California is jaw-dropping. Absolutely gorgeous. Of the 10 most beautiful drives we’ve taken on this trip, half of them have been here in the state with most badass flag. Once we left Death Valley, we made haste for the trees. Big trees. The biggest of the big trees. The sequoia.
Sequoia is far and away my favorite National Park we have visited thus far. Not only is it one of the most unspoiled of the lands, but the road is carved out in such a way as to preclude those giant lumbering land barges from accessing the park. The roads into the park and up to the giant forest are steep, narrow and riddled with switchbacks. It is not a drive for the feint of heart, nor a vehicle with its own zip code. And once you get to the top, the reward is some of the most surreal and beautiful landscape the human mind can comprehend. Standing in the groves of the sequoias, it’s not hard to understand why the native peoples thought of trees as a spiritual connection.
We camped outside the park and headed south, through the Los Padres National Forest toward Santa Barbara for an interview. And this drive might win the prize for most stunning drive of the trip. Naked granite cliffs, stands of redwoods, wildflowers in full bloom, gushing creeks and empty two lanes that climbed and snaked and looped around to overlook the valley.
Our driveway hosts in Santa Barbara were most kind—offering a wonderful evening of conversation and, for the first time in quite a while, a glass (or two) of scotch. We watched the sun set and the tide roll in and, next morning, we took Jolene along the beach.
The thing is we still needed showers. It had been three or four days since the last time we had ourselves a decent rinse, much less an honest to God shower, so we pulled into a state park where they had a pay shower. The ranger was a lovely person, who informed us that there was a day use fee and we had to have single dollar bills to buy shower tokens. Then she winked at us and said we could stay in the fifteen minute parking and handed us a stack of shower tokens. I’ve rarely seen Miracle instantly more delighted.
The ranger then told us to head out to Charmlee—a wildlife refuge overlooking Malibu. It’s dog friendly—unlike half of the state parks and the wildflowers there were in full bloom. We hiked out to an ocean overlook and had a picnic lunch—the best and cheapest way to experience the city of Malibu.