• Photo Diary: California Road Trip

    California was the final frontier of the American mainland, and it remains so in the minds of many. Perfect weather all year and beautiful scenery—with everything from mountainscapes to lush beaches—make The Golden State a pretty place to not only visit, but to explore. While the sights are endless, an inside tip to the state’s hidden gems can give you a personal look at real California culture. Seeing Yosemite is one thing, but trekking a few miles into a small-town park to jump off of volcanic rocks into a secret watering hole is another story entirely.  In search of the perfect California experience, we put 6 UO employees in classic Converse sneakers and sent them out on the road to explore The Golden State.

    Get to know the UO employees that embarked on the trip here, and check out the recap of all their favorite road trip moments!

    Stop 1: San Francisco

    Since we were from multiple spots all over California, we decided to meet up in San Francisco. According to some locals, the hot and sunny weather was much nicer than it usually is. We don't recommend exploring a city like San Francisco with only a day, but if you have to, make sure you get some great views of the Golden Gate Bridge from a kind-of-far distance. It's pretty cinematic, especially when the fog starts to fall around the city and surrounds the bridge. Also, if you want some nice "on the water" vibes, a place to play bocce ball while you wait to be seated, and some amazing pizza, hit up Bar Bocce in Sausalito. We had enough kale, and shrimp, and chicken pizzas to feed a small army.

    Stop 2 - Avenue of the Giants

    We made the long drive from San Francisco to Humboldt County at night so that we could enjoy the sunrise exploring the massive trees along the Avenue of the Giants. Just a friendly warning: the roads leading north through the Redwoods make for little to no cell phone reception for quite a few hours. Which is kind of scary, but it's also pretty fun when you're in the car with friends and no one is glued to their phone. We just rolled the windows down, enjoyed the scenery, and were present in each other's company. The trees slowly grew in size in front of us, to the point where saying "Oh wow, look how big that tree is" just seemed moot. That night we all stayed up pretty late (4am-ish) getting to know each other in the parking lot of our hotel over a few cases of High Life. This is probably when the real road trip began.

    The next day, waking up early to make sure we caught all the good light in the forest, we established motto that we silently lived by for the rest of the trip: early to rise, late to sleep. But we were too stoked to let the lack of sleep get to us (for now). The Redwoods are nothing short of breathtaking, it's almost a relief to know that places this beautiful still exist (mostly) untouched. Walking along the logs of fallen trees, discovering the large, sprawling patches of clovers, and surrounding ourselves with, of course, the mammoth "Giants", we found the entire forest awe-inspiring, and we had no trouble finding fun in the woods.

    After we caught our breath, we had to move on. There were other amazing places we needed to see. Leaving the Avenue of the Giants, you have to drive through about 4 hours of mountainous, cell phone-resistant landscape. It's hot, and after climbing steep roads with no guard rails for a bit, most of the time is spent in a slightly safer feeling environment. However, the roads look exactly the same for close to 3 hours, which becomes maddening to the point of becoming hilarious. One of the best and most spontaneous parts of the trip happened when we just couldn't deal with it anymore and needed to stop. So we pulled over into a little space on the side of the road and just hung out for an hour to re-gain our bearings. 

    Next stop: Bear Hole.

    Stop 3 - Bear Hole in Chico, CA

    Chico, CA looks like it's just one of those normal suburban California towns. Flat, a bit dry, and just all around your run-of-the-mill place. But it has an incredible hidden gem: Bear Hole.

    We arrived at Bidwell Park hoping to park near the entrance closer to the spot we were in search of, but unfortunately that entrance was closed. Parking at the normal entrance instead meant a multi-mile hike laid before us in order for us to reach our destination. We were so down for it. We parked the cars and changed into our bathing suits, and with a portable boom box in hand, we set out on a 2 mile hike/sing-a-long. SWV's "Right Here" might perfectly match the vibes of this little voyage.

    A mix of asphalt, dirt trails, weird mini-cliffs, and then straight-up boulder-to-boulder hopping is what it took to finally get there (and a jogger letting us know to "watch out for the rattlesnakes" didn't make it any easier.) About 30 minutes after we heard the last living human outside of our group pass us, we started hearing voices again and knew we were getting close. It comes out of nowhere: ancient looking manmade concrete platforms and steps surrounding naturally formed volcanic rock boulders and, I guess, mountains? The two sides of the main platform let you either walk down steps to hang out in the shallow water on one side, or jump off the 12 foot drop into water on the other side. The water was cold, but it wasn't stopping us.

    With all the guys there, Alex was the only one man enough to jump in...

    Stop 4 - Yosemite National Park

    Yosemite really is one of those places you have to see to believe. Even after you're there and you take your own pictures, it's still hard coming to terms with something of that nature. If you have only a day to take in the mammoth that is Yosemite, we recommend doing it on bikes. Also, the food in the park's cafeteria isn't half bad. Those french fries...

    The park is almost like the American Galapagos—the animals come right up to you without fear. We had an awesome close encounter with a baby deer drinking from the river that totally didn't mind how close you got to snap some photos. We were, however, pretty jealous of the people we saw rafting down the river. AJ and Stephanie were also able to take advantage of being in front of a waterfall by dancing the routine from TLC's "Waterfalls."

    Stop 4 & 3/4 - Bakersfield

    We stayed in Bakersfield, CA for the night after day-swimming in Bear Hole, and sometimes unplanned stops end of being some of the best. What happens in Bakersfield stays in Bakersfield, but to give a quick rundown: bars with pool tables and juke boxes, 2am parking lot dance parties, and meeting random people that gave us free sandwiches. The road to Malibu begins...

    Stop 5 - Malibu Beach

    The last stop of the trip was sunny Malibu. If any place looks cinematic, it's here. Probably because they actually film a lot of movies here. And because the place is inhabited by famous people. But the normal people here just seem really happy, and who can blame them. Perfect weather all year, a beautiful beach that's always open, and just beautiful scenery anywhere you look.

    This was supposed to be more of a relaxing day on the beach, but we ended up making it count anyways. There was frisbee, Weston went surfing, and everyone decided to run into the water together fully clothed still because, who cares?

    It's like saying bye to friends at the end of summer camp, but eventually it had to happen, and separation anxiety was something we all felt pretty hard at the end. We made promises that we would do it all over again sometime soon. And if you haven't had a chance to go on an epic road trip yet, well, start planning!

    If you missed the road trip, head over to the UO Men's Instagram to catch up on it, and check out the intro of the UO travelers as well as the road trip recap detailing the travelers' favorite moments!

    Shop Road Trip Essentials