We prepped and worked and saved and sold belongings and vehicles and finally, on October 1, we were able to leave Redding. It was bittersweet, considering our families live there - and our Terry lives there.
We said our tearful goodbyes and drove out around sunset, headed for Lassen National Forest, sad and giddy.
As we drove east up into the mountains, the sun was setting behind us, making the tops of the trees reddish orange. I knew we had made the right decision, though it was hard, and at times the guilt of it all overwhelmed me, like a giant weighted cloak. As the miles fell behind us, that cloak turned to sand and started to slip from my shoulders and I remembered what I have been trying to tell myself all this time, “my life is my own”.
My life is my own. No one is able to provide me with the happiness I deserve. No one is able to make informed decisions on my behalf. No one else knows “what’s best for me” - but I do. I know how to thrive. I know how to support myself and I know how to follow my dreams.
Going to sleep that night in our camper, with the flowing sounds of Hat Creek nearby, I was once again reminded that I was doing my best to make it work for me. Not just me, but us. Being married is a new thing for me, but my parents have been married for over 30 years. I’ve seen what it takes to keep a marriage going, and I want to do that, perhaps without all the yelling. Blayke and I try our best to communicate fully the way we feel and what we want out of life. We don’t always agree on the things we want but that doesn’t mean we aren’t able to both get those things. This is luckily one of the things we both wanted. We want to wake up, open the door, and step out into nature.
Our first full day on the trip, Oct 2, we drove through Lassen National Park and stormy conditions. We even saw 3 bears cross the road right in front of us. I’d say that’s nature at it’s finest. Also, that’s the second time we have seen bears together, and both times we saw 3 bears running. Did I mention that my lucky number is 3? I love synchonicity, and I try to pay attention to the signs in the world, perhaps pointing me in the right direction.
We ended up in Graeagle, CA on our second night at a place called Gold Lake. I’m surprised that in all the time I lived in Northern California, I barely spent any time in the Sierras. What’s wrong with me? I’m grateful, though, that Blayke and I got to see fresh beauty together for the first time. We camped at a place called Gold Lake Campground for $10 - Plumas National Forest.
That day we started hearing a strange whining noise coming from the car.. so the next day, Oct 3, we drove into Truckee, CA and stayed at an RV Park called Coachland. It was a short walk to a trustworthy mechanic, according to the lady who checked us in. The guys had our car most of the day as we cuddled in the camper, dry from the rain. The mechanic did a full inspection and found nothing wrong with the car. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ What can you do? Fix something that isn’t broken yet?
We had a nice dinner with an even nicer view at The Hilltop Lodge in Truckee. They serve a whole-leaf caesar salad that was enormous and delicious.
When we left Truckee on Oct 4, we headed for Yosemite. I wanted to take the Tioga Pass Road up into Tuolumne Meadows. We drove by Mono Lake, which is another place I’ve never been in my enormous home state.
We considered camping at a place near Mono Lake but were too anxious to get into Yosemite - considering it was one of my favorite parks I’ve ever been to, and Blayke hadn’t seen it yet.
I’m glad we did, because we had an incredible day. We were lucky enough to view all of the beauty beneath heavy clouds and occasional rain - the grey darkness really made the colors pop. Grey granite and green pines, firs, spruces… the aspens were changing to bright yellow and the grass had faded to a simple fawn. It was all so beautiful that it hurt, and I kept laughing like a crazy person. We drove through Tuolumne Meadows for the first time ever on a road that is at 9,000 feet elevation. We saw some snow covering the high peaks high above us. It was a very long, but ultimately fruitful day and I felt lucky. We camped at Hodgdon Meadows on an unlevel campsite for $26 - it was beautiful but crowded.
I wrote in my travel log on Oct 5 in big happy letters: I woke up in Yosemite National Park this morning at 530 am!
One of the hardest hikes I’ve ever done is in Yosemite. It’s not long, but it’s steep AF. It’s only 2.4 miles round trip, but it has an elevation gain of 1,000 feet in 1.2 miles. The going up is hard and slow, but it’s really the coming back down that hurts. Anyway, I’ve done this before, and I really wanted to do it again with Blayke, as a way to sort of re-write the memory. So when we woke up that’s what we did, the hike to the top of Vernal Falls. It’s a bit crowded, because it’s Yosemite, but the plus side of that is that there are plenty of people struggling just as I was to get up there, and the other people that aren’t struggling are usually helping to motivate you to keep going.
The hike is beautiful, it really is. You follow the Merced River up through the valley and with the sun shining off of all the flora around you, and the sound of the river flowing below you, you can’t help but feel alive. Especially when you get to the stairs, over 600 of them.
It’s worth every step. Every ache and pain. I recommend you go in Spring, if you do. The falls are flowing much more heavily and “The Mist Trail” actually will make sense.
We ate a large steak that night in our camper, and fell asleep like little log babies.
The next day we awoke and drove out of the park and through the central valley of California to Visalia, and stayed at a KOA to do our stinky laundry and wash our unwashed bodies.
We went on to stay a week or so with my grandma and aunt in Grover Beach, CA. We got to eat a lot of homemade food - I enjoyed cooking in a full kitchen. My grandma is one of those people that shines through with some of the most magical unearthly light. She doesn’t know it about herself, I don’t think, that she is one of the most incredible people on the planet. She was a librarian most of her life, even went to college for it. She’s extremely well-read and I think just generally intelligent, progressive, and open-minded. She has always been kind, generous, and sensible. She has been very good to me over the course of my life, helping me get through college and coming to visit me in the hospital after my ATV accident, caressing my swollen legs. She’s just good, through and through. I was grateful to have that time with her before I left California.
By Friday, Oct 12, we were again on the road. We had Desert Hot Springs in our sights, but had to navigate through LA traffic towing a 12’ trailer first. It took us over 8 hours to go 285 miles. We got pulled over for being in the wrong lane, and graciously the officer didn’t ticket us.
When we eventually got to Sam’s Family Spa Hot Water Resort, we practically kissed the sand. It really was a perfect spot to camp after a day like that, since they have 4 hot mineral springs and a giant pool. We soaked our tense muscles before running back to the camper just in time for a huge thunderstorm to roll in. We fell asleep with giant droplets of rain on the roof and thunder rumbling in the distance.
After leaving the Southern California desert, we drove into Arizona and stayed at La Paz County Park Campground for $24. That was another day of storms and we worried about flash floods. We saw remnants of flash flood damage along the entire journey but have managed to stay safe. I say “uh-oh, I hear thunder over there” in the following video because it terrifies our dog, Copper. If Copper is scared, it means we don’t really sleep. She’s scared of thunder, definitely, but also rain drops, acorns, birds, and even leaves, as those things all make sounds when they fall on the roof of our camper. She pants in my face and gets on and then off, the bed. Then on again, then off again, then panting, then mouth smacking (which honestly is the worst).
La Paz was a trip. It’s just outside Parker, AZ on the Colorado River. It’s where a lot of people go to party and drive REALLY FAST boats up and down the river all day. We were actually there during a crazy boat race. But we got to enjoy a relatively quiet night, watching the storm clouds and sun set over the Gibralter Mountain Wilderness. When we woke up on the morning of Oct 14, we took a dunk in the river and headed deeper into Arizona.