Headed West En Route To California

Earlier this year, I cashed in on my vacation days and headed west, though it wasn't quite as simple and care free as it may sound. Allison and I spent countless hours planning, building, and preparing before this month. But the plan was really to spend two weeks without a plan. We dropped a pin in all the important places in California — Yosemite, San Francisco, Big Sur - and headed west after work on Friday with little more than some recommended arrival dates scribbled down. To paraphrase: "No pools, no pets, no cigarettes."

Headed West En Route To California
Headed West En Route To California

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Headed West En Route To California
Headed West En Route To California

When we made it across the Texas state line, our route pointed due west. Barren New Mexican reservation land slowly dissolved in to mountainous Arizonan desert. We worked our way north through the slot canyons of Page and the lifeless majority of Nevada that isn't Las Vegas. We passed into Pacific Standard Time just as the sun was going down and made camp outside of Mammoth Lakes only two days into the trip.

Headed West En Route To California
Headed West En Route To California

The Sierras were welcoming. Everyone in Mammoth smiled for no real reason at all, besides perhaps just living in Mammoth (which I 100% believe to be the case). We drove into Yosemite a few days later by way of Lee Vining, a town just north of Mammoth and home to Mono Lake.

The sun hadn't quite come up so our view was limited to the little bit of pavement on Tioga Road illuminated by headlights. We parked in the valley and saw our first of three Yosemite sunrises from the line outside Camp 4 where we had been waiting to claim a spot. Site 30A was our home for the next two nights, along with a father and daughter from Australia who were hyper-curious about American politics and a father and son from San Francisco from whom we gladly accepted some notes on visiting the city.

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Headed West En Route To California
Headed West En Route To California

We continued west and crossed through the valley of central California on the morning of July 8, turning our heads every few minutes with the hope of catching one last glimpse of Yosemite. It was just shy of 4:00pm when we crossed the Bay Bridge into the city. By 8:00pm, neither of us ever wanted to leave. Temperatures rarely squeaked above 70º even after the sun finally burned off all the fog. We spent three days in San Francisco in the company of the most talented and kind-hearted people before Allison boarded a plane back to Dallas and I continued down the coast.

Headed West En Route To California
Headed West En Route To California
Headed West En Route To California
Headed West En Route To California

I spent the next three days cruising the PCH south through Big Sur and Ventura en route to Joshua Tree. I slingshotted around LA, stopped for coffee and an egg sandwich, then made camp at a retreat center outside Joshua Tree National Park . The last remaining days of my trip were to be spent heading east and putting miles between me and California. The Arizona and New Mexico landscapes were just as much a blur the second time around and on July 16, I carried my bags back up the stairs to my apartment.

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About The Author
About The Author

About The Author

Matthew never set course to be a photographer or a writer, but he has always admired the people who use their creative expression to weave together a captivating story or to convey landscapes and scenes that seem far beyond words. It's become his mission to constantly embrace the unfamiliarity of new places, revisit familiar places with new eyes, and to document as much as he can in the hopes of creating stories that spark in people a love for travel and the outdoors. To see more of his professional work — visit his website and follow him on Instagram.