There are times when you are on a hike when very unexpected things can happen. You might stumble upon an unusual animal to watch, have a hiker offer you some homemade cookies or even run into someone you know! Justin and I call that “Trail Magic”. A few months back, when we were hiking a desert trail in Anza Borrengo State Park in Southern California, we found some trail magic. We ran into a middle aged couple on the trail, one of the only people we saw the entire day. They asked us about trail conditions and such and we started chatting. Turns out they had an Airstream as well, were volunteers at the State Park and had traveled across the country themselves, except they had done it on their bicycles! As it turns out, Tom and Stephanie live right outside San Francisco and when they heard we would be coming to the area in a few months, they invited us to park the Airstream at their home and stay with them! Considering that campsites around the Bay Area where extremely expensive, we jumped at the very generous offer. So, upon leaving Yosemite National Park, we drove to Tom and Stephanie’s house to spend about a week in the Bay Area.
And a huge thank you to Tom and Stephanie, who opened their home to us, let us do laundry, shower and let the kids play with all of their grandkids toys! We hope our paths cross again on this journey of life!
I had been to San Francisco for a day, back when I was sixteen, and I was looking forward to going back and exploring this cool city. Over the course of our days in SFO and the Bay Area, we did a lot of typical tourist stuff: saw the sea lions on Pier 39, had clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, ice cream sundaes at Ghiradelli Square, walked down curvy Lombard Street, visited Chinatown, and walked through Golden Gate Park. We also did some non-traditional tourist things: visited the Rosie the Riveter National Historic Site, biked along the bay, had lunch in Berkeley at Alice Water’s restaurant Chez Panisse, and visited John Muir’s home. All of these experiences turned out to be extremely fun and memorable. My friend Lauren, from my BCG days, lives in San Francisco and we were able to have dinner with her and her husband Jason at one of the best Chinese restaurants in town and their Peking duck did not disappoint. There is so much to do and see in the Bay Area that it would take years to explore it all, so our four days in the area was just a small taste and I will definately want to come back and explore all the amazing things we missed!
From San Francisco we headed for the day up to Sacramento to meet a dear friend of mine, Mrs. Wright. Until my family moved when I was thirteen, Mrs. Wright’s house backed up to our house and I spent a huge part of my life playing with her kids, swimming in her pool and enjoying her fire pit. I also think she is one of the most extraordinary people I know. She’s hilarious, always into something interesting, whether it be a book or a new hobby. She paints, is a published author (self-published, she’ll shout!), plays the foreign markets and is now reading a book about breathing. In her early eighties and recently widowed, she is still so full of energy and I love spending time with her. We spent an afternoon hanging out with her and it was great to have my kids make some wonderful memories with a dear friend.
Prior to leaving the San Francisco and Sacramento area, we had to stop for a few days in wine country! There are thousands of wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties, but there was only one winery that I wanted to visit more than any other….. Ridge Winery in Healdesburg. I have loved Ridge wines for years now and knowing we didn’t have a ton of time, or money, to go bopping around to a ton of different wineries, I chose quality over quantity. Lauren and Jason joined us for the afternoon as we did a tasting at Ridge, gazing out along the sunny hillside filled with grape vines. It was a glorious day with glorious people drinking insanely glorious wine! We had a bit of time to explore Healdesburg as well, which is a lovely town with a pretty electic food scene. While in Napa, we stayed at the Six Sigma Ranch and Winery and I spent Mother’s Day with Justin and the kids sitting among the grape vines and the goats, pigs and sheep drinking wine. Life is very good indeed.
From wine country we continued to head North, into what I later learned is called the State of Jefferson! The last few weeks in May we spent exploring Northern California, and our first stop was Redding and the Shasta Lake area. Unfortunately, the weather in Redding was very rainy the week we were there, but we made the best of it. The rodeo was in town and we decided to check it out. This was an experience not to be missed and I hope we get the chance to see a rodeo again. I know nothing about horses, or bulls, or how any of these animals are treated. But now I do know that it is a huge adrenline rush watching a man attempt to stay on an angry bull for more than seven seconds. Seven seconds is a really long time, especially when you’re being thrashed around like a rag doll! It was crazy exciting! Watching the talented young women race their horses around the obstacles in the arena was really cool too. Had it not been for the rain, just so much rain, we would have had an incredible time. Turns out a cowboy hat only keeps a small amount of rain off of you, and after two hours of rodeo we were drowned rats and had to leave. It took three days for my jeans to dry!
We learned a few things about Redding. It has a great library and a nice movie theatre (we went two different days to see a movie!). It is not much fun sitting in an Airstream being pelted by rain for several days, but we made the best of it. And considering how long we have been on the road, we had been extremely lucky with weather up to now, so we didn’t mind. We were able to spend the day up at Mt. Shasta and do some hiking and see the beautiful mountain range.
Up to this point in our trip, my planning had been pretty good. We had extremely good weather, stayed at nice campgrounds and generally been having a fabulous time! But the next stop on our itinerary proved to be a big planning OOPS! From Redding we drove east a few hours to Lassen Volcanic National Park, which I had heard was gorgeous and had amazing hiking! There were no campgrounds around the park that had availability, so we were going to have to camp an hour even further east of the park which wasn’t ideal, but we could live with it. I had no clue of the elevation of the park! I had no clue that 99% of the park was still covered in snow! I had no clue that only one trail was open for snowshoers, but that no one anywhere nearby rented snowshoes! I had no clue that we were now going to be spending four days in very cold weather with nothing to do! Literally, there was nothing to do. There was a town about 30 minutes from our campground. They had a laundrymat and a small library. That was the highlight of the four days in this area…. the laundrymat and the library. Oh well, you win some, you loose some. We read a lot, played games, and relaxed, which is something we hadn’t done in a while. As usual, we just made the best of it!
We drove back west through Northern Californa to the coast to spend our last days in California in the Redwoods. Tabatha had especially been looking forward to the visit. We spent five nights at the southern end of the Redwoods, at Humboldt Redwoods State Park and then four nights at the northern end of the Redwoods, camping at Del Norte State Park. Our nine days in the Redwoods did not disappoint. We were able to do a ton of hikes among some of the most incredible forests we’ve ever been in. Justin spent a day kayaking on the Eel River. We hiked in a fern canyon, hiked in a dense forest, hiked along the beachfront, hiked down a cliffside to the beach. The kids spent a few nights playing along the beach as the tide rolled in and Justin and I would watch thsplashing in the waves and drinking some wine. We saw tons of banana slugs, crabs, mussels, a sea cucumber and starfish! We also enjoyed exploring Eureka and Crescent City, the towns along the coast of Northern California, which had some really good breweries (Lost Coast and Seaquake). It was a glorious time and a great way to end our two and a half months in California. The Redwoods area was a highlight of our time in California and we were glad to leave the state on such a high note!