California; NorCal to Napa

My plans following Portland would take me to Northern California- first stop being the Redwoods National and State Parks. Then again… this is my solo adventure, I have no idea when I’ll be back here. I quickly rerouted and went out of my way to see the deepest lake in the United States- Crater Lake. After spending time in the Great Lakes (out east) I fell in love with HUGE lakes; lakes big enough to have waves, ocean like, with FRESH WATER that doesn’t burn my eyes. I found out after my trip that there is a place where you can park and go into Crater Lake- I think I’ll be back sometime this year (2020).

…but first Crater Lake National Park, OR.

October 17, 2018
Crater lake is the bluest, prettiest, and… apparently deepest lake I have ever seen. I was so lucky to have the place to myself; this also frightened me. I was afraid my car battery might drain and I’d be stranded. In the end I had no troubles and just enjoyed climbing around on the cliffs and taking pictures. I spent about 3 hours here and even drove the Volcanic Highway. I stayed in Arcata, CA. that night. This put me right in the center of the redwoods forest.

Panormaic photo of Crater Lake

Redwood National Park

I had noticed it was eerily dark as I drove through the highway the night before. I would all of a sudden see a huge trunk right on the roadside but nothing more than what my high beams would highlight. I didn’t even know I was driving alongside the beach until I looked at my GPS and saw the blue boarder to the road. I stopped and took many night photos- they were over exposed though. Still, I could hear the waves and smell the salt. It was so relaxing- you see, I have always loved the Ocean. The next day I would be back, I planned to hike through the redwoods and finish my day on the shore for sunset. The Redwood Forest is a protected World Heritage site. It is the darkest forest in America.
The trees are the tallest in the World and are linked to the age of the Dinosaurs. There are 3 state parks in the total, surrounded by nationally protected land (park). They are all are just as dark.

The main road winds through the Red Woods Forest- trees towering on each side.
A funny sign in the forest pointing in all directions as if routing you properly... each arrow says "..big trees.."

The next day I woke up to a slow starting car, I knew I needed to get a new battery. I wouldn’t have service in the Redwoods, so I called around. I found a shop down the street and made an appointment for 13:00; welp! there goes half my day. I was in the Redwoods by 14:00 walking the trails and taking pictures. This place was beyond majestic. The trees were enormous!
These trees have weathered through so much, for centuries. No pictures I took could do them justice. I only was comfortable making the 1 stop, even though I have a BRAND NEW battery. I met an older couple who was a little lost and I walked them out to the parking lot. On the way, I told them about Crater Lake and somehow my battery issue came up, too. They waited in the parking lot to make sure my car started. It started fine and I was on my way to the shore.

I didn’t catch much of a sunset because it was too foggy but I drove on the very edge of California on the cliffs and I found a whole bunch of surfers. I sat at the top of the cliff watching them. I decided to spend another day in the Redwoods. I know I talk about how great solo travel is- the number 1 reason it is the best is the FREEDOM it allows. Number 2 being the encounters and people you get to meet.

The lost shore from an above perspective- one surfer walks back to stairs to leave the beach.
The Lost Shore.

The following day I continued to walk on the trails through the trees and climb the roots. En route to San Francisco I found the Avenue of the Giants. I drove this entirely and even drove through two trees, including the famous Chandelier tree (twice). My car easily fit through both! Again, I cannot even begin to describe how amazingly gigantic these majestic trees are. And my pictures really do NOT do them JUSTICE. I cannot wait to get back here and sleep among the giants.  

Me standing on top of my car amongst the trees to show size
standing on top of my car for perspective
I stand infront of a Redwood trunk to show the size of the diameter- arms up as if I am presenting the tree.

Driving the Lost shore; coast

Once I finished the Avenue of Giants, I drove as much on the coast, the 1, as physically possible. This was a long and windy road but proved worthy when it opened up to views of the Pacific. The more I travel the more I appreciate nature and less of civilization. A friend of mine from home recommended I stop at Glass Beach in Ft. Bragg. Glass Beach is named after all the sea glass at the shore. There is an abundant amount of glass because it used to be a dump… apparently water-front communities used to dump trash by coastlines. How infuriating, now we are CLEANING the Ocean.
The beach was beautiful, it is a state park now. You are not allowed to take glass but you’ll see many people hunting for rare red pieces anyway. If you google pictures of the beach the glass looks much larger- my theory is people bring store bought sea glass and dump it for the pictures. The glass pieces were very small when I was there in 2018. The longer it is there, the smaller it gets, it is NO longer a dump site. I do not recommend going out of your way to visit the beach, but if you are in the area it is worth the stop! I must’ve stayed here for about 2 hours, it’s a bit of a walk down to the shore.

With the camera on the ground, there is a close shot of the glass on Glass Beach with the ocean washing ashore and large rocks on either side of the frame and center.

Napa Valley

I forgot to mention on my route to San Francisco I had planned a stop in Napa. I would stay here overnight and ride the Wine Train the following day. This was not impromptu– I had already planned this and purchased tickets. I purposely do not plan or buy tickets for anything in a location for my first day planned there- this allows flexibility in scheduling. Originally I had a few days in Napa, now I only have one- I arrived to the Napa area as the sun was setting over the valley. I stopped on the side of the road and tried some cabernet grapes- they were organic! Then I drove the rest of the way to my hotel under rosé skies passing by all the wineries I’d grown to know at Total Wine- I used to be a Wine Associate in 2012. It seemed surreal to drive by all these household names. I arrived to my hotel just in time to make dinner and prepare for the next day. Choo chooo!!!

A close up of some grapes from the roadside- the organic cabernet.
The sun setting over the vinyards- Napa Valley, CA.

October 19, 2018
Last night I drove through the valley at sunset. It was beautiful. I stopped to take some pictures and also was able to try some grapes just off the side of the road. I was on 128 for over an hour. I passed so many famous wineries, it seemed unreal. I had learned so much about them but never imagined seeing them. I wasn’t interested in having a tasting because I hadn’t had much to eat and had a whole day of wine planned the following day. This would be a day to hydrate. Even so, the wineries all closed early just like they do in Williamette. I went to Walmart to pick up a few hygiene items, my cuticles and nails are out of hand! (pun intended). I picked up a frozen meal here to prepare for dinner, too. Then I pampered myself, I cut my cuticles and buffed my nails. I was going to get fancy in the morning. I wore my fanciest dress- 100% cotton, haha! I didn’t bring many fancy options on this trip. I got as dolled up as I could for the Napa Valley wine train.

The Napa Valley Wine Train

2 bottles of wine- St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc

I was dressed appropriately, but many people were dressed nicer. I was seated with 2 women turning 50, they were celebrating their birthdays on the train. Shannon and Melanie were fun but after our first stop we were mingling with the entire train. We all had so much fun! We went to St. Supery, Beringer, and Raymond. I did not and still do not like Beringer, they didn’t change my mind. But St. Supery was beautiful and informative and I had a great Sauvgnon Blanc there. Raymond was super quirky and had goats and chickens too!
The meal on the train was delicious and I paired it with Böen Pinot Noir. I had so much wine… and following the train, I wanted to check out one more winery- for sunset. I planned to go to Hall but ended up at Auberge su Soleil by recommendation from an older friend of mine back home (she used to live in San Francisco).

Upon arrival to Auberge su Soleil I was served champagne, 3 glasses, because it was national ‘Champagne’ day at this winery and they had a variety to sample. Ok, that’s it, no more wine, just food and hydration. I had some food on the top deck right on the edge overlooking the valley. It was perfect and I sipped on black tea! I had already checked out of my hotel before the train and now I had a few hours of driving yet to reach San Francisco. I was finishing up dinner and sobered up… off to San Francisco.

(This was my second time ever visiting CA. The first time I stayed between Fresno and Laguna Beach, including Santa Monica and Los Angeles, it was 2008 and my first ever solo trip anywhere.)
I have also been back to see SoCal staying between Dana Point to San Diego, including Palm Springs and Jtree, it was my 2019 Road trip
While I have completed California, I’ll definitely be back.

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