So when I traveled two years ago, I didn’t visit California really. It just never held much appeal to me. I’d traveled there once before, spending a long weekend in LA accompanying an old acquaintance on their trip out for a job interview with SpaceX. Last year, I revisited the state, and quickly fell ill meaning I spent way more time there than I would have otherwise chosen to do. That being said, I loved what I saw, and really enjoyed the diversity of landscapes California has to offer, from the deserts to the mountains to the beaches to the vast and wet redwood groves. So I enjoyed returning there this year for a briefer stint, and seeing some familiar welcome faces along the way.

Traveling to California from Nevada meant going through its Southeast, so I opted to drive through Death Valley National Park since it only elongated my trip by about two hours. It was worth it, but man did I not miss that sweltering heat which had turned me off of the Hoover dam prior. It was about 100 in Death Valley, which is pretty tame all things considered, but I am finding I’m not ready for that level of heat quite yet this year.

I made a stop at my favorite place in the park from last year, Dante’s view, which overlooks the park and its deep valleys and salty badwater basin. On this occasion, the air was hazy, offering views with less clarity than the year prior.

I drove Westward through the park with haste, hoping to leave before it became too late. I camped out for the night and awoke early the next morning to hit my next stop, which was Remington hot springs off route 178 in California. Along the way, I passed a bunch of Joshua trees too, which felt like a special sight.

Route 178 is probably one of the nicest scenic routes I’ve driven in the country. Everything along that road and the Kern river was just absolutely mind-blowingly gorgeous. And I stopped to hike down to some natural hot springs amid a bunch of wild cows delicately crossing the road. Like, what?? Loved it.

The hot springs were unfortunately crowded along the river but I did find a little wooded one that I had all to myself.

After soaking so thoroughly that I then stunk like sulfur for the next day, I left to continue my trip up to Fresno, where I hoped to visit some close friends and also make my way over to Yosemite National Park.

I stopped at the Mariposa Grove of Yosemite, which involved me embarking on a nearly four-mile hike just to find the Grove was closed and under construction. In its heyday, it showcases a bunch of wonderful giant sequoia trees. For me, it felt mildly disappointing, although I appreciated the exercise and the scent of the forest. Many trees I passed were burnt and destroyed, telling tales about wildfires that had passed through the area recently.

I spent two days in the area visiting the Yosemite valley, which is as magnificent as ever.

I stopped at tunnel view for sweeping valley views.

The workers there’s are still constructing the Bridal Veil falls area which is closed off until later this year, if they get their acts together. So you can see the falls from afar but that’s it.

Yosemite falls is open and the water flow was good as it’s so early in the year and the snowmelt is going on. There was quite a bit of snow near the lower falls area.

I also embarked on the hike over to mirror lake. Again, it smells so good hear, like dark earth and dry bark and fallen pine needles.

The drive up to Tulomne Meadows is closed until about mid May due to snow. And the drive to glacier point is closed through 2023, which was disappointing, but understandable. Many parks are receiving such a glut of visitors that construction and rehabilitation is a high need across the country. Even though it stinks to miss those additional areas, the valley was enough for now.

I got some work done, I spent time with friends, I ate a bunch, and I was productive. It was a good work week.

I traveled West to San Francisco to get a friend from the airport. I caught a sunset and then visited the Muir Woods national monument which is a bit north of the city. This park is hard to get into, and folks now have to make a paid parking reservation to see the place. It was a beautiful and serene spot however, and was nice to squelch around in the rain amid giant redwoods.

It’s really true, however, that one does not need to go to this park to catch some great redwoods. You can kind of throw a stone and hit a redwood tree driving up the Northern California coast. I did so and it was very worth it.

The forests here are lush, the waters blue. It felt very much like my attendance in the Hoh rainforest the year prior in Washington, or time spent in rainforests in Alaska before the pandemic.

I made a stop along the coast, and also at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove trail. Very worth it.

You’ve likely seen pictures of trees folks drove through; I definitely did some of the touristy crap at the Shrine Drive-Thru tree. I’m only human.

I also made a stop at Glass Beach. I can’t recommend this spot enough. The sand was fucking amazing and I loved sifting through it. And there were great tide pools there full of little critters. Of all the places I visited this year, this is certainly the one I wish I had had more time at before the sun set.

I had wanted to stop at Lassen Volcanic National Park which had captivated me last year, but did my research only to find that it was currently buried beneath snow and also partially destroyed by wildfires. So I had to leave it off the itinerary for now.

This concludes my trip through California this year. It was brief, but chock full of interesting and varied experiences. I’m looking forward to returning next year and those following, and adding even more fun stops to my list.