and websites will haunt your dreams. Too dramatic? Well, that’s how we felt. We were overwhelmed by a feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out,) in this adult Disney World. So we did what we typically do and said ‘screw it.’ We drove around and soaked in the sights without stressing over which vineyards to stop at. We ran up a mountain and took in the views of Napa, Sonoma, and San Francisco. We devoured po’ boy sandwiches at a Cajun restaurant with a delicious local chardonnay at lunch. It’s certainly not everyone’s wine tour, but it worked splendidly for us.
As we headed north the rolling hills sprouted more and more trees, each grander than the next. The roads criss-crossed over rivers and the fog grew thicker as we rolled into Humboldt Redwoods State Park. We arrived after dark and could only see the shadows of the giant trees that towered over us as our headlights hit their giant trunks. We awoke in the morning to a slight mist and were in awe at the majestic living beings in front of us, some thousands of years old. And I can’t even begin to describe the smell. Lush, wet, alive – everything my body had been yearning for after months in the dry desert. The energy exuding from these trees earned our respect and gratitude as we wandered around through time.
Our last stop was in Arcata, where Humboldt State University resides. Our neighbor’s best friend put us up for the night and made us a stir-fry for the books. Yum!
We had aspirations of hanging around town, maybe playing around with the thought of living there someday, but something clicked in both of us: we were done. All of a sudden we realized we were exhausted and didn’t have the energy to figure out more accommodations, where to eat, what to see. We just wanted to go home. So 15 hours in the car, followed by another 9, and we had made it back to the mother land!
We unpacked a little, but mostly just walked around our home with smiles on our faces. We made a humble dinner and sat down to some television, enjoying the simple life back in Montana. I was so relaxed, but something felt weird. We both admitted to feeling like we should be doing something, seeing the sights, exploring, and not wasting the day away. Our adventurous bodies and minds were still on “go time.” We’re slowly settling back into life but it will take time to adjust to the quiet. For now, I’ll sip my coffee and listen to the birds outside. Tomorrow I’ll look for a job. Or, maybe the next day.
Check back next week for one final installment for “Tales from the Trail(er),” as we adjust back to life in Bozeman. There will be updates on the perks and challenges of the trip, as well as a break down on how we did it. Thank you for joining us on our journey!
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