California North America USA

USA: California Road Trip, Through Desert & Snow

Death Valley

Mr ESLT and I are so excited to take a road trip through California next June. We can’t wait to explore what The Golden State has to offer. At the moment we have a million and one ideas of what we would like to see and do however we do not have any firm plans. So when Gaia contacted us with her magical story of the Road Trip she took with her family through California it gave us so much inspiration for our own trip. Gaia’s words really paint a great picture of the diverse scenery and we would love to share them with you….

“We are lost, aren’t we? I knew it!,” my mother Fiorella yelled in frustration from the back seat. In the front, my father Ezio and I looked at each other, talking with our eyes. When we rented the car, we didn’t ask for a GPS, we didn’t have a map in the drawer and my phone had lost signal hours earlier.

Yes: we were lost in the Californian desert. We had no idea where to go, so we drove straight -eventually, we’ll get somewhere. In the back, my aunt Lisa smiled silently.

The Death Valley appeared as quickly as the cars disappeared. After the maddening traffic of Los Angeles, the silence of nature overcame us with a roar. The landscape looked like a Picasso painting: zigzag canyons, wicked peaks, rocks of all shapes, and plants with thorns and white flowers.

Death Valley
Death Valley

We kept driving surrounded by the golden dust of the distant Mojave Desert and with the blue outline of the Sierra Nevada. The last gas station was miles behind and not one building was in sight.

Until the chimneys of the  village of Trona appeared, a town built around the Searles Valley Minerals chemical plant factory -a smoky signal of life in the flatness. The houses were identical, with the same the same porch that could fit two chairs and two chairs only. The motels with open signs on the doors were bolted. Nothing moved.

And nothing welcomed us to the Death Valley National Park. Suddenly, we just were, after six hours on the road and countless wrong turns. With some luck, we made it to a separate universe with sand dunes (Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes), salt flats (the Badwater Basin) and rainbow rocks (the Artists Palette).

We crossed into Nevada, where we slept at the Exchange Club Motel for three nights. We spent the days exploring the park, the sunsets gazing up in awe and the nights eating medium cooked steaks at the Sourdough Saloon. One night, the sky turned fire and a ruby bubble trapped us, spreading bright molecules on the Death Valley.

One more steak and off we went: to Sequoia National Park. After one night in Fresno, we started the roller coaster of Californian hills, descending from bare rocks to the green pastures covered in fog. When we started ascending again, we could see the tip of the sequoias bathing in the sun.

Sequoia In California
Sequoia In California

The cortices turned red under the bright winter rays that bounced in the snow to create an invisible, cold defense. The roots of the sequoias spread like tentacles while the branches stretched their joints.

Headed to the town of Mariposa, we drove through Kings Canyon and its giant pines, as alive as the Ents of the Lord of the Rings. The more we drove, the more the snow made room for farms with snowmen in the yards. We arrived at the Bear Creek Cabins in Mariposa with the dark, eager for the morning: we couldn’t wait to go to Yosemite.

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

When we stepped out of the car, the air smelled of pine needles, wet leaves and of the wilderness of nature. The cold temperature wasn’t dark and gloomy, but blue like the Steller’s Jay, green like the forest and yellow, like a funny looking mushroom. The fractured cortices looked like puzzle pieces, while some were as smooth as silk. Winter had colors.

After a day of taking to deers, caressing trees’ cortices and of pictures below the Yosemite Falls, we slowly started our way to Sacramento. We were leaving the California of the National Parks, getting closer and closer to San Francisco.

We explored Old Sacramento, smelling the sweetness of Candy Heaven. While I stared at Jewels Unique (mentally sending pictures to my prince charming), my mother sat on the wooden steps of the sidewalks, following the intermittent colored light show with her head and humming the melody spread by the megaphones.

Sunset in California
Sunset in California

But we were not ready to go back to the chaos of a city, so we made a detour to Napa Valley, driving through wineries and strolling around town. My mother watched us sip (although as Italians, we chugged) Chardonnay from her non alcohol seat. Surrounded by the emerald of the Napa’s hills, the dust of the Death Valley seemed from another galaxy – or 540 miles away.

San Francisco was only 60 miles away and we drove the last stretch of our California adventure eating the apples we had stolen from an orchard on our way to Sacramento, but dreaming of the steak at the Sourdough Saloon. My mother was still merrily humming when the Golden Gate Bridge welcomed us.

Gaia Zol is an Italian reporter who lives in the United States, from the rain of Venice to the ice of Chicago. She is a traveler and a wannabe ballet dancer. As every typical Italian, Gaia loves pasta (especially carbonara) and complains about everything… but she can’t sing opera nor cook decently.

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6 comments on “USA: California Road Trip, Through Desert & Snow

  1. Gaia definitely hit the highlights. It seems like quite a trip! I have lived in California for about 40 years all together and think this itinerary is pretty cool. Anything missing? Maybe a drive up the California coast (HIghway 1) past San Francisco to Fort Ross, into Mendocino County. Some amazing coast line there. We love it all, but are partial to Napa Valley as we live here now. When you come you must reach out and we’ll help you find the best places to go. You might enjoy our wine country blog at http://www.topochinesvino.com. Check it out and follow us if you like what you see.

    Like

  2. That scenery and those photos are amazing.

    Like

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