Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California's oldest state park, founded in 1902, has suffered severe damage in this week's CZU August Lightning Complex Fires in Santa Cruz County. According to the New York Times, "California’s Department of Parks and Recreation said on Wednesday that the park had sustained 'extensive damage,' including to its headquarters, 'historic core' and campgrounds."

At this point, there is limited information on how much damage the ancient redwood trees have sustained. According the park's website, "Some of these giant [redwoods] are more than 50 feet around and as tall as the Statue of Liberty. At 1,000 to 1,800 years old, some may predate the Roman Empire."

I visited Big Basin from July 9-12, 2018 as part of my road trip. I had just driven part of the southern coast, and I felt ready and happy to be back in the woods. The small town of Boulder Creek was enchanting to me--it felt like a Colorado mountain town in the middle of California. I had no idea there were parts of California like that. In my journal, I describe the Boulder Creek farmer's market as earthy, friendly, and warm.

I also describe parts of the park that I explored while hiking.


"I continued on to the Hollow Tree Trail. The trail was steep up and down at times, but there were some really cool trees, hollowed out by fire it looks like."


"There are some really interesting things about this park like the Sempervirens Club in 1901 that saved the park from loggers. There was a family that lived way up in the forest around that time. 5 kids. Grizzly bears. They ate fish, deer and berries. The site where their home was is still preserved."

I truly hope that the trees can once again sustain fire damage. I also hope that the unique history of the park can be preserved and will persevere despite the tremendous damage that has already occurred.

I revisited the photos I took at Big Basin. While some of these photos may have made previous appearances, my editing style has changed quite a bit since then. These photos were all shot as .jpgs, so the detail of the photos is limited. This actually led to some interesting editing for me--blowing out the exposure to whiten the sky and trying to enhance the details in the foreground.

I'm glad to have these photos, and I will always have such fond memories of Big Basin. My thoughts are with the park and all of the people impacted by this fire.


If you are interested in donating to Big Basin's recovery effort, I encourage you to visit the Sempervirens Fund.

These images are dedicated to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and other Black lives taken by police violence and racism in the United States.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

-Archbishop Desmond Tutu

I took these photos on June 6th, days after George Floyd was killed. My world felt so dark; and in stark contrast, the roses in Portland were coming into full, colorful bloom. In the weeks since, I have seen some light in the form of change and reform; however, there is still so much to do in my own life, and in this country, in the fight for racial equality and justice.

I am releasing my final images on Juneteenth--for me, a day of education, reflection, and action. I hope that each viewer of this post, especially non-people-of-color, will take a moment to reflect on the ways that they can help bring justice and equality to the Black community.


Two years ago, I set off on my solo 2-month road trip across the country. While that may sound fantastical and free-spirited (and it was), the truth is that prior to my departure date, I had spent a significant amount of time planning the trip. I was, after all, going to be living on the road for the next 8 weeks. I talked to friends to gather recommendations, I read through a book of National Parks, I reached out to acquaintances (some I knew, others I had never met) across the country to see if they would put me up for a night or two. In retrospect, it even seems a little odd, but at the time I was fearless and on a mission. I pitched a tent for the first time in my living room so I would have the gist of it for my first night of camping, ever. I watched YouTube videos on how to camp "simply", and figured out what gear I definitely needed, and then went and scoured Craigslist to obtain said items. I grabbed drinks with friends and said goodbye to my coworkers. Then I packed my car just barely to the brim, and headed out to stop #1, Ohio.

This post is meant to surface some of the artifacts from the trip that might help inspire someone else thinking about a road trip. I've posted my "best" photos in the past, but there are so many other behind-the-scenes details that went into getting to those places where I took the photos that I have never shared. The planning portion of the trip was arguably equally exciting (in its own way), as the trip itself. Without the planning, I question if the trip would have been so successful, and if I would have covered so much ground, seen so many interesting things, and met so many interesting people. Every single day on the road I was experiencing something new. I was seeing places I had never seen before. It was indeed an awesome and grand adventure.

The Map

This map was my project for the better half of a year before setting off on the road. I started with interesting cities (blue). I added National Parks (red), and "Other Fun" (green). This article from Thrillest became a main source of city planning--in retrospect, I didn't go to many of them, but it was a fun jumping off point. The route actually took a significant turn only a week before I left. My initial plan was to book it straight from DC to Colorado; but, over drinks with a knowledgeable friend, I was convinced to head north in order to hit the Badlands. To get to South Dakota, it seemed reasonable that I should just go all the way up to the Upper Peninsula, stopping to see family along the way (excellent choices in all regards).

The Itinerary

With my sideways zig-zag route taking form, I created a spreadsheet to map out quite literally every single day that I would be on the road. This was an incredibly useful exercise. I plotted out which days I actually had to be in places (i.e. I had concert tickets in Berkeley, and a music festival to be at in Oregon). From there, I figured out where else I could be, who I could stay with, or where I would camp. For the most part, I would spend 3-5 days on my own camping, then mix in a city or a stay with someone, and repeat. After the first month, I had to sit down in a Starbucks in LA to plan what the second month looked like. At that point, I had the hang of things, and it only took an hour or two!

etc. for two months

The Packing List

Reading through this list now, I think it definitely still holds up for any road trip. It's rooted in essentials...I was, after all, only driving a sedan, and space was not unlimited. The most useful items that you might not think about are as follows: headlamp, leather gloves for fire/firewood, ziplock bags, mallet (not listed) for hammering your tent spokes into hard ground. Also worth mentioning, I did not own a tent, sleeping pad, or sleeping bag. I found great quality items on Craigslist for cheap. I did invest in a well fitting day-pack and hiking boots from REI. Also, the 1.5L Smart Water bottles are excellent to slide into the side pockets of your pack!

The Budget

I attempted to estimate my weekly expenses, and approximate my monthly expense. While I did not keep a detailed log of my expenses while on the road, I would tend to say that these expense estimates were generous. Gas may have been more, especially in National Park areas where there is only 1 gas station in the middle of nowhere. Lodging was definitely less - the most expensive campsite I stayed at was $35/night at Big Sur. Everything else was $20 or less (usually less). Friend's couches are free; although, I tried to do the dishes or make breakfast when possible! Groceries seems about right. Dining out I would say was almost non-existent. I had 1 memorable meal, and ate out occasionally (maybe 1x/2 weeks), so I think this was less. As for Recreation, I can't think of much I spent additional money on. I'd encounter a state park or museum fee here and there, but otherwise my main source of recreation was hiking. The National Parks Pass is a one-time fee with access to everything for a year.

* * *

The planning piece of the road trip was both fun and invaluable to the success of my trip. I'm sure other people have "winged-it" and also had a great time; but for me, this is what helped me wrap my head around what I was actually about to set out and do.

Once I was out on the road, I had some flexibility to head in different directions, if needed--for example, I was in Colorado when fires were happening in Durango, and I had to shift my route. I think it's worth leaving enough room for some spontaneity, because I would get recommendations from people I met everywhere I went, and those were always some of the best ideas!

I hope this is helpful for anyone thinking about a road trip in the future!



For all the cool photos, check out

Here's a few extras that serve as evidence of some of my points above.

I stopped at the Maroon Bells in Colorado based on a recommendation from a friend of my cousin, who I had never met, but generously let me sleep on her couch in Denver!

I did not spend much money on dining out, but this Gin & Tonic from my "most memorable meal" was one for the books. I'm going to keep the establishment a secret ;)

I loved stumbling across farmers markets, especially on weeks where I was camping. Not only do you get a taste of the local scene, but you can get fresh, local, and usually cheaper produce!

If you get really lucky, your good friends will need you to house- and dog-sit for them the week you are stopping through town!

© 2020 by Kathleen Ayers.

portrait photographer | landscape photographer | live music photographer | travel photographer | portland oregon photographer