Category Archives: Big Sur

17-Mile Drive Around Pebble Beach

IMG_8973Before Katie and I headed home from Big Sur we drove farther north past Carmel to Pebble Beach to check out gorgeous the 17-mile drive. It costs $10 do drive the secluded coast of Pebble Beach, but I thought it was well worth it. It was an extremely relaxing drive and very quiet due to their no motorcycle policy and calm roads. The ocean views were amazing with a tremendous amount of variety and a ton to see.

We started out inland where we made our way through thick trees all around us down the road. We passed under and over bridges and twisted our way to the first overlooks. We reached points one and two, Shepherds Knoll and Huckleberry Hill, where we could just barely make out the ocean due to the clouds that morning. I can only imagine what the ocean would look like on a clear day, beautiful.

Then stopped at the Poppy Hills NCGA Golf Course and made our way to the Spanish Bay. Don Gaspar de Portela, the Spanish explorer, and his crew camped there in 1769 while searching for Monterey Bay. We stood at the boardwalk and watched the surfers catch a few waves. With multiple spots to catch the waves, there were waves  of all sizes that day ranging from shoulder high to overhead. A short rain shower started and we headed back to the car to grab a snack as we watched a little longer.

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Once at Spanish Bay the rest of the drive was right along the shoreline and coast. We stopped at almost every point along the way including the Restless Sea, Point Joe, China Rock, Bird Rock, Seal Rock, Fanshell Overlook, and Cypress Point Lookout. At each spot we learned something interesting. Point Joe was where mariners often crashed upon the rocks after mistakenly setting their course for this point believing that it was the entrance to Monterey Bay. Bird Rock was where we saw hundreds of birds with a long row of binoculars set up to give visitors a better view and a list of animals that can be seen through Pebble Beach. Fanshell Overlook was gorgeous. As we pulled up we saw otters playing in the water as the waves wash over them. I excitedly jumped out to check it out trying to get a picture before they vanished into the vast ocean.

We continued and came across The Crocker Grove, Lone Cypress Tree, The Ghost Trees, and Pescadero Point. Crocker Grove was vastly different than everything else we saw on the drive. The trees stood tall and on the way there we saw a huge buck standing nearby. The Lone Cypress Tree was one of my favorite points to see. It is one of California’s most everlasting landmarks. It has existed on its rocky perch for over 250 years and no one knows how it has thrived there for so long. It has inspired many and is revered as a symbol of Pebble Beach Company.

The drive concluded at the Lodge of Pebble Beach. Inside the courtyard were stores for shopping and dinning. We walked through the lodge and came to the 18th hole of the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Links which overlooks the Stillwater Cove. The golf course was so green and lush. The cove was just amazing to see. The water in the cove was completely calm while  just a few miles before the waves crashed roughly onto the shore.

The 17-mile drive through Pebble Beach was absolutely inspiring. From Stillwater Cove to Spanish Bay the coastal views were breathtaking and unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else. With the green golf courses, tall cypress trees, and crystal blue waters it’s a great activity for people of all ages. Everyone would enjoy this drive.

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McWay Waterfall Trail at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

IMG_8973Katie and I were hiking on our camping trip in Big Sur. We had just finished exploring all that the Ewoldsen Trail had to offer and had made it back to the parking lot with a few minutes left until sunset. I really wanted to show Katie the McWay Waterfall so we headed towards the ocean.

We easily found the beginning of the McWay Waterfall Trail just past the ranger’s station at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. We walked down the short trail dirt path and through the tunnel that goes under route 1 stopping at a T right before a cliff. We turned right and started up toward the overlook.

As soon as we could see the waterfall we stopped. We never made it to the end of the trail as the sun had begun to set and there was a crowd of people standing at the overlook. We took in the sunset, the small cove, and the 80 ft waterfall that fell onto the sandy beach below from where we stood. It was a gorgeous site to see. Possibly one of the best sunsets ever as the sun streaked stunning pinks, oranges and reds across the sky.

The McWay Waterfall Trail is a short .5 mile trek. The trail is great for all ages and every ability level. With a small incline, the cool ocean breeze keeps the walk comfortable even on hot days and there’s a bench at the end if you need a rest before you make your short walk back to the car. Parking is free if you can find a spot on route 1, otherwise park in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park for $10.  The waterfall itself is one of the most popular images people see when they think of Big Sur. Almost everyone that has travelled up route 1 has stopped to see it as it’s a must visit place if you are ever in Big Sur. It’s right up there with the Bixby Creek Bridge.

Ewoldsen Trail at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

IMG_8973While camping up in Big Sur I wanted to make sure Katie and I tried a hike since there are so many in that area. I googled some and found the perfect one only 12 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park called Ewoldsen Trail at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It has the best of everything that Big Sur has to offer from spectacular ocean views to redwood groves and forests. I was super excited to give it a try.

We headed down to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and pulled into the lot. The sign read parking $10, but since we were camping at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park our parking was free with our fee at the campsite. The lot was packed so we parked along the road on the way back out as someone left. I believe there is also free parking on the main road before you turn into the state park too.

After we parked we filled our camel packs and headed to the restroom and then to the head of the trail. Ewoldsen Trail is clearly marked to the left side of the entrance after you reach the small ranger house. It is a 4.5 mile loop hike with a 1,600ft elevation gain. It’s about 1 mile out to the 2 mile loop where you follow the same mile back to the start. And since you’re doing the 2 mile loop make sure you don’t miss the small jaunt uphill to the look out and the end of the trail.

Katie and I set out on the trail without much guidance and immediately were in the middle of huge redwood trees. We crossed the McWay Creek a few times back and forth over rocks and small wooden planks. In our back and forth we accidentally missed the sign for the first turn off to the Ewoldsen Trail and followed the creek until it dead ended at a 30 ft high gentle waterfall full of moss and green lush plant life called Canyon Falls.

We took a few pictures while getting attacked by small flies. Then, knowing time was of the essence due to the time change we quickly backtracked to the sign we had missed. If you’re going to hike the trail and want to skip the waterfall keep to the right of the creek.

We stood at the trail sign for a moment deciding if we had time. What the heck, we’ll give it a shot. If it starts to get dark before we hit the lookout we will just turn around and come back. Besides, there were still people on the trail heading out with us and it was only about 3pm.

We followed the trail to the right and up on some switchbacks. We zigzagged up and up and waited for the trail to level off which it rarely did. There were steeper and less steep sections, but it was almost always up. It felt as if the trail would never stop going up. We passed through groves of redwood trees and others labeled along the trail, each a little different than the last. We passed huge redwood trees standing on the trail hallowed out from who knows and even more lying on the ground cut down with the cuts completely smoothed by the weather.

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We came to a large bridge and finally decided it was time to ask someone how much father the 2 mile loop was down the trail. It seemed like we had been walking forever and being in the canyon the sun was shaded by the trees, shrubs, and mountain around us. We asked a couple and the guy told us the loop was another 5 minutes down the trail, that the loop should take us about an hour, and that we should be sure to take the turn off to the lookout when we reach it. It’s worth it was his reasoning.

We continued for another 15 minutes and finally reached the beginning of the loop. We spoke with a lady and man and she told us the loop was 2 miles long, which we already knew, but seeing her do it made us feel as though it would easily be accomplished. Then we realized that she didn’t finish the trail as she said the trial is easier to the right and she came from that way. She must have walked out as far as she could and then turned around. Still determined we could do it, we started up the trail to the right.

The trail continued with more elevation, but not as much as the beginning. It continued to zigzag back and forth and around curves. We placed our feet carefully as the trail was riddled with roots peeking out that we occasionally stumbled over our ankles giving out a few times when we landed on one smaller than expected. With a mountain ridge to one side and a long steep decline into scrubs and brush below falling was not something we wanted anything to do with. The trail steepened and I knew the turn off must be getting close.

Another couple passed us and shortly afterward we came to the turn off to the lookout. The trail steepened again and we headed up without giving much thought to how we would have to come back down that same section of the trail. We reached a map with the intersecting trails on it and headed left to a beautiful overlook. Further down we finally reached a bench and a sign that read “End of Trail”. We stopped here for a short rest taking in the view and eating some power bars to energize us for the 2nd half of the loop we would need to take back. We could see the yellow grass to the end of the cliff, the rocks and crystal blue water below, and then the ocean and clouds above the horizon for as far as we could see. It was incredible.

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The views didn’t stop at the lookout. As we continued the loop there were several clearings that gave us great views of the ocean. One where we were right on the edge of the cliff and another that you could see between the canyon ridges. We turned a corner and suddenly were back in the canyon trekking down between redwoods again. The way down went a lot faster than up even though the trail was trickier in some sections. Our pace just seemed to increase with each step we took and before we knew it we were back where the loop began.

We headed back out on the same 1 mile section we came in on and as we reached the original first turn onto the trail we realized where we should have crossed the small wooden plank the first time and skipped climbing the rocks across. We exited the trail with about 20 minutes to spare before sunset. Just in time.

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Katie and I both really enjoyed this hike. Katie even said it was one of the best hikes she’s been on with me yet. I’m not sure this one is great for people of all ages as along the trail we saw one elderly lady that turned back and another elderly man that had fallen and gotten hurt. I would say this trail is great for those that are somewhat in shape. Older children could probably do it pretty easily, though there are some tricky sections that they might need help with. All in all, this hike’s views are definitely worth the effort.

Camping at Big Sur State Park

IMG_8973Last weekend Katie and I headed to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park for a weekend of camping. We had heard early in the week there was a chance of rain on Monday, the  final day we planned to be there. As the weekend drew near and it got closer for us to pack up and leave the report had showed more and more possibilities of it being a sun filled weekend. We were excited and ready to explore Big Sur as much as we could in the short time we would be there.

We headed up to Big Sur late Saturday afternoon with our camping gear knowing there was still a chance of rain but hoping the weather would hold out for us. We drove down the 101, the sunsetting just as we reached Avila Beach. Then we crossed over to route 1 which we winded our way up the coast. It had gotten dark and with a cliff and ocean to one side and a mountain to the other we slowly drove until we finally reached where the GPS said the campground would be. Not seeing it, but knowing it was nearby we continued on stopping at the Big Sur Station to call Katie’s parents and ask if they knew where it was. Another 1/2 mile down the road we pulled into the campground glad we found it and feeling that it was still early enough in the night to get everything ready and have a massive campfire.

We drove slowly through the now pitch black campground with only our truck headlights leading the way. We headed over the bridge and then down a one way street stopping at each sign we saw, inching our way closer to our site #180.  We finally got there and Katie backed the truck into its spot. We scanned the site for a perfect tent location and moved the small rocks away. We set down our tarp and I put up our tent while Katie pulled out our gear and firewood.

Then, while Katie set up the air mattress I started the fire. With in a few minutes it was lit and I was just coaxing it to catch onto the bigger, denser, and still somewhat wet wood. Once it was a decent size we ate our sausages and then made banana boats before calling it a night to sleep on our what we realized now was a partially deflated air mattress. Somewhere along the way our mattress got a hole in it. First thing on our last for the next day, get a new one.

We woke up the next morning on the hard Big Sur dirt floor. I got up and started a fire without using any matches, just the hot smoldering dense log we had left to die the night before and what I now realize are the best things ever, a few pieces of Starbuck’s coffee cup holders. My fire lit faster than it had the previous night and we heated up our breakfast burritos while we ate oat bars and apples.

We let the fire die down and got ready for the day. We headed to REI and the Target about an hour away and then went for a hike at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. We came back to the campsite after dark again, this time due to the time change. I started our fire back up again without using any matches, it was still warm from earlier that morning a few hour ago.

We cooked our sausages and then had s’mores that night. Afterward we sat by the campfire talking for a while until we felt like having a second round of sausages and s’mores. We continued talking as we looked at the stars above us. It was crazy how bright the stars are when there is no other light washing them away. We sat watching the fire burn late into the night until we finally decided it was time for bed.

Early in the morning I awoke to rain drops on the tent. Too early for me to want to get up I reached outside to make sure our shoes were under the flap and tried to fall back asleep. A few minutes later I was awoken by an even more intense rain and I knew that it would be too difficult for me to sleep in any longer. I laid there wondering if the tent really was waterproof, so far so good, but it had just started to get heavy. When I couldn’t stand laying there doing nothing any longer I made my way out to the car to get my rain gear and then headed to the bathroom. I got back to the tent and tried to sleep some more. It was too noisy for me though and that’s when I realized that I forgot to bring my book into the tent from the car.

I laid there looking up and noticed a bug that looked like some kind of beetle. Compelled to move it off our tent I flicked at it and it grew to double it’s size with 8 creepy legs catching back onto the tent as it fell. From that moment on I was the defender of the front of the tent. I told the spider it could coexist with us as long as it stayed on the back half of the tent and didn’t attempt to block my exit. I thought we had an agreement until I made it’s move toward the front. I flicked at it and it scurried back. I laid there watching it’s every move. Allowing it to climb all over the back of the tent but not allowing it to adventure onto the front. Katie got up to use the restroom and eventually I could take it no longer. I told the spider that it was time to go and gave it one flick sending it to the floor below.  It tried to scurry it’s way back up the tent once more but by now I had made up my mind. It had broken the rules and it was time for it to go. One last flick and it was gone.

We climbed out of the tent and started to pack up our things. Even though it was raining we wanted to heat up our breakfast burritos so I tried to make a fire. It took us about an hour or so to get it started, but eventually with a little help from some dry cardboard, lighter fluid, wet wood, matches, an umbrella, and some charcoal the neighbors left the other day we did it. It lasted just long enough to heat our food up and then we let it die as the rain fell upon it. Any wood we had left was too wet to continue it, so wet that the few pieces we put on it hardly were able to dry enough to burn with any vibrance.

We packed up our gear within an hour, finishing at 12:05pm just after our set check-out time and just as the rain stopped. We ran to the bathroom, threw out our trash and stopped at the Big Sur Lodge to get myself a magnet and some postcards before heading north toward Carmel to start our day.

Camping at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park was so much fun and definitely somewhere everyone should camp at least once. Next time I go I hope to be able to check out some of their trails, many of which were closed while we were there. Maybe we can even try some fishing.