California On Film
“I don’t know where this goes, but it sure is calling me.”
Jenny and I went to California for our fifth anniversary. Like generations before, we have become enchanted by the call of the West. But despite all our traveling—including that time we lived in a van with our dog—California has, for the most part, evaded us.
So when it came time to plan our anniversary trip, it wasn’t a matter of where in the country we wanted to go, but, rather, where in California we wanted to go. San Francisco sounded nice; and because such a place can only be appropriately recorded on film, I decided to shoot the entire experience on my Mamiya 7ii. Here’s how it went:
We left Tampa International Airport at 6 a.m. and straddled time, arriving in San Francisco at 8 a.m. five hours later. Day one didn’t leave much room for dawdling, so we picked up our rental car and scurried another five hours up the coast to Trinidad, California.
It was a long day; but having done most our previous traveling by van, I think we were both impressed at how quickly you can get from one corner of the country to the other when you aren’t cheap about it. Our first evening was spent settling in, eating the best fish and chips I’ve ever had and wandering the Trinidad State Beach shoreline.
Redwood National Park
You’ve probably never heard of Trinidad, and I don’t blame you. While it’s a beautiful town, it’s also a small town. And if you aren’t careful, you’ll sneeze on your drive up the 101 and never realize you passed it.
What brought us to this peaceful place was a matter of pure happenstance. Jenny and I were on a quest for giants, and not 30 minutes north of Trinidad is Redwood National Park, which, we had heard, is where giants like to live. So when we were searching for Airbnbs in the area, we came across a cute eco-conscious cabin in Trinidad, and the rest is history.
We spent the next three days waking up to fresh mountain air and yellow banana slugs trailing so slowly across the deck that they hardly appeared to be moving at all. We’d drive into the forest, hike among 1,500-year-old redwoods, head back to Trinidad for fish and chips and a west-coast sunset, shower, sleep, and repeat. All seemed right in the world, and we were happy in it.
After just a few short days it was time say goodbye to our comfy cabin in Trinidad and head south back toward San Francisco. We had an Airbnb waiting for us in Pacifica, and we were looking forward to a little time in the city.
Eager to do touristy things for a day, I naively thought it would be a good idea to walk from Fisherman's Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge. It was an absurdly long walk that, paired with stopping at parks and shops along the way, took us the entire day.
When we eventually reached the bridge the thick summer fog obscured the view, so we pushed it another mile and a half past the bridge to a beach where I thought we’d have a better view. Tired, sunburned and frustrated, we made it to the entrance of North Baker Beach and started the long decent to the water.
Because the beach entrance was above the fog and we had to walk down through it to get to the beach, we didn’t realize at the time that we were entering the largest urban nude beach in San Francisco. And we normally wouldn’t laugh at such a thing—we’re both pretty open-minded individuals—but the frustrating circumstances leading up to this point made Jenny and I crack up at the sight of naked men wandering the beach. There really could not have been a more perfect end to our trek from Fisherman’s Wharf.
Unfortunately, we still couldn’t see the bridge, so we Ubered back to our car and drove north across the bridge to the Marin Headlands, which brought us to a beautiful vantage point. We spent the evening watching the fog roll through the bay over the bridge, and it was a glorious sight through the Mamiya.
Point Reyes National Seashore
As it turns out, being in the city is exhausting work, and after only a couple days Jenny and I were ready to retreat back to nature. There’s too much beauty in California to spend too long in the city; and in my opinion souvenirs should be captured on cameras rather than purchased in shops.
We decided to drive up the coast to Point Reyes National Seashore, a place Jenny had long wanted to visit. It was a misty afternoon and the views were nonexistent, but we got to pick wild blackberries on the hike to a beach we had all to ourselves, so we weren’t complaining! It turned out to be one of the more peaceful experiences of the trip, and one we won’t soon forget.
Although we stayed in Pacifica four nights, most our time was spent outside of the city visiting San Francisco and surrounding areas. So we spent our final evening actually enjoying Pacifica, which, not surprisingly, is also beautiful. We didn’t do much—found a comfortable spot on the beach, fell asleep, woke up, took pictures—but it was a wonderful final evening.
“It’s nice to go, and it’s nice to go home.”
We seem to be drawn to the extremes, and our trip represented no less: the skyscrapers of the city and giants of the forest; the modern home and the eco-conscious cabin; the east coast and the west; even my cameras, with the intentionality of the Mamiya and the practicality of the iPhone.
As I pondered this in the airport, staring out over the endless coming and going of planes shuttling people to and from who-knows-where, I thought about all the special places in the world and how I’d never get to see them all.
And then I heard a woman behind me say to someone I couldn’t see, “It’s nice to go, and it’s nice to go home,” and I couldn’t help but smile. It was an awesome trip filled with many special places; but Florida is a special place, too, and I was ready to be home.