Big Sur
November 11-13, 2005
The views are endless along the Big Sur Coast
2003 trip to Big Sur
2004 trip to Big Sur
2008 trip to Big Sur
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The first thing Friday morning Todd had a job interview… and guess what?  He got
the job :)  So needless to say, the weekend started off very well…  After the job
interview and stopping briefly at Todd’s new place of work, we were off on our
weekend road trip to Big Sur.  Since Todd had never been there we did a big loop,
driving in at the northern end and exiting 2 days later at the southern end.  We
headed west on Hwy 198, stopped for lunch in Coalinga, then continued over the
Diablo Range to King City.  Then we headed north on Hwy 101 to Salinas where we
then took Hwy 68 which cuts over to the Monterey Peninsula.  Along the way we made
an unscheduled stop at Itsyville!  There is a wood sculptor who has made fantastic
gnome-sized tree houses and other fantastic carvings here and it is definitely worth
a stop to check out!

There was a little bit of traffic going through Monterey and Carmel but once we
were south of Carmel not many others were on the road.  And here the route starts
to get really beautiful…  We stopped a few times at scenic turnouts including the
one for the Bixby Bridge.  We saw a deer right on the side of the road near Andrew
Molera State Park; it looked like it was waiting for a break in traffic to cross and I
hope it did safely.

By the time we reached our campsite under the oaks and redwoods at Pfeiffer Big
Sur State Park it was getting dark.  We set up our tent and made ravioli for dinner
then settled in for the night.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is a beautiful place.  There is a campground, picnic
grounds, lodge, restaurant, camp store, nature center, miles of hiking trails, and the
Big Sur River runs through it all.  And it’s just a hop skip and a jump to the beach
:)  On Saturday morning we drove over to Pfeiffer Beach which is on Forest Service
Land.  How do I get a job there?? We enjoyed the morning watching the waves crash
on the dramatic rocks off shore, two of which have arches through them.  I made a
couple of sand castles and in the process found an interesting little colorless animal
that looked like a baby lobster.  Then we drove down the coast and stopped briefly
at the Henry Miller Memorial Library which had an interesting collection of art and
books dedicated to the late author.  Then we made our way down to Julia Pfeiffer
Burns State Park and did the short hike to McWay Falls which is a beautiful 80 foot
fall that falls off of a granite outcrop into a serene turquoise blue ocean cove.

We headed back to our campsite and had soup and grilled cheese sandwiches and sat
around a nice little fire.  The night was peaceful and perfect.

On  Sunday morning we headed over to the nature center which is manned by a salty
old fellow who’s been working there for many a year.  Then we headed out on the
trail to Pfeiffer Falls.  The main trail is closed due to a downed redwood so we took
the alternate Valley View Trail.  This is a little more strenuous of a trail but it’s
not too far to the falls.  And what a pretty waterfall!  Just imagine two delicate
ribbons of water plunging 60’ off a cliff of dark stone into a pool laced with
golden maple leaves and shaded by tall redwoods…

We had a picnic lunch next to the Big Sur River after our hike then we headed south
on Hwy 1.  This is the prettiest stretch of coastline I’ve ever seen…  and I
think I’ve seen some pretty amazing stretches including those in northern
California, Oregon, Alaska, and Maine.  The highway undulates in and out of valleys and
on one side it is a dizzingly steep drop off hundreds or thousands of feet down to the
turquoise blue Pacific Ocean.  The bridges along this highway are amazing feats of
construction and there are some great State Park and Forest Service campgrounds
along this stretch of road.

In one pullout we decided to stop at we heard sea lions barking from far below and a
few people were gathered near the edge of the cliff.  We walked up to them and one
turned out to be a volunteer who was tracking the endangered California Condor.  She
pointed out one juvenile condor that was perched on a outcropping below us and just
then another landed next to it…  Then we saw 2 others perched high above us...  
Then we were stunned as 5 other condors began circling just above us!  At one point
they were flying just a few feet above our heads!  Wow, what an encounter!  
Swarmed by North America’s largest birds!  It was one of the most awesome
wildlife encounters I’ve ever had…  those suckers are huge!  And to think we
saw about 1/12th of the entire world’s population of wild condors in just that one

We made a couple more stops, one at Willow Creek Picnic Ground where we saw
dozens of pelicans floating out in the waves and one at a beach near San Simeon
where there were hundreds of elephant seals lounging around.  Well, the females
were lounging around while the males were making all sorts of grunting like
vocalizations and trying to show each other who was the biggest one with the biggest

Then it was time to leave the coast and cross the coastal ranges and then the wide
Central Valley towards home. The sunset sky was streaked with pink and an almost
full moon guided our way.
Bixby Creek Bridge
Pfeiffer Beach
Pfeiffer Falls
Light filtering into our campsite
Big Sur River
California Condors
Northern Elephant Seals
The fantastic world of Itsyville...
McWay Falls