To create anew, restore, refresh.
As 2015 began, we knew that we not only needed adventure and recreation for the fun, but to also continually “re-create” ourselves, to search for new experiences, and to learn more about each other and the world around us. Re-Creation. To restore and refresh. The best way for two van-dwellers to re-create? It was time to hit the road again.
Brittany had never been to Big Sur, but she’d been dreaming of this magical place ever since reading Jack Kerouac’s book, Big Sur. Our only plan was to head north on Friday after work and find a place to sleep. The winter darkness set in before we were out of Santa Barbara County, meaning that Brittany would only see what our headlights illuminated through the night drive, waking up the next morning in her long awaited paradise.
By 9:00 PM we had arrived in Plaskett Creek Campground. Just a as a dog trots in circles, stomping out a place to bed down for the night, we drove around the entire place 3 times until we found our ideal home for the weekend. I parked the Element under a spreading canopy of Monterey pines and we unfolded the bed to hit the sack early and rest up for a weekend full of adventures.
Saturday morning I opened the Element’s doors to the cool crisp ocean air. Brittany, layered in sweatshirts, crawled out of the car and stretched her legs. An audible gasp escaped when the ocean came into view. From our campsite, aka our “temporary home”, we could hear the powerful waves crashing and see the Pacific Ocean and mountains of Big Sur winding up the coast to the north. With the giddiness of a kid rushing for Saturday morning cartoons, Brittany paced anxiously as I made tea and breakfast. And then, we were off.
We spent a few hours Saturday morning sitting at Sand Dollar Beach, skipping rocks and reading books. We watched as surfers dropped into overhead waves, catching some epic rides. When sitting in one place got boring we walked back to the campsite, ate lunch, and hit the road. It was time to show Brittany what she had missed while I drove through the dark the previous night; the Pacific Coast Highway.
We followed the PCH north toward Bixby Bridge. The 45 mile drive took well over an hour as the highway wound around mountain contours and towered high above jagged cliffs that dropped straight into the Pacific Ocean. Every turn opened a new possibility of adventure. The bridge finally came into view followed by another gasp from Brittany. We pulled over and inspected every element of the area, following trails and taking pictures. After getting our fill we turned back south to explore places we’d noted through the Element’s windows.
Brittany insisted we pull over at the Big Sur information desk and we learned of a grove of Redwoods just 2 miles away. We hiked into Pfeiffer State Park and took the trail to Pfeiffer Falls. Brittany, ever the tree hugger, stopped to hug a massive Redwood tree next to the trail. Curious, I asked what she could feel. “I can feel the energy pulsating through the tree, this is incredible!” she exclaimed in pure joy. “Hmmm, I wonder if it has anything to do with the power line that is connected to that tree!” I joked, looking up to show her that over the years the tree had grown into the path of the power line, and was now starting to grow around the line itself. “Shut up, whatever” she scoffed as she went to hug another tree that wasn’t connected to the electrical grid.
After our hike we moved further south and Brittany craved a chocolate chip cookie. We stopped at the famous Big Sur Bakery and waited in line for 15 minutes. We were next in line, admiring the last chocolate chip cookie in the case when the woman in front of us bought it. It even had macadamia nuts! We settled for an oatmeal cookie…the best dang oatmeal cookie we’ve ever had. Period.
Returning to camp we made dinner and headed down to the beach to watch the sunset and toast with a cup of wine. The evening was calm and the ocean waves crashed on the beach as the last hints of fire red sunset turned to black with the night. Day one was complete.
The next day we had expected rain, but we woke to perfectly clear skies. We spent a few more hours reading and doing yoga on the beach. We had lunch in the campsite and donned our running shoes to explore the cliffs along the coast. We followed trails to a lookout point and found sand dunes on cliffs high above the powerful waves. Another trail led us to a smaller point where a local hiker showed us a small path that lead down to the rocky beach below. We meandered among the crashing waves and felt the raw power of the ocean before heading back to the campsite for dinner. It had been a busy weekend and we both decided that a hamburger sounded more appetizing than the camp food in our cooler. We set off south and found the Whale Watchers Café. We grabbed two seats at the window facing the ocean. The restaurant lived up to its name and we enjoyed amazing hamburgers as we watched the spouts of whales swimming off the coastline.
As darkness fell on our last night in Big Sur we retreated to our nearly empty campground. Most everyone had gone home, Monday being a work day in the real world. We spent one more night listening to the ocean waves and at 4:00 AM we woke up to drive back to Santa Barbara. We made one last stop to see the elephant seal rookery at San Simeon. It was still dark, but our headlamps illuminated the huge mammals sleeping on the shoreline. I’m sure they weren’t at all pleased by our Petzel headlamps waking them up, but I wanted Brittany to see the rookery and I had to get back to work, no time to wait for sunrise.
A few short hours later we were back in Santa Barbara. I parked the house on the street and walked to the office, a little tired from the early morning commute from Big Sur, but feeling re energized and “re-created” from a weekend in nature, exploring one of the best places in California. We left so much of Big Sur untouched, and as we sit here in Santa Barbara we can still hear it calling. We’ll head back up the PCH soon to explore more of one of California’s most magical places, Big Sur.