The floor of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park
I don’t take many holidays; sure, I travel a lot but it’s usually for work, maybe I am speaking at a conference, or visiting a factory, or test-driving a car on a preordained route. What I don’t do is take two weeks and head off on an adventure.
Except that is exactly what Rach and I did in September. Rach wanted to celebrate a landmark birthday with a proper get-away-from-it-all trip; she was in New York for business at the end of August and really fancied getting into the wilds of Northern California. We have been talking for about a year about going hiking and exploring north of San Francisco; I never need any encouragement to visit the West Coast, which is most definitely my happy place, as anyone who read the blog back in 2009 when I did my epic California adventure after leaving my job in New York will know.
So we took the plunge. I actually made plans to travel more than two weeks in advance, spanked a whole load of air miles and committed myself to fifteen days out of the office. Rach bought a pile of guidebooks (old school), and we had a summit over Mexican food (preparing ourselves) in Notting Hill midway through August where we discussed where we might go.
All we really knew was that we wanted to visit Yosemite and Mount Shasta and the rest was unknown territory. We knew that we would fly into San Francisco, that there would be a lot of driving, that we love walking, and that we would be in some of the most beautiful parts of North America. Beyond that we were pretty clueless.
Although I have visited San Francisco more times that I can count as an adult, and have lived there too as a student on the BUNAC scheme, working at Ann Taylor in the Embarcadero and as a maitre d’ in Ariana, a long-shuttered fine dining restaurant on the edges of Chinatown, one of the things I haven’t done is used the city as a hop off to explore further than Calistoga and wine country (a few hours north at most), and I’ve never been east at all.
Mainly that’s because hiking as a solo female, specifically hiking in the back country, isn’t something that appeals to me – accidents, men, and bears are a trifecta of hazards that I don’t particularly want to encounter on my own; I am no Cheryl Strayed, and I like company.
So we read the road trips guides, we did a lot of Googling and I spoke to the helpful people at Visit California (truly, an excellent resource) and mapped out a route that would take us first to Yosemite National Park, almost due east of San Francisco, and about a five hour drive, and then up and across the Sierra Nevadas to Lake Tahoe.
Then we would head out north west of there to the Shasta-Cascades, stopping first in Lassen Volcanoes, then heading west to Mount Shasta, driving through the beautiful Shasta-Trinity National Forest. After this we planned to visit Redwoods National and State Parks, take in the Avenue of the Giants, before heading down to Mendocino, and thence to Healdsburg in Sonoma, the heart of wine country.
Cowgirl Creamery at Point Reyes in the National Seashore just above San Francisco would be the last stop before a night in the city and flying back – Rach to New York, and me to London. We had around eleven days to play with so we knew this was a lot of driving – maybe four to five hours a day, but the driving would be part of the trip, as we would be in some of the most spectacular natural surroundings, and at high elevations for much of it.
This post was going to be part of a longer Day One road trip post, but I realised it was fast becoming a huge essay, so I am going to leave this here, and start the road trip story in my next post – stay tuned for a lot of upcoming Northern California stories – and the road trip of a lifetime.
Our wheels, parked up in Yosemite National Park.
(You can tell it’s day one as the car is still sparklingly clean!)
The Visit California site contains a wealth of incredibly useful information across the entire state of California, and we are very grateful to the team at Visit California in London for the advice that they gave us when I approached them when we were planning our trip, which was conceived and planned independently by myself and Rachel. This was not a sponsored or press trip, and no money or emoluments exchanged hands. However Visit California offered us seven unsolicited nights of paid-for accommodation during our road trip, which will be disclosed when mentioned.