Road Trip VI, Days 4-7: Oakland to Pinnacles National Park: Oh, Those California Hills

When I was 16, my dearest wish was to go to Stanford. No, not true; my dearest wish as to win the heart of a certain blue-eyed California man. But Stanford was second. Not for its courses of study or its resume-boosting power, understand. I was in love with the hills.

I first saw them while out visiting my aunt in the Bay Area. I was a little North Carolina girl, raised in the unspectacular beauty of the rural south. Those golden hills, graceful grass swellings studded with tortuous oaks–I had never seen anything like them. To walk upon them, I felt, would be like walking into a painting. No scruffy underbrush of poison ivy and blackberry. No copperheads. Clean and pure.

(Courtesy Wikimedia; I did not have my camera handy--but can't you just hear them calling you?)

(Courtesy Wikimedia; I did not have my camera handy–but can’t you just hear them calling you?)

I did not get to do that. By the time of collegiate commitment, I was in a deep relationship with that California man–my Mate–who had grown up literally across the tracks from Stanford and scorned all things Cardinal in a visceral way. I stuck to the east coast, and I’ve never regretted that choice. And later visits to this area, seeing my in-laws, taught me that those hills were never as pristine as they looked, being, A) laced with poison oak and B) largely private property, and therefore C) loaded with cow poop. Neither clean nor pure.

But driving past them now, when they’re green with recent rain? My heart is 16 again. Northern California is so freakin’ gorgeous.

I’m reminded of lyrics from one of my favorite songwriters, Kate Wolf:

Here in California, the fruit hangs heavy on the vine

¬†but there’s no gold, thought I’d warn ya–

and the hills turn brown in the summertime.

Yeah, yeah, I get it, Kate–youthful dreams are just that. Life doesn’t turn out that way. But in my case, it turned out better.¬†Thanks, life.

I’ll write about the Pinnacles later. Right now I’m too busy connecting with my inner teenager.