Big Sur, CA

Author:

Daniel Shyles

Continuing up the coast we entered Los Padres National Forest, home to some of the largest trees in the world, the Redwood Sequoia. The coastline drive quickly gave way to cliffsides overlooking the Pacific Ocean as we entered "el país grande del sur” as it was once known to the first European settlers in 1770 led by Gaspar de Portolá who founded Monterey Bay, seventy miles north. It turns out that earlier Europeans with Juan Cabrillo in 1542 had encountered the daunting coastline and were overwhelmed and dissuaded from settling in the area, giving the natives an extra two hundred years of solace. Another interesting factoid: Big Sur and the Monterey coastal region played the setting for the opening sequences of the Cosmos series with Carl Sagan, The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean.

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The cosmos is all the is, or ever was, or ever will be.

About halfway through Los Padres toward Monterey, we found one of the few inlets from the singular Highway 101, Willow Creek Road. This dirt road winds up one of the more forgiving cliffs to many dispersed camping opportunities. Keep in mind that an impending heavy rain would deter wiser folks from climbing such a road in a two wheel drive highway legal car. Luckily we didn’t have to contend with such a scenario. Up we went until we found a nice flat area with a wide enough berth to pull over. To the road’s immediate left is a nice fire pit and flat space awaiting any to set up camp. But we don’t want to camp right next to a road… so, we climb. Not far, just over the ridge where we can overlook the ocean. Now that’s a view.


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Just down the hill a bit in front of Rachel is where we made camp.

Lucky for us there’s a nice flat area virtually hanging off the mountain. All around we found succulents and flowers. Here we’re like kids in a candy store of geology, wildlife and natural wonders. We set up camp and watch the sun set in the west over the iridescent horizon.


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A nice topper to a wonderful day

The next morning the clouds had rolled in… We’d prefer not to slip and slide on the dirt roads, please. With these serious cliffs pushed up against the shore where winds come from thousands of miles, the weather is ever changing. Weather systems continuously smash into the rocks, circulating again and again.


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Stark difference in colors from evening to morning.



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 Clouds threatening...?


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Dad once told me a story of waking up to thousands of slugs on his tent... How about this guy? I'm okay with this.

Throughout our days here we found access points down to the shore, and spent a good bit of time hanging out on the pebbly beaches, watching the gulls and water. The access point shown below meets with a spindly tributary stream colliding fresh and salt water in the same viscinity. Yes, I tasted the water up stream, and half way between just to experience the continuous shift in salinity. 


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A seaweed salad breakfast seems appropriate


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Big pebbles.


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Oh my, some tiny pebbles you might call sand. They have that, too.


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Let's try a sea carrot.

 

We also took the over 70 mile trip to Monterey just to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the most noteworthy aquaria in the country. We stayed three nights in Big Sur, one in our most beautiful, favorite spot ever up Willow Creek, and another two off of a different inlet within the mountainside near a military outpost. We decided to move so we could be closer to Monterey to continue our journey north to San Francisco, though it really wasn’t too much closer… The problem is that the closer you get to Monterey, the more paid campgrounds, inns, and overpriced tourist nonsense you’ll encounter. These are the sacrifices we make for such beauty. The reality is, I wouldn’t ever want to pay for those accommodations, as you never get close to the awe of climbing up somewhere off the beaten path. It almost feels like you’re the only one who knows about it, when these days that’s hardly ever the case.

Our final day in the lush and beautiful Big Sur, we took a good hike into the mountains, rather than down to the shore. Within, the trail is steep, and never really opens up into a flat area. We wanted to find a nice place to sit and eat, and ended up plopping down right in the thin trail with our feet overhanging a steep hill. As nice a spot as any.


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The backyard of our second home in Big Sur

So forth we move, up to San Francisco to be with our good friends Efrat and Mo.


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