The Northern California Bucket List
This year, I fulfilled a dream I've had for as long as I can remember: to visit California. (It's also been a lifelong dream to live there, too, but visiting comes first, right?) It really wasn't something I had thought I would be doing anytime soon—maybe never, if you saw where my life was a year ago. After a traumatic life event, I knew I wanted to go somewhere. Tim and I were bouncing ideas back and forth, and I had settled on the Gulf Shores of Alabama. I was restricting myself to driveable distances, because it didn't occur to me we'd be able to get on an airplane in April for a trip we were just beginning to plan in March. I had built a box around my imagination. Tim hadn't.
“Where do you really want to go?” he had asked. It was on a Saturday night, sometime well after midnight when we should have been asleep. “Don't think about money, it's just money. So where do we really want to go?”
I rambled off a few places, most of them in the continental United States. (It's just money, but at a certain point, it's just a lot of money.) Portland, New Orleans, Denver, are some that I remember. But San Francisco, I said, was where I had always wanted to go, drawn in by both its culture and proximity to beautiful things.
And San Francisco was where we went.
I could go on and on about California, I really could. From the moment we stepped out of the airport, I was in love—with the mountains, with the ocean, with the people. The atmosphere was so different, and so was the landscape. I'm from Central New York, where it snows 6 months out of the year, and is largely on the dullside because of that. The West Coast could not be more unlike the East and in the best possible way. The consistent sunshine, alone, was like fresh water for my parched soul. I'm proud to say, too, that I did Northern California properly.
In six short days, we not only saw everything we wanted to see in the city, but also took roadtrips to both Big Sur and Yosemite National Park. (The first National Park I had ever visited, and which subsequently altered my life goals pretty quickly.) I dipped my toes in the Pacific Ocean, walked through a forest containing some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world, hiked to North America's tallest waterfall, and sped down on the most reknowned roads—Highway 1—which allowed my eyes to see the incredible way the mountains meet the sea. In six days, I saw more amazing things than I had ever seen in my 23 years, and it all happened because we decided we could instead of thinking that we can't.
After a series of unfortunate events last year, as I mentioned, I was truly left thinking there was nothing left in life for me to see. Anything I did want to see or do felt completely unattainable, because I had allowed my mind to get entrenched in that pattern of thought. And I'd venture to say I'm not alone in that; I believe a lot of us are both distracted and disheartened by life, and for good reason—life is hard! Simply living, sometimes, is the hardest thing we can do, and sometimes it's all we can do. What's worse is when we begin to think that living, then, is it, and there's nothing else.
I'm here to tell you that there is something else. I found it when I wasn't looking for it. I had given up looking and was fortunate enough to have someone in my life not only insisting that I keep looking, but physically bringing me there when I thought it was impossible. I'm not kidding you, I am freaking lucky to have somebody push me so hard when it mattered so much, because not everybody gets that. And that's why I'm here, telling you with passion and fervor that you have to keep looking and go after those things that you keep putting off or that you imagine are out of your reach. Anything is in your reach if you want it bad enough.
. . . Okay, so you're probably not going to get to Venus or something anytime soon, but you get my point.
I went to California in the spring, and because of that, I've spent my summer traveling and hiking, and consequently, have had the best summer of my life. Since California, we have been to Ohio, Connecticut, Montreal, Massachussetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Next month, we're flying into Denver and taking a week to car camp throughout the state of Colorado. Even six months ago, I would've told you all of these things and places were out of my reach, but I did them; I'm doing them. And I'm going to continue to do them. Who knows what's next after Colorado? Oregon? Iceland? Macchu Piccu? I don't know, but I can't freaking wait to find out, because I'll be there, camera ready and heart full, knowing I'm living my best life.
You can follow Molly @thatgirlhikes on Instagram or email her at email@example.com