The highlight of today's drive from the rest stop outside of Medford, Oregon to a hostel in Groveland, CA was a spur of the moment detour into Redding.   It was rather serendipitous - without knowing where I was going or why I ended up at the Sundial Bridge, something I had read about ages ago and forgotten about completely.  

The Sundial Bridge is supposed to be a bit of an architectural marvel as it was created by the world-renowned Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrave.  Although I do not follow architecture much, I do appreciate a beautiful creation - and especially one that is sensitive to the environment around it.  

The tall pylon and cable stays allow the bridge to stand without putting any supports into the water and disturbing the salmon spawning habitat in the waters below.  The bridge also draws residents and tourists alike to enjoy the lovely Sacremento River.  The adjacent park has what looks to be a wonderful trail system for biking and walking - something that almost tempted me to set up camp in town for the night.  The short walk I did along the trail was a delight!  I first saw a group of black birds (about the size of ravens) in one of the trees, and while I was stopped to ponder what these birds could be, I heard the distinctive sounds of a woodpecker behind me.  When I turned to look at the woodpecker, I caught the eye of a small deer feeding a stone's throw away...... this is my kind of place.  

I was hoping to make it to Yosemite before nightfall, so I had to tear myself away and hit the road - well after quickly checking the internet and getting some groceries.   The sun fell when I still had a couple hours to go, so I stopped at a hostel in Groveland - not too far from one of the entrances to the park.  I plan on getting up early tomorrow morning to get a full day of.... snowshoeing perhaps... and just checking out the sights.  The town here seems to be really cute - very small, with old style saloons and hotels.  I say seems to be because it is really too dark to tell, but I did take a short stroll through the town.  I saw no other people... this is definitely the off season!  

One last thing of note - and what a note!  The guy who checked me into the hostel had made a fresh batch of cookies and gave me one! Delicious the kindness of strangers. 

Hello Everyone!  I don't have much time to write right now - so just a quick update.  Spent a wonderful weekend at Sonia's cabin in Snowqualmie pass and drove south from there.  Yesterday I drove over 1,000km... something I didn't think I could do because I usually have a hard time staying awake while driving across town!  But I think it is these books on tape!  I love it - for those curious as to what I am listening to - more to come on that later.   

I slept last night in the back of my car at a rest stop just north of the California border.... I was a little scared, but there were quite a few people sleeping in there cars here, so that was a bit comforting..... still I kept picturing a tap on the window and turning around to see someone in a ski mask threatening me with a chain saw....... perhaps I have seen too many horror movies?

Anyways nothing of interest happened all night (a good thing) and I even slept in to 7:30... I thought I would be awake at the crack of dawn.  Temperatures dropped over night - it was -10C  when I woke up!!  Freezing! But I was given a new sleeping bag for Christmas good to -20C so I was ok (Thanks Sonia & mom!!).  

OK got to run - still have 5 hours to drive from Redding to Yosemite where I will probably camp tonight (or hostel - but apparently sleeping in your car is illegal).... 

Bye for now!

ps. pictures to come!
The bags are packed (well, sort of), the road trip playlist is ready, 6 audiobooks have been downloaded and passport and travel insurance are in my purse, now all I have to do is figure out where I am going!  

The very, very vague plans are to head to Snowqualmie Pass to hang out with my brother and his family for the weekend, and then just keep going.... perhaps into Idaho (there is a potato museum there calling to me) or to the coast and immediately south to find some sunshine.  But I have my skis with me, so perhaps hit up a mountain or two first... the bike can wait.  

The goal of this wandering is really more like an anti-goal - to not have a goal.  I have spent so long having a plan (ok those of you who know me, know it is more like jumping from plan to plan at lightening speed), and now it is time to not have a plan and see what materializes.... to see where I end up (both mentally and physically) when I am on my own, with no distractions, no obligations, and no plans.  A watched pot never boils right?  Perhaps I am that watched pot.   

I am however planning to write - and perhaps try some experiments with writing (I am reading a book called Travel Writing and it gives some exercises to cultivate the skill of sharing a story)... so perhaps if the result is not too silly, it will appear on here.  

And now it is time to organize all the stuff I have pulled from my drawers, cupboards and shelves into some sort of logical packed state - tomorrow morning I hit the road!  

For those die hard grouse grinders who cannot go a winter without swiping their pass, starting the timer and heading up a hill in hopefully record-breaking speed - there is a winter version of the infamous Grouse Grind.  Now I have heard of people (my uncle...) who wear crampons and use ice picks to scale the normal grind in the winter, but for the more .... sane.... folk (not a dig here, I think I fall into the not sane category too), there is another, completely different trail from the top of the gondola.  Sorry it's feeling like a run-on-sentence kind of night! :) 

Unlike the regular Grouse Grind, which is a 2.9km trail of pure torture (that feels wonderful) straight up to the top of Grouse Mountain and the gondola down - you have to use your own body power for the return portion of the Snowshoe grind.  However, gravity, and a pair of slippery snow pants, often helps out.  

The Snowshoe Grind is a 4.3km out-and-back trail to the top of Dam Mountain (yes, that is really what it is called).  The route is not as intense as the regular Grind but still has some steep sections - with an overall gain of 705ft (215m). The view from the top is absolutely spectacular and totally worth the effort!  

Click here for the Website