I have only ever seen glimpses of California through Led Zeppelin songs and Walt Whitman poems. It was where everyone at film school planned to migrate after graduation. It was a land of pioneering and inventing, where all the newest gadgets, games and films were born. I was never one for the cold and the snow, and I loved the country side more than anything. I felt a longing for California, much like Robert Plant did when he sang “there’s a feeling I get when I look to the west and my spirit is crying for leaving.” I was lucky enough to be sent to San Francisco for a conference, and I was wise enough to stay a few days longer to explore. I instantly fell in love.
However, I didn’t fall in love with the city. After you’ve been to most of the major ones, they begin to feel the same. There’s a Chinatown and a City Hall, a baseball stadium and a wharf. The tourists go here and the locals go there, and while I love all of this, what sets a new place apart from the old place I grew up in is the land. The unspoiled wild of the countryside.
People talk about the Golden Gate Bridge as a stand-alone attraction, but few realize that it truly is a gateway to another land. Just on the other side of San Francisco is the most amazing countryside, full of lush forests, towering redwoods, and deep valleys. Without the help or Siri or Googlemaps, we set out to discover what lay on the other side of that bridge. It was lush and winding, and sometimes beautifully empty. We were literally five minutes from San Francisco. There is nothing this lush and beautiful five minutes from Manhattan.
We stopped on the side of the road with a valley on one side and a hill on the other. On the valley side, I saw nothing but country. When I climbed the hill, I looked down upon a city that stretched to the horizon. All that separated the two was a body of water.
The greatest majesty of the hills are the trees that fill them. They tower to the sky and drown out the sun, like they have for hundreds of years. Guarded by park rangers and delicate fences, the Muir trees are treated like relics, as they should. These trees have lived through more wars, presidents, decades of fashion, and transitions of technology than my grandparents have, and the trees are none the wiser. They continue on, reaching for the unattainable sky.
What shocked me even more about Muir Woods was the silence. It was so incredibly quiet. I actually think that there were signs asking for quiet, because after all it is home to wild creatures, and we are guests in their home.
After Muir woods, we continued on as the sun was setting, up the cold spring coast, stopping here and there to take pictures of the Pacific Ocean. My first dip in the pacific ocean was in Costa Rica, and I absolutely loved it. It’s a deep, rich navy blue unlike the greenish, aquamarine blue of the Atlantic, or the clear, baby blue of the Caribbean. Far too cold to go anywhere near it still, I suffered in the frigid wind to take it all in, as well as take some pictures. I noticed a small wigwam down in the valley, close to the water. I would love to spend a summer there.
I think about California a lot. It stays with you. I plan to go back, absolutely. There was so much left unexplored. I drove the east coast of the United States and back, and had the time of my life. Soon I’ll be back to Cali to travel Route 1. Maybe I’ll even drive across country to do it!