It was a chilly start this morning when we left the hotel at 8:10 AM and headed north toward San Francisco on the PCH. It was overcast and foggy, too. We were going to put on a lot of miles today and I expected it to be rather boring, going up I-5. We opted for the interstate for speed and figured we were probably giving up the scenic route. WRONG. If any of you plan to drive to Oregon from San Francisco, take I-5. You will not be disappointed.
We began by driving the 20 mile stretch to San Francisco. We did not plan for traffic, but we should have. There were a lot of cars on the road. We drove along the foggy coast for a while. Then the road began to climb and the next few miles were like an amusement park ride…up the foggy hill, into a mile long tunnel through a mountain, out of the tunnel onto a very high bridge, across the bridge and straight into the woods and down the hill on a winding road and finally landing in Pacifica. It was surprisingly thrilling.
As we continued on, the traffic got very heavy, and we found ourselves in stop-and-go rush hour traffic going into the city. On both sides of the road were homes on the hillsides…lots of homes…of every shape and color. And the density of the houses was so thick, it was impossible to see any space between them or any earth. I have never seen anything like this. I thought I was in China or something. Check out the photo.
We drove across the edge of the city and took the long ride over the Bay Bridge into Oakland. We got a glimpse of Alcatraz from the bridge. And we saw a very busy working harbor with cranes everywhere and ships and shipping containers of many colors. Some of the cranes looked as if they were big enough to actually life the ships right out of the water, and perhaps they were. After passing through Berkley we crossed yet another bridge with a $5.00 toll. Seems a bit excessive to me, given that it was an old bridge. But we paid it and moved on.
Eventually we were on I-5 heading north and the sky cleared and the sun shone brightly. I saw a sign for "Correctional Medical Facility" and I thought, could there really be a hospital dedicated to prison inmates? My research tells me that indeed there is. California has so many aging inmates, that they built this facility to care for them.
At first the land was hilly, then it got very flat and we were again in farm country. I wish we were better able to identify what we were seeing, but we did identify more olive and almond trees, sunflowers…fields and fields of them…corn, wheat, grapes and I don't know what else. And the most interesting thing, fields that looked like a sea of green, the rice paddies. California produces a lot of rice. The fields are very interesting. They are divided into sections, mostly squares and rectangles, separated by mounds of dirt and within the sectioned off parcels are flooded fields of bright green. And the facilities processing the rice are right there on site. And we saw many of those.
All the time we were driving through farm country, there was a mountain range to our left…the Klamath mountains. And they provided a division between where we were and the famous wine regions of northern California, Napa and Sonoma. And we began to drive through foothills and then there was a bridge over water and it was beautiful. So we got off I-5 and took a winding dirt road to the waterside below. It was Turntable Bay which is a finger of Shasta Lake. The water is a bright aqua and the hills around the lake are a bright orange soil. It is calm and serene. We spent quite a while taking pictures and just enjoying the view before getting back onto the interstate and continuing our journey.
As we drove on, the hills became mountains and we climbed higher and higher and the road took us around mountain ridges and through mountain passes and off in the distance it caught my eye…a tall snow-covered mountain…and the peak was hidden in the clouds. And the further we drove around mountain ridge after mountain ridge, the closer we got, until we drove up to it, around it and on past it. And it was Mount Shasta, an active volcano, the second highest peak in the Cascades and the 5th highest peak in California. And what a sight it was at 14,179 ft., taller by 69 feet than my personal favorite Pike’s Peak in Colorado. And discovering this mountain made my day. A day in the mountains is always a wonderful day for us.
About an hour later, after driving down the other side of the mountain range, we landed in Medford, Oregon. Tomorrow, Crater Lake.