January 2, 2013
I split up with my wife a couple days after Christmas.
The time had come for us to go our separate ways, so I helped her pack her bags and sent her back to Southern California with her parents. What? That was the plan all along…
Alright, so it’s not quite as it sounds. After spending Christmas with Cris’ awesome family in the Redding area, she caught a ride south with her parents and sister back to Lake Elsinore, allowing her some extra time with them and me to venture off to snap a few photos. I drove west through the beautiful mountains of Shasta-Trinity National Forest, and dropped down to connect with US 101 near Arcata. Coming out of the snowy mountains, having traveled for a couple of weeks in winter conditions it must have slipped my mind that I had made my way to the edge of the continent. I was caught off guard rounding a curve to have the Pacific Ocean suddenly appear before me. I wound my way northward up the coast with white capped waves crashing against the rocky shoreline below.
The first stop was Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (part of the Redwood National Park complex) where I finally got my first glimpse of these towering giants. I have wanted to see the Redwoods for as long as I can remember, and suffice it to say the fabled forest did not disappoint. I took a short hike through an enchanted grove shrouded in coastal fog. The trunks of these trees are just massive, and the lush understory of ferns and moss accentuated the mystic realm.
I spent that night in Crescent City, and the next morning drove up to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, another unit under joint jurisdiction of the National Park Service and California State Parks. Every bit as awe inspiring as the day before, I spent the morning exploring Stout Grove, trying in vain to capture the essence of this magical kingdom. A light drizzle eventually gave way to steady rain, and it was time for me to be on my way. I drove back down Highway 101 touring the dense forests of northern California. Unfortunately, night falls early this time of year so I didn’t get a chance to see a lot of what I was driving through, but witnessed enough to create a new bucket list of places to explore.
Approaching the Bay Area on the third day, I had plans to visit Point Reyes National Seashore and spend several hours exploring the park. Unfortunately, I got lost and ended up taking a long scenic drive along the back roads of Marin County, which really wasn’t that unfortunate. That is truly some beautiful country, and I had an enjoyable ride following which ever road appeared before me, trying to guess my way to the coast.
When I arrived at Point Reyes, however, I was in a crunch for time. I knew I wanted to get through San Francisco before nightfall, and had learned in the hours prior how slow travel along these curvy two lane roads can be. I gave myself an hour to take pictures along the shore, and again, saw enough in that limited glance to know I had to come back for more. In this case, however, the visit won’t be put off for someday. I was only able to tear myself away with the promise that I’d come back to Point Reyes in a couple of weeks, before heading home.
I left the park and hung to the coast, south to the Golden Gate. I drove across the bridge and had every intention of stopping on the other side to photograph this famous landmark, but got caught in the center lanes and wasn’t able to exit in time. Before I knew it, the farm boy in me was in full panic mode (we’ve got the only stoplight in the county in my hometown) so driving through the heart of Frisco was a little nerve racking. Hands firmly on the wheel my new goal in life became staying firmly put in one lane and getting the hell out of the city. The Golden Gate can also wait for the next time around.
I spent that night in Salinas, dined on a double double from In-N- Out Burger, possibly the greatest fast food meal of all time, and the next day drove the rest of the way to reunite with Cris and her family at their home in Lake Elsinore. Again, city driving got the best of me as I skirted around L.A. in a hail storm, but I somehow managed to arrive in one piece.
New Year’s was spent with Cris, her family and friends and then much too soon it came time to send my wife packing again. This time, back to Iowa. When planning this trip, we decided to drive out together; to visit Montana and then California for the holidays, but that was the extent of the time she would have. She needed to get back to work and school so on New Year’s Day her dad and I drove her to LAX for a flight back to the frozen Midwest. From here, this becomes purely a photo trip for me. My whims, a tight budget, and the weather will dictate my journey home.
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