Four Friends Recharge on a Climactic Weekend Road Trip
By Corbyn Hightower
Jascha Little doesn’t do anything halfway. He’s a Krav Maga enthusiast, an avid rock climber, a builder of competitive robots and, in his spare time, a mechanical engineer in Los Angeles who works on technology’s bleeding edge, on projects such as the 10,000 Year Clock mission and NASA’s Sample Return Robot Challenge. So when he decided to head out for a long weekend of backpacking in the California mountains in his new 2012 Chevy Volt, we knew that he’d go big before he’d go home. He rounded up fellow engineer Zoe and old friends Chad and Randy from Austin, Texas, and made the 10-hour drive from his L.A. home base to Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, 7,500 acres of ancient redwoods and Pacific shoreline in Mendocino County.
“I hadn’t taken the Volt on any really long trips, so this was a first,” Jascha explained. The crew was impressed with the ample storage room: All four of them had brought along hiking equipment, camping gear and big backpacks, and it all fit. As far as powering the electric, “I charged up before we left L.A.,” Jascha added, “and I stopped to recharge in San Francisco. Driving was smooth, and the Volt handled highway speeds really well.”
Sinkyone Wilderness is now a sanctuary for ancient redwoods and other protected wildlife, including a herd of Roosevelt Elk, migrating gray whales, harbor seals and sea lions, and various bears that are common in the state of California. Jascha and his friends are experienced hikers familiar with the rigors of primitive camping, so they were schooled in how to properly respect and deal with the flora and fauna they would likely encounter.
The long drive north brought them through some pretty spectacular scenery in the High Sierras. “We switched out DJ duties by plugging our cell phones into the AUX jack,” Jascha said. Chad dominated with his rap playlist, while Zoe was carefully insistent that they change over to indie folk after a few hours. Her reasoning? “I can’t nap with Jay Z screaming at me.”
Conversation was lively and the views were magnificent. Finally, the last part of their journey: the winding, single-lane, steep road down to Usal Beach Campground. Then came the seven-mile hike to their own little piece of the Pacific, a stony beach where rocks wash in and out with every wave. The night was exceptionally dark, lit only by a bonfire. Cuisine wasn’t a priority so they filled their bellies with instant mashed potatoes and fell asleep to the sound of the tide. Marshmallows for breakfast plus a regrettable lack of coffee completed their weekend of poor food choices, but the environs of this gorgeous slice of Northern California more than made up for that oversight.
When they made it back to the car, they sat in silence as one of the rare Roosevelt Elk made its way out of the woods and slowly approached. It paused, looked at them, and turned and ambled back the way it came. It was the perfect ending.
The last big test for the Volt: “I had some concerns about the steep grade of the road up and out of Usal Beach,” Jascha told me, “but the electric drive train provided smooth torque and made the climb without struggle. After the long drive home, hot showers felt good…and the Volt cleaned up nicely, too.”
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Corbyn Hightower is an essayist and blogger living on the outskirts of Sacramento, California, where she is raising three children and six chickens. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post and More magazine.