I was tired of the glare from Josh’s increasingly pasty skin burning my eyes. Before moving, he was working in a warehouse and I believe the repercussions from that work combined with some winter gloom left him paler with each passing day.
After we settled into Oregon, I decreed that we must head south to get some sun on the beach. We had a week before our new jobs started and I hadn’t been to a beach in years.
We decided to visit Big Sur based on a friend’s recommendation and having seen some cool videos of the area on Facebook before. I usually like to plan where I’ll be sleeping every night, how to navigate the campgrounds, etc. But my research prior to the trip revealed little, other than the fact that accommodations in Big Sur are expensive and that the California State Parks website is horrendous to navigate (as most government websites are!)
On the way to Big Sur we stopped to spend the night with my friend, Amanda, in Reno. The drive from Oregon to Reno through California was beautiful. Out of nowhere, a massive lake appeared tucked between mountains, glowing pink and purple in the setting sun.
We also drove through several small ranching towns in California, to whom Josh bellowed out the window, “WHAT ARE Y’ALLS PROPERTY TAXES OUT HERE!!” The cows remained indifferent.
The next day, we stopped by San Francisco to see Vince and the Hunky Jesus Contest for Easter. After that, we still had no plan as we continued on to Big Sur.
After passing Monterey, CA we got onto the famous Highway 1. I was starting to get tired and a little nervous driving on the curvy cliffs of Hwy 1 with my stick shift truck at night. I asked Josh to talk to me to help me focus, so he asked, “Which kind of bear would you prefer to be eaten by?” I replied, “I can’t talk about this because I’m already nervous driving. Under normal circumstances, I love discussing bear attacks.”
As we passed through the cabin homes tucked into the hillsides of Hwy 1, I yelled out the window, “WHAT ARE Y’ALLS PROPERTY TAXES OUT HERE!!” The twinkling porch lights blinked back in silence.
There were cars and RVs parked at almost every pull-off spot along the highway, so we decided it was fine to sleep on the highway too. We got to Big Sur and slept in an overflow parking lot next to a motel and some redwoods near a creek.
This was my first time sleeping in the cab of the truck. The 50 degree nighttime temperature and sleeping bag made for a cozy night.
The next morning we continued south down Hwy 1 in search of a beach. We stopped at the Pfeiffer State Park and finally got a map and decided to head to Sand Dollar Beach. On the way we stopped at some vista points and followed a trail down to a cove-like area. We enjoyed the booming of the waves onto the rocks and observed an urchin living in a pool of water on a rock.
Next to the entrance to Sand Dollar was a $10 Forest Service lot, but you could also park on the highway for free. Sand Dollar Beach was fairly small, but we still enjoyed the sun, some reading, yoga, and napping on the beach. We braced the freezing water for a couple minutes too.
We cooked some dinner on the Coleman stove and then went in search of the mystical Forest Service roads for free dispersed camping.
Los Padres is the national forest that surrounds Big Sur and Hwy 1. The Forest Service doesn’t exactly want to advertise the fact that you can camp off of their roads for free (it’s public land, your taxes pay for it), so I usually find that their roads are poorly marked or hard to find. We pulled onto a road that said, “Tree Bone Resort” and past this sign was a Forest Service road sign. The Los Burros road meets up with Nacimiento, at a junction that has offers camping on top of a bluff.
Los Burros was rough and had sharp curves, so we took the first spot that we found. We set up camp and hiked down the road a ways towards the valley to check out some more plants. We watched the sun set over the ocean.
The last day we visited the beach in Andrew Molera State Park. There was a lovely short hike to it that began by crossing a frigid creek. The trail was surrounded by lavish wildflowers.
We hung out on the beach for a few hours and then hiked up the bluff to explore a trail. The bluff trail was also abundant with beautiful flowers. We cursed ourselves every few hundred yards for not bringing our phones for plant photos.
The trail eventually merged with Spring Trail, which we followed back down to the beach. The bottom of Spring Trail was a graveyard of rounded, gray driftwood, bordered by lush vegetation.
Big Sur was one of those places that I had to just show up to and THEN hash out the details. Gas was expensive en route, but the free camping along Highway 1 and in Forest Service land was a bonus. The hunt for Big Sur sun was a success.