California is my happy place. I first visited San Francisco on my GAP year with Caro – we did all the tourist-y things; visiting Alcatraz, shopping around Union Square, checking out Fisherman’s Wharf, and taking a cable car, before Greyhound-ing across America.

I tipped up there again two years later for a summer via the BUNAC (British Universities North America Club) scheme when I was at uni – it gave me a reciprocal working visa for three months and I did all manner of jobs, including maitre d’ing at a long defunct fine dining restaurant called Ariana (they hired me because of my accent not my skills), interning at a entertainment free sheet in Potrero Hill, and cash wrap girl at Anne Taylor in the Embarcadero and in Corte Madero (mainly notable for my ability to leave the security tags on under layers of gift wrapping).

Although on that trip I didn’t do much in the way of sightseeing out of the city, living like a local was enough.

I bought my groceries in the Italian delis in North Beach, and in Safeway in the Marina, (yes, people really do chat you up in the produce aisles and take your number), studied in the library of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley (what better place to research a paper on attitude to homosexuality in the Christian church?), ate my first burrito in the Mission (actually life-changing), drove a Crown Victoria automatic up and down the terrifyingly vertical hills and on the freeway delivering media packs for the magazine (I thought I was going to die, more used to a Citroen 2CV and never having driven a car less than twenty years old and certainly not on the wrong side of the road and with a gear lever on a stalk from the steering wheel), and saw the Dead play at Shoreline (before Jerry died).

Since then I’ve returned to California more times than I can count, including the epic road trip I took in when I was on sabbatical after leaving The Wall Street Journal. (The first post is here.)

I’ve lived in Los Angeles, in KoreaTown with a band (sleeping in the room above their rehearsal space), experienced a minor earthquake, hiked everywhere from Runyon to Torrey Pines, experienced the turn-of-the-century resort splendour of San Diego’s Hotel Del Coronado, bought produce in the farmers’ market in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica, driven the PCH in everything from a Toyota to a Ferrari California T, shopped vintage in Burbank, filmed otters in the Monterey Aquarium, wallowed in mud baths in Calistoga, tasted sparkling reds at Domaine Chandon in Napa, danced my socks off at Coachella, walked the red carpet at a Twilight premiere in LA, visited eight of the California Missions from La Purisima in Lompoc to St Anthony de Padua on Fort Hunter Ligget Base, luxuriated at the Hotel Bel Air, gawped at Hearst Castle, gazed at the stars at the Griffith Park Observatory, driven a Bentley 100ft sideways down a sand dune in Palm Desert, haggled for bargains at the Pasadena Rose Bowl Vintage Fair, squealed over the glory of seals lolling on a beach from La Jolla to the Central Coast, eaten all the cheese at Cowgirl Creamery in San Francisco’s Ferry Building, attended an Apple Event where Sia performed,  taken a private jet over the desert, and slept in an open air treehouse in Big Sur.

But what I haven’t done is driven further north than Calistoga for Jill’s wedding (just north of wine country above San Francisco), or further east than Los Angeles (apart from Palm Springs) or San Francisco. That’s mainly because I’m usually road tripping on my own and hiking National Parks on my own doesn’t appeal from a safety point of view. And, as much as I thoroughly enjoy my own company, I’d want to share the glories of nature with someone. Equally, I am far more motivated to do the outdoor activities with a friend.

So I am beyond excited that Rach and I are heading out to San Francisco and then immediately East and then North for two weeks at the beginning of September on a NINE DAY HIKING ROAD TRIP!!!!  We are bookending either side of the road trip in SF; on the way in because it’s Rach’s birthday so we can eat at The Slanted Door for dinner (one of my favourite restaurants in the world), and on the way out because of flight timings.

Then we are heading to Yosemite (even though Rach has bear phobia). We are booked into a hotel because we love hiking, but we aren’t climbers, and aren’t looking to camp overnight under our own stream. We don’t want to bother with wilderness permits and we don’t have the equipment for it this trip. (No bear canisters here!)

We have looked at heading up towards Tahoe, then angling up towards Redding and Mount Shasta through the national forests, maybe heading over the border into Oregon, then down to Redwood National Park and down the northern stretch of the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway).
We are planning to hit Calistoga for mud baths and a dip in the gorgeous pool at Indian Springs, before swinging by Point Reyes for coastline walking and visiting the home of Cowgirl Creamery (the dream!), and heading into SF for the night before flying home.
If anyone has any suggestions for great trails to hike, places to eat and stay and things to see we are all ears! Equally I’m keen to put together an ultimate hiking road trip kit list (which I’ll turn into a blog later) so any equipment suggestions gratefully received. So far I’ve bought two pairs of Under Armour wicking compression leggings and a Platypus soft water bottle…it’s a start…

Platypus Soft Bottle


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

You May Also Like



OMG, I haven’t heard the word BUNAC in years! I did the program, the other way around when I left western Pennsylvania to work in Cambridge Circus in a restaurant called Payton Plaice. Its now a TexMex / Salsa joint on Charing Cross Rd, but Payton Plaice was part of a string of restaurants owned by a big Chicagoan named Bob Payton -he also owned the Chicago Rib Shack, Pizza Pie place, Henry J Beans But his Friends Call Him Hank and a few more. I gather he bought some country house and turned it into a hotel before dying in a car accident. But BUNAC!!! I fell in love with the UK that summer.


If you can, get to Mendocino – beautiful coastline (so much like Cornwall they filmed the Hollywood version of Frenchman’s Creek there), quirky shops (a terrific bookshop with a resident cat was a favourite) and some great restaurants – highly recommend Trillium and Flow (where they supply you with sun hats if you sit on the balcony). They even have the house used for the exteriors of Jessica Fletchers house in Murder She Wrote!


I’m not sure if I’m more sold on the Daphne du Maurier connection or Jessica Fletcher! Thank you! LLGcc


As a a long-time fan of your blog, I especially enjoy reading about your life in London and your travels. (England is MY happy place!) I hesitate to comment as I’m not a hiker, but I live in California and am familiar with some of the areas you’re traveling to. A couple of thoughts: From Yosemite to South Lake Tahoe, the most scenic route would be over the Tioga Pass (State Route 120), then north on Highway 395. If you can fit it in, a detour to Bodie, a ghost town from the gold mining days that is frozen in time, is worth a stop. Most of the central part of the state via Interstate 5 is going to be hot, dry, and fairly bleak (including Redding), so personally I would zip through and either make a quick trip to Ashland, Oregon, or get over to the coast ASAP to the PCH and/or Highway 101 and spend the bulk of your time along there. I don’t think you can beat the Sierras for beautiful mountains and lakes, so other than seeing the redwoods, I wonder if you might find the other mountainous areas redundant after Yosemite and Tahoe. The Mammoth Lakes area in the Sierras is also beautiful and full of hiking trails, but is south of Yosemite, so maybe that will be another trip! Regardless, have a wonderful time!


Totally 395, Bridgeport, Twin Lakes, etc. the Eastern Sierras are glorious and not overrun at all.


Hi Sasha! Hope your trip is amazing. I would suggest taking a 104-mile mailboat trip up the Rogue River. It’s super fun! The trip back features 360 degree boat spins (waves of water crash over the boat) and water cannon fights with folks standing on the shore and floating in canoes. Here is a video showing the adventure:
The web site:

How far north along the Oregon coast will you travel? I have suggestions for mid-coast adventures. Have fun planning!


That sounds like a wonderful trip! I’d highly recommend a detour into Oregon. I grew up in Ashland, which is the first town in Oregon on I-5. It’s a wonderful little small town, and home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I hope you have a wonderful time on your trip!


If you make it north to Humboldt County, I highly recommend Fern Canyon and the connecting trails. You can even hike along the coast and see the Elk.
Also, make sure to drive along the Avenue of the Giants to be immersed in the redwoods. There are other great trails along that route as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.