A dream road trip from Northern California to Oregon
The Labor day was slowly approaching. Another long weekend was ahead of us and it was about time to plan my first road trip. By that time I had already created an account on Couchsurfing.com so I asked people if anyone wanted to join me for an adventure. I think it was on that exact same day that Florie, a very nice French girl with red hair, replied to me and said she was interested. Soon after that a guy from Lithuania named Žemartas and Denis from Russia joined us.
Our trip started in the beautiful foggy city of San Francisco, from where we took the 101 towards Clear Lake before we continued along the coast. Passing the golden hills not far away from the “Wine Country”, I remember we were listening to some country station on the radio, talking about everyone’s journey to California.
I was sitting silently at one point, looking out of the car window and thinking how it was all happening. How for so many years I had dreamed of going on a road trip like that one day, seeing red barns and windmills along the way and listening to country songs on the radio. And I finally did it!
Northern California: a dream come true
We made it all the way to Ukiah, the largest city in Mendocino county. We randomly parked the car and I was about to open my door and get off when I noticed we were parked right next to a record store! Yes, I’m a music addict and it was a must to go inside. The store was named “Dig! Music” and it’s owner was a really nice and friendly guy. He also gave a button with the store logo on it to each one of us and wished us to enjoy our trip and stay in America.
Our next stop was finally Clear Lake, that didn’t turn out to be as clear as we had expected so we decided to continue on the road and made a stop by Blue Lakes. Finally, those lakes were much prettier. The water was turquoise/blue and many trees surrounded it and we decided to relax for a moment.
We spent the first night in the city of Eureka, where you can find the well known Carson Mansion and many other beautiful victorian houses in the neighborhood and then continued up north and made a stop in Arcata, where we met Florie’s close friend Coralie who was also from France.
The greatest memory from this trip for me is the Chandelier Tree in Legett. A giant redwood in Mendocino county. We didn’t even plan visiting that place as none of us had known it existed. I remember driving through the redwoods when we noticed a sign with this big guy on it and of course we wanted to see it so we followed the sign. The tree is drive-thru if your car is small enough to fit in and most likely you’ll have to fold your side mirrors. We walked around and admired its beauty for quite a while. I remember myself standing in front of it. It was quite emotional. It was so big it was unbelievable. I had always dreamed of seeing one of those trees from up close and finally I was there, in California, and it was happening. It was the first time I really missed my family and wanted to share the moment with them.
Before setting foot in Oregon, we just had to visit the very north of California. Crescent City was beautiful. I have loved lighthouses since my childhood but I don’t think I ever saw any from close enough before that. You can even walk across the water to the little island with the lighthouse on it. We talked to a young lady over there who told us how you can go there for the summer, live there and take care of the lighthouse and it’s pretty surroundings. While taking lots of pictures, I met two nice fishermen and chatted for a bit. I really started liking meeting new people and talking to strangers about life.
When driving up north I recommend that you visit Mendocino and Fort Bragg. It can be quite cold and foggy, but that has its beauty. Many little things in that place captured my eyes. Many flowers, especially roses and lilies, tiny white fences, wooden whales, seashells all around. I loved the fact that the popular tv series “Murder, she wrote” was filmed there. I remember watching it with my mom when I was a child.
Oregon: beauty and peace
Another great memory I have is the whole journey to Oregon and back. It is so close to California but I could tell the difference right away. I guess you just have to be there to feel it. The farther north we drove the more slow paced it felt. Everything was calm and beautiful. I guess it was because we were far away from any big city.
We made it all the way to the deep blue lake named Crater Lake. We arrived in the evening, not very long before the sunset, and I took lots of nice pictures. Žemartas was so excited and amazed that at one point he quickly got off the car and ran downhills and shouted something really loud.
We drove back and the sky was so dark we could see the Milky Way. I remember these tiny lights above our heads and roses grew there. It was really warm outside that night and it felt so romantic. I loved my hotel room. It was all wooden and vintage.
Back to California through the Golden Hills
After the romantic night in Oregon we drove down south again back to California and had a lot of fun. We drove to Mt. Shasta. The landscape was so picturesque that I was way behind everyone trying to improve my photography skills. Denis walked quite far up and touched the snow you could see from the bottom of the mountain. The air felt so fresh to breath and we could hear the birds were singing, even though we couldn’t really see any.
I keep telling everyone that our trip back home was all about weed and whiskey. And it was! Near Mt. Shasta there is a nice little town named Weed which we couldn’t miss. Headed south towards Redding we made another stop in Whiskeytown and took a dip in it’s dam. It was a super hot day, but not as humid as it feels back home in my country, the Czech Republic. The water was cold enough and blue and the dam’s benches and the ground around had many shades of orange and brown which was quite interesting and gave the place a unique look.
From there we headed south towards the Sacramento area on the Hwy 5. It was the so called “Golden Hour” and I was just amazed by all the beautiful oak covered hills all around us. One thing I really miss about Northern California are those golden hills. They look most beautiful when the sun slowly goes down. During the sunset we drove through Napa Valley and I was amazed again. All the wineries and vineyards were even prettier during those hours, as we were approaching San Francisco filled with joy and memories we will never forget.
By Explore like a Girl Contributor Daniela Šafaříková
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