So I wanted to make a post, as I have now officially ended my year of study in Davis, California. As many will imagine, it is a period with very mixed emotions, and a bittersweet time. Surprisingly to me though is that it isn’t quite as bittersweet as I expected, and I guess this is because it’s the right time to return. I’ve had my fun, and now I must go back. There are also many people and things I miss at home, so there’s stuff to look forward to about returning too. Any departure is also just a reason to get back again, so I certainly hope that this is not the last time I see anyone that I have met at Davis, and challenge and implore everybody to stay in contact.
I am currently packing to begin travelling the state of California with my family, both showing them what I’ve seen, and experiencing new things with them. After this I travel to Vancouver, where I will begin a second road trip around British Colombia. As such I have a busy and exciting month ahead, with the weight of exams off my back. I’ll be posting fairly regularly about my travels, and about experiences I didn’t have opportunity to write about that happened over the academic year.
Finally, to any Davis students reading this post, allow me to say my most sincere gratitude for an absolutely unforgettable year, which I cannot express in words how significant the memories forged here are. It has been a hugely defining year in my life, and will be with me until the day I die. The friends I made, and the experiences I shared with them cannot be replaced. The University of Bristol, and University of California are the two institutions that made this possible, and every student at Davis that make it what it is, I thank you for this year.
So I am quite aware that I have not been posting quite as frequent as I should. Things have been somewhat busy, and this is perhaps the only opportunity I will have to actually update my blog before finals. I’ll probably save the academic post for it’s own dedicated post, after finals so I can take my time. After exams, I also hope to have quick blog updates of my travels with my family around California and Nevada. For now however I really want to share my experience hiking at Point Reyes National Seashore with the Davis Hiking Club. This was such an amazing experience and convinced me to hiking more often.
Arrival saw us at Bear Valley car park (parking lot for the Yanks reading), in a foggy forest. The fog was visible for a good portion of the drive through the hills, making the hills feel very ominous, but extremely beautiful. As we set off hiking, the hills were still going in and out of cloud coverage, and as we ascended Mt Wittenberg, we eventually ascenced into the cloud. This made for some quite enchanting scenes, that one would unlikely wish to be alone in. But another side of me kind of wished to be isolated in this forest, and just completely detach from civilisation. I’m sure that this feeling would not have lasted long, before becoming increasingly concerned for my safetly. Either way I was loving it.
The ascent was quite amenable to me, although I’m sure that’s due to approaching crags and rock faces with steep approaches. Still it allowed me to enjoy the surroundings more and take photos every so often, catch up with friends and make new ones. The trail is ideal like this, with ascent for about 2 miles, and then a steady descent to the shoreline and then flat back to the cars. Once at the summit, cloud was all around us, in a complete whitewash. Only the nearest trees could be seen before quickly dissapating into white. Somewhat underwhelming if you were hoping for a fantastic vernanda, but special in its own way.
The descent now began, and is a gentle slop down to the shore, and this is where the hike really came into its own. The forest became a mystical place that felt completely at home in a fictional novel by the likes of Tolkien or Rowling. Stripped trees steadily fade into white, the monolithic redwoods creating a tall canopy. I felt humbled to be trespassing on this alcove of nature, which seems completely alien to the Californian landscape.
The fog was steadily clearing as we descended and the day went on. By the time we had a view of the coast, the fog was completely gone, and we had clear views all around. We continued out steady descent over rolling hills, the forest to our back and sea to our front. We appeared to have hit particularly lucky, as there were whales just off the shore, surfacing regularly. It was my first time seeing a whale, and it was a very cool experience. Now I need to see one up close, not from near enough a mile away.
We continued along the shoreline heading southwards towards the cars, and just enjoying the coastal scenery. This was a good time for conversing, because the paths were wide for large stretches, allowing 2-3 abreast. This was a great part of the hike, being able to meet new people in a fantastic biome of wildlife.
As we were on the final stretch of the hike, at mile 13 or so, we walked alongside a river, which provides water to a dense jungle of trees and ferns, giving way to some fantastic creations. It challenged what I thought could exist in California, let alone in a location 30 minutes from San Francisco. Point Reyes is definitely a place to visit and explore, I would say most importantly for the residents to realise the diversity of the state wildlife.
After a couple of weeks settling in and getting friends, I feel it is a good opportunity to talk about how America is treating me and how life is going right now. The vast majority of my friends have actually ended up as Europeans, with a large group from France. That said there are also several from Japan and China and Hong Kong, so it is still a diverse group. While it’s good that they aren’t from the UK, I think I still need to make more American friends, and I believe that will happen as my course goes on and I make friends through climbing and my classes.
As for general life, I doubt things could be going much better. At any point I can meet with friends and hang out doing something, and if nothing else just talk together and enjoy some snacks. The friends I have are fantastic and don’t give me opportunity to yearn for home. I just talk about all the things we have back home compared to here in America, and this keeps a positive image of home in my mind. Time certainly seems to have an accelerated rate here in California, and that is a plain indicator of how much enjoyment I am getting from that time.
Eating out at a restaurant is also more justifiable as the price of ‘groceries’ or general food items is considerably higher than the UK, however restaurants are more or less the same. As a result going the local food vendor is a more common thing, keeping me interacting with friends. There are also several open air cinema viewings at the central park that I attend and constant events with one group or another. On Saturday I went to an event (by the same International Student group as the San Francisco trip) to sample foods from various continents. One thing that amazes me about Americans is their ability to create stimulating events for people without the involvement of alcohol. This is a trait the British lack severely.
Another event I attended on Saturday was an American Football game of Davis against Montana. Understanding nothing, it made for some interesting watching attempting to decipher the rules and strategy of the game. My closest likening is a slower pace and more tactic based Rugby, plus padding. Each time the ball carrier gets taken down play needs to be set up again, and means that while there may be 5:00 of time left this could easily take an half an hour to complete.
It is also very fortunate that several of my closer friends have a love of piano, and so we even came to my house, where by an amazing stroke of fortune there is a proper piano. It is a stand-up Petrof piano, in pristine condition, and is a joy to play each time. Piano is a very important part of my life now and can calm me whenever I am stressed, so it is fantastic to have a piano in the house.
As expected, the weather is also picture perfect, with spectacular sunsets a routine. When clouds decide to collect, the scene just amplifies tenfold. Every time I want to appreciate it, but it happens every day, and it challenges how much I can enjoy it.
In day to day life, the good weather probably makes meeting friends all the better, compared to the UK. The weather is a pretty good barometer for your mood, meaning that when the weather is good it’s really hard to feel down. But for me when the weather turns sour, I get excited, as it’s like a piece of home has come back. At the International event, as it came to a close, inclement weather loomed overhead, and lightning was striking every 10 seconds or so. It was a fantastic spectacle to watch, and eerie as there was barely any thunder to be heard. Then we eventually heard the pitter-patter of raindrops, and knew that it was past time to head home. For myself and several others, we hunkered down inside and waited for the monsoon like rain to pass. When it came to go home, it turns out my shoes were left outside, so they were soaked right through, however it didn’t rain on the bike back to the rest of me was dry.
So the next post I make will probably be how the classes are going and how I feel they are going to go. Watch this space!