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Monday, 16 March 2015

INTO THE WILD: BIG SUR ROAD TRIP


Big Sur. The name still roars softly like the sound of waves in my ears. The smell of salt water, sand and seaside scrub is your constant companion along the Highway 1, until  you dive into the red wood forest where you feel like walking in mother natures womb. Isolated and quirky, Big Sur is a dreamy get-away from the frenzies of San Francisco and LA, yet it feels like a whole different world.


Santa Cruz and Monterey
 
We started our trip from San Francisco and first stopped in Santa Cruz, where we put up tent at the New Brighton Beach State Beach camp site. We arrived somewhat late, put up tent and headed down to the beach. The weather was grey and windy and the beach smelly and full of flies. So we drove back into Santa Cruz, but we were lucky enough to arrive one day after the famous board walk had closed its doors for the season. Make sure to check out their hours of operation.

The next morning we headed on to Monterey for breakfast. I am not a big Starbucks fan, but here we it was the surest bet and had a nice view on cannery row. Monterrey is a cute sleepy little former fisher men's town and the old fish canning industry district has been transformed to accommodate tourists. We quickly checked out the vintage shops and then headed on, as here begins the big empty Sur...

Pfeiffer State Park

Our base camp for the rest of the trip became the Pfeiffer State Park Campground and Lodge. The Big Sur River cuts a deep canyon into the Santa Lucia Mountains, filled with red wood and pine trees. We put up tent under the branches of a massive red wood tree, chasing away a squirrel.
From there, we started our first hike up a trail that started right on the campground. It let us up the hills through pockets of deep forest and across bare strips of rock. A nice little workout after spending so much time in the car.
After the hike, we headed to Nepenthe for dinner. The restaurant sits atop a hill and boasts the most wonderful views of the coast line. There's a cafe and and a little shop as well, offering souvenirs and nic nacs.
The next morning we woke up early, as you usually do when camping and before breakfast walked up to the Pfeiffer State Park waterfalls. The easy 20 min hike starts right across from the Lodge and restaurant entrance.

Henry Miller Memorial Library, Sand Dollar Beach and Pfeiffer Beach

After the hike the coffee shop in the Lodge was open, we fuelled up on caffeine and drove down towards Sand Dollar Beach. Along the way, we stopped at the lovingly quirky Henry Miller Memorial Library, the only cultural place for the inhabitants of Big Sur that hosts concerts, readings and more.

Further down, we had a dip at Sand Dollar Beach, one of the largest stretches of white sand along the coast. The clouds finally parted and let through a little bit of sunlight. Just enough to get sunburned.



On our way back to camp, we had a quick stop at Pfeiffer State Beach, a lovely sandy beach dotted with harsh rocks. Truly romantic in the last rays of daylight...

 

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and whale watching in the sun

Our last day strted with breakfast at the Big Sur Bakery. It has good coffee but also pretty expensive - I was not mentally prepared to pay 6$ for a coffee.
The Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is only a small but even more beautiful beach, that used to belong to a friend of said woman. A modernistic bungalow overlooked the beach, but the building was torn down. Now the foundations remain and the beach is sealed off to visitors, but pretty to look at.

While driving back North towards San Francisco, the clouds finally opened up and Big Sur presented itself in a whole different light. The ocean glistened in azur blue and suddenly we discovered whales! Fascinated, we pulled over right into the driveway of Rocky Point Restaurant and, completely amazed, sat down at a table and ordered lunch. The view and the sun lulled us in, and after the meal we moved to the terrace to have cocktails.




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