North on 5, once again. We have made this trip so many times. All the visits to Chico, all the years of meeting Tyler’s mother at Orv’s outside of Williams, where the line for the restroom was always five deep. Stops for gas in Dunnigan, burritos in Arbuckle. None of this new. Not the California people envision. No one has ever received a postcard from Zamora, California, and thought, “Man what would I give to live there.”
Once you get past Redding the landscape changes. This is the real Northern California—rain and fog, pine trees on the mountains shrouded in mist. Wet streets and tiny waterfalls in the gullies cut into the hills. Crows everywhere.
We pass The Basshole in Lakeshore, where I drank beers with friends the year I was 21.
Farther North: cars kicking up streams of water from the rain wet asphalt as we climb into the mist. Mossballs in the trees, a dead buck on the side of the road. The radio playing “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone” which seems wildly inappropriate. Snow in the hills, a wet black bag like a mangled crow against a chain link fence.
We are going to a yurt which I booked on Airbnb. The yurt is in the town of Weed, just in the shadow of Mt. Shasta. My husband has climbed the mountain 13 times and now he and my son have a plan to climb it again in May. My husband, who is deeply offended by climbers who talk about “Bagging that mountain” or “Making mother nature my bitch.” To him this is the worst kind of sacrilege.
If you look on Airbnb you’ll find this yurt and you can stay there. The owner made us feel so welcome and we were beyond comfortable. My son and I hiked and my husband and I hiked and the dog and I hiked and the DVD player was broken which seemed like the greatest blessing because for two nights we had nothing to do but sit by the fire and play board games in this warm and cozy yurt. During the day there was nothing to do but hike and write and drink tea and make fires in the fireplace. Sometimes it would rain and that was my favorite. The rest of my family drove to Bunny Flat but I was unwilling to get back into the car so instead I hiked and built a fire.
We stopped the next night in Chico, where my husband and I met. In one sense, you could say we met in Mexico or on the way to Mexico and in another you could say we met in Chico and either would be correct. We were both students at the college and members of the outdoors club called Adventure Outings, and when we met it was because we had both signed up for a three week camping trip through Baja. Anyway, now we were back in Chico and it was November and the trees were yellow and red. Shane rested while I took the kids to The Bear for lunch. We went to the Yoyo museum in the back of Bird in Hand and my son bought a yoyo and neon strings. We went to The Bookstore which is my favorite bookstore in California, at least, and we walked to the creek on campus where, one night, I’d sat with a friend (probably drinking contraband beer) when a little river otter or something rose from the water and walked onto the bank just beside us before disappearing into the water again.
Evening was TV in a hotel room.
This morning I received bad news from my mom. I called her from the road, because she had sent a text asking me to phone her. My mom was crying and I sat in something like shock for the rest of the drive. I am still waiting for the tears to come. But I am grateful for the wide open spaces that planted themselves in my body while on the road the last couple of days. There is room now for this grief. There is room again for whatever happens next.