I made it to the West Coast! It took me two months via a crazy route, but I made it.
I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting, but I think I had California all wrong in my head. My experience with the area was limited primarily to business trips through the LA and San Diego area, when I was rushed and driving from one meeting to the next. In my head, California was beautiful but overcrowded. It turns out that I really underestimated the appeal.
Let me start with my least favorite part, which is going to sound profoundly stupid (and I freely admit this). My least favorite part was Yosemite. The reason for this is entirely about the energy I brought there, which says something about how important attitudes are. When I arrived at Yosemite, I was just getting tired. I found it full of people and cars, the Mariposa Grove closed for refurbishments, and other roads not yet open for the season. After just one day, I had to admit it wasn’t working for me and I moved on.
That being said, I did appreciate the incredible power and beauty of thunderous water crashing through granite, and was so happy to take a walk through trees after so long in the desert. I stopped for lunch at the beautiful historic hotel in the valley, and chatted with the shuttle drivers, who had the embedded comic relief attitudes of people who work with the public. I looked around and thought, “Water. Granite. Trees. Got it.” and then I decided that Yosemite would have to stay on my bucket list for a return trip that explored it’s other areas.
My next stop was Marin County, where I was able to experience about a week enjoying one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever seen. My favorite part of the visit to this area was the huge selection of places to just take a hike. Marin Country is where the mountain biking craze started, and the number of trails for both biking and hiking (both day use and long term treks) was impressive. The views are gorgeous, and range from scenic vistas of the surrounding mountains, to cool, shady groves of redwoods, wide sweeping ocean views, and quiet spaces by small lakes. I think the timing of my visit in the early spring helped to amp up my experience, because with all of the recent rain, everything was still green, the wildflowers were in bloom, and the weather was still nice and cool.
I was looking forward to seeing the Point Reyes National Seashore, and boy, it does not disappoint! The drive to the beach goes through marshlands and picturesque inlets that give way to rolling hills with cattle grazing peacefully, then suddenly there you are at the open ocean watching crashing waves of swirling white foam. It was sensory overload of the best kind, with light and smells and sounds shifting dramatically as we drove the winding roads to the beach. It also helped that we did this in a pretty red convertible, so all of those things could soak in better. 🙂
I also learned something new about visiting artist’s open studios. My approach to visiting galleries has been to just visually observe the artwork and wander through until I feel mentally saturated. Honestly, I think I find it a little intimidating. The friend I was visiting is an artist, and took a very different approach, which was to be more selective about what was really drawing him in, and then to engage the artists for more in depth conversations about what they were expressing. I learned a lot from that, and I got a lot more out of the artwork that was presented by listening in addition to looking. Imagine that. Listening as a way of enhancing the experience. Hmmm…
After about a week, I decided I was ready to start my journey back towards the East Coast. I’m headed to the big mountains of Idaho, Wyoming and South Dakota before dropping into Colorado for a couple of weeks. Hoping to see lots of wildlife!!