Friday, May 23, 2008

Big Sur

After the Hearst Castle tour, we bustled up the coast to the Plaskett Creek Campground in southern Big Sur. Big Sur has a number of campgrounds, but most of them are reservable. Given the proximity to San Francisco, all of the reservable campgrounds were full long before we started planning where we’d be for the weekend.

Much to our chagrin, when we arrived at Plaskett Creek, all of the sites were either reserved or already claimed for the weekend. There were only a couple of sites that were available, but only for Friday night – they were reserved for Saturday. After some scrambling around, we decided to stay in one of those sites and found a nice guy who was leaving on Saturday morning and bequeathed us his site for the next day. Now that summer is approaching, finding campsites on the weekends is becoming a pain. It takes much more planning than we’ve been doing.

Big Sur is stunning – there are gorgeous vistas and plummeting bluffs at every turn. We spent the afternoon seeing a few of these sights near our campground.

Here’s Jade Cove (where jade refers not just to the water color but the fact that people have apparently actually found jade there):

Next we stopped at the Willow Creek area, which was also really popular among surfers:

We had lots of fun just sitting and watching the waves crash.

Then we went to Sand Dollar Beach, right across from our campground. There wasn’t much of a beach because it was nearing high tide. Nonetheless, we cooked dinner and enjoyed the scenery…

And the sunset…

Saturday, we drove up the coast to the main section of Big Sur for some scenic driving and sightseeing. Our first stop was Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, where we took a short hike to a waterfall and an overview of the state park.

Though the park wasn’t that far inland, it was surprisingly hot. The temperature variation between the coast and inland can be 20 degrees or more. Since it was hot, we headed back to the coast to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

Our first stop at that state park was an unmarked trail to Partington Cove.

The hike down was well worth the effort. One spur at the bottom went across a bridge and through an old tunnel that looked like a mining shaft, leading to a cove.

Another spur took us to a secluded beach in a second cove.

A third spur took us to a forested stream.

Back on the road, we stopped at a number of scenic viewpoints.

Then it was on to McWay Falls, which is also in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It’s the only waterfall in California that flows directly into the ocean. As expected, it was quite photogenic.

And here’s the quintessential California scene – palm trees, waterfalls, ocean bluffs…

The next morning, we got up to drive to Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey. On the way, we made a couple more stops at sites that we’d missed the day before. In a guidebook, Brian found a description of a beach down an unmarked road near a ranger station. Talk about cryptic. We managed to find the road, which was marked only with a sign saying it was a one-lane road not suitable for trailers – no sign directing us to the beach. A ways down the road, there was finally a sign for Pfeiffer Beach.

It was early and there were only a few other people on the beach. It was quite peaceful.

There was an interesting rock formation with waves crashing through it.

We wandered along the beach for awhile.

On the way back, we checked out some of the holes in the rock a bit more carefully.

Our next stop was to photograph the Bixby Bridge, which is the world’s highest single-span bridge, at 714 feet long and 260 feet high.

Another viewpoint showed a bit of the fog Big Sur is famous for.

Our final stop along Big Sur was to see the Little Sur River.

After Big Sur, we had breakfast and wandered around Carmel-by-the-Sea. Carmel is a very chic planned seaside community. It is near the famous Pebble Beach golf course (one of the half dozen or so golf courses on Monterey Peninsula).

Next, it was on to the Monterey Aquarium. We aren’t really aquarium people, but all the guidebooks laud this aquarium as one of the best in the country. It sits right on the bay, so you can view wildlife, as well as the creatures in the aquarium. Here’s a harbor seal trying to avoid an incoming wave.

There was lots to explore in the aquarium. Some of our favorites were the onespotted fringehead fish:

The playful sea otters:

And the jellyfish:

After dragging ourselves away from the aquarium, we drove north to San Francisco where we spent the evening with some of Brian’s college friends.

1 comment:

Chris Couse said...

Thanks for sharing your Big Sur adventure. I am planning to visit the Monterey area and ran across your blog. Great info !