By the end of Oregon and into our first stops in California, I wrote to a dear friend that things were feeling too good to be true. We had hit a stride. Life felt more rich and glorious than not. I felt bashful even putting those words out into the world, sharing them for fear it would soon change, soon be taken away. But between tidepools and beaches, forested walks that calmed me, nature that was truly larger than life, I was feeling so grounded, so calm, so trusting. Homeschool was feeling like a gift. We were cooking new recipes, reading, finding time to hunker down and time to let loose. We were dazzled by agates. We were wondering if the sand dollars in California were the same as the sand dollars in Florida. We watched migrating birds and whales daily. We found more driftwood teepees on more beaches with more wind to tousle our hair and more waves to tease and lure us.
And then, a few stops into California, I got the news that my father had died.
That wise friend told me she was so glad for that happy spell, so that I’d know it was possible and could find my way back. So here’s to Northern California. A place that, ironically my dad once called home, a place he took me and where I fell in love with the notion of living in an enchanting city, and a place that built me up and tore me down, a place that gave me a stunning clear-sky sunset and shooting starts the night my dad died, the place that showed me seals and sea lions playing and jumping through waves in the days following his death; and hopefully, with all this in mind, one day I will find my way back…
- We stayed:
- Patrick’s Point State Park (Trinidad), which looks like it officially changed it’s name to Sue-meg State Park soon after our visit! (musings here and here)
- Ancient Redwoods RV Park (Humboldt Redwoods State Park) (musings here)
- MacKerricher State Park (Fort Bragg/Mendocino) (musings here)
- Sonoma Coast State Park (Bodega Bay) – bypassed last minute
- Costanoa Campground (Pescadero)
- Big Sur Campground and Cabins (Big Sur)
- Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (Big Sur)
- We explored: all the state parks listed above as well as the Avenue of the Giants, Glass Beach (once the location of the town dump, the beach is now seemingly made of tiny pieces of sea glass), San Francisco (day trip from Pescadero as I was taken to and from the SFO airport), Half Moon Bay and its festive pumpkin patches, Ano Nuevo State Park, the Pacific Coast Highway, Andrew Molera State Park, Los Padres National Forest, Henry Miller Memorial Library
- We hiked: Wedding Rock Trail (saw more whales), Arcata Community Forest (five stars!), Founders Grove Nature Trail and Big Trees/Bull Creek Loops in the Redwoods, Franklin Point Trail, Pfeiffer Beach, Creamery Meadows Trail to Andrew Molera beach, Pfeiffer Falls
- We ate/drank: SeaQuake Brewery (a short but delicious lunch stop soon after crossing into CA and we took some of their beer to go), Bencharong Thai, Mercado and Taqueria de Amigos in a Pescadero gas station, Arcangeli Grocery for artichoke focaccia, Big Sur Bakery (having already experienced Nepenthe on a previous trip to the area 12 years ago)
- We read:The Boatbuilder (Daniel Gumbiner), I started The Valley of the Moon (Jack London), and Big Sur (Jack Kerouac); my trip to the Henry Miller Memorial Library inspired me to finish Oregon’s Sometimes a Great Notion (Ken Kesey) and I also bought Henry Miller’s On Writing.
- We listened to: California (Joni Mitchell), San Francisco (Brett Dennen), and my new favorite CA song I Am California (John Craigie), alongside songs that made me think of my father mostly James Taylor and Paul Simon.
- Next time: Redwoods National Park (we only did the state parks!), specifically Lady Bird Johnson Grove trail; Fern Canyon hike/Gold Beach, the town of Eureka, more Mendocino, more stops at farms, the hot tub at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse hostel, Monterey Aquarium, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Coast (in Big Sur) for lunch, McWay Falls trail, Kirk Creek campground, Sand Dollar Beach (and just generally more roadside stops along the Pacific Coast Highway)