Where do memories go to rest, to take on their golden tint of nostalgia? It's a quick process for me; a few hours in the car or plane after a trip and I'm already reminiscing. This time yesterday we were here or a week ago today we were there. Coming home, it feels like fall already, and the hot dusty days of the southwest seem like a long-ago dream. You get into a rhythm during nearly three weeks on the road and upon returning, you must learn the simplicity of living in one place again.
As a last hurrah of summer--a reprieve from a full time office job (me) and the long dog days of summer (my siblings)--we followed in the footsteps of Americans past and headed west on Route 66. Los Angeles was our destination before heading back east via Las Vegas, Zion National Park, and the Grand Canyon. I'm happy to report that everyone was an infinitely better camper than during our last infamous family roadtrip in 2011--I know how to get sleep that rivals nights spent in my own bed and I've even perfected the three minute shower routine. I can think of nothing better than crawling out of the tent in the chill of the early morning for a mug of camp coffee, or realizing you've been outside for 72 (or more!) straight hours, cooling off in a fast-flowing river after a morning hike, or whiling the afternoon in a hammock strung up in a grove of Ponderosa pine trees.
The gift of this summer is not lost on me. On Monday it's back to the classroom, which will be an adjustment but not an entirely unwelcome one. In the midst of it all, I keep wondering: what will be life be like a year from now? In the meantime, I'll be content to sit back and watch it all unfold.
My dreamy sister in equally dreamy Santa Fe light
Making our way through the Black Mountains of Arizona, and incredibly hostile but no-less-beautiful environment.
Passing through Kingman, Arizona
My cute parents in Santa Barbara
The California coast was a welcome change of pace from the desert
Sunset at Point Mugu
Fishermen at Santa Monica Pier
We hiked up the Angels Landing trail in Zion National Park--the last half-mile involved clinging to a chain bolted into the rock.
We picked up a straggler during our stop in Las Vegas ;)
A morning hike in Zion. This place lives up to its name.
My first glimpse of the Grand Canyon
I never have to worry about being without a map when this one is around!
Our very own minion/Junior Ranger
It was worth the hot, dusty trek to Horseshoe Canyon
With my love at the Grand Canyon at dusk
Laura and Jacob are getting ready to welcome a little girl into the world in the next few weeks. I've been blessed to call these two friends over the past few years and I can't wait to meet their love bug.
In December, in the quiet cacophony of reverse culture shock, in the exciting rush of adding girlfriend to the list of daughter-sister-friend, in the frenzy of the days leading up to Christmas, I breathed a wish into one dark hushed night. We should take a trip together, I said, and he nodded and asked, Where? Because it was the kind of night that swallowed promises and made them easy to say, I whispered, Let's drive the Pacific Coast Highway. Hanging there in the blue-black mist, it seemed a simple enough request. As winter melted into spring we began to grasp the magnitude of this trip we were planning, but June still found us with one-way tickets to Los Angeles and no plans other than two weeks to get to Seattle. When we met each other at LAX, it was equal parts holy heck this is exciting and holy crap what are we doing?! In other words, the best way to start a trip.
Aside from a trip to California when I was too young to remember or appreciate, I'd never been to the west coast. Last year I lived in Kenya, a great unexplored territory, but realized that perhaps the greatest unexplored territory of all was my own country. The reawakening to my homeland first occurred last May, when I vacationed in a sleepy German village and read Steinbeck's Travels with Charley. His sentiments have remained with me ever since.
And then, just over a year and a few new countries later, I found myself suddenly deposited on the west coast with my love, the road stretched long before us. I have never been prouder to be an American. San Francisco was our first and only planned stop, and so we began making our way north on Highway 1. The pavement hugged the coast, then ascended up winding cliffs cleaved with thick fog. Our first night was spent in the cliffs of Malibu, the sunrise glistening on the ocean our only alarm clock. The views only improved as we wound our way through Big Sur and up to San Francisco. So breathtaking was the entire western coast that we began to become jaded. How were we supposed to separate all the beauty in our minds?
Though I've traveled before to lands arguably more exotic than my own, I'd be hard-pressed to think of a trip more meaningful than this one. Two days I've been home and I am already scrambling vainly to keep the memories fresh, feeling them instead slipping through my fingers: sleepily crawling out of the tent to make coffee in the hush of a crisp golden morning, blustery Oregon beaches that pelted me with sand, surviving almost entirely off cheese and hummus, the dance of camp routine we quietly slipped into, endless observation and speculation of other travelers, miles of seemingly endless roads that become intertwined with songs to be replayed again and again, running a breathless half-mile through the woods to watch the sunset over crashing waves, the late nights and lazy mornings of San Francisco, standing on the bow of ferry boats to best breathe the air in salty gulps, sleeping in his sweatshirt on frosty nights, finding the best lattes in California in Gualala, bundled up cozy in a yurt while the wind blew fierce outside, the way the fog felt as it slowly crept inland through my bones--and all the while thinking, this is a trip to tell my children about.
The start of the California coastal cliffs
Making our way through Big Sur
coming up on Bixby Bridge
We stopped north of Bixby Bridge to take the loveliest hike
Looking back at the San Francisco skyline on the ferry to Sausalito
Jacob's sister Gretta captured the two of us admiring the view from Sutro Baths
Gretta taking in the rocky coastline
Alamo Square Park's Painted Ladies
San Francisco laid at our feet at Tank Hill Park
Obligatory Golden Gate photo on our way north out of the city
I loved the way the fog hung gently over the tree-lined coast.
At the start of the Lost Coast of Northern California
On our way through Redwood National Park, I read aloud Steinbeck. He was right--there truly is a cathedral hush among those giant bodies.
Sunset over Oregon's aptly named Sunset Bay
The coast near Heceta Head Lighthouse in Oregon
Morning light surrounding our yurt in Carl G. Washburne State Park
One Sunday morning we hiked a few miles through the forest and wind-swept grasslands to Cascade Head, where the Salmon River meets the Pacific Ocean.
A windy portrait of yours truly
Grass-lined sand dunes in northern Oregon
A misty hike to the top of Neahkahnie Mountain through forests of Sitka spruce
Cheesin' with my love on the ferry from Seattle to Bremerton
One last stop in Seattle before the arduous journey home