Sunday, March 7, 2010
Big Sur: Carmel to San Simeon via the Pacific Coast Highway

Sunday in Carmel

Up at 7:30 this morning for an early start. For photography purposes, we wanted to get on the road while the sun was still in the east. Just a quick, decent breakfast at the Village Inn, and we were outta there.

The Sunday strollers were walking their dogs and the would-be surfers were waiting for waves as we left Carmel and headed south on the Pacific Coast Highway to California’s coastal wilderness known as Big Sur.

Bring on the waves!

The Santa Lucia Mountains barely leave room for the Pacific Coast Highway to hug the coast along the edge of the bluffs rising from the sea in the 90-mile drive between Carmel and San Simeon through Big Sur. There are breathtaking views around every turn, and we stopped for as many of them as we could.

Northern Big Sur

As we drove south through Big Sur, to be sure to catch the highlights of the region, we utilized information I’d printed off from an extensive website by John Rabold, a northern California resident and Big Sur enthusiast. John’s website helped us choose a number of notable stops.

Rocky Creek Bridge, 1932

Point Sur Lighthouse

Pfeiffer Falls: An easy 1.4-mile round-trip hike through a redwood forest to a 40-foot falls. Very pleasant. We had to buy a $10 parking pass, good all day at a number of California state parks.

Jana climbs through a redwood

Tom takes a closer look at Pfeiffer Falls

Pfeiffer Beach: This beautiful beach is 2.5 miles off of Highway 1 down narrow Sycamore Road (milepost MON 45.64). The scene reminded us of Land’s End in Cabo San Lucas. Don’t miss it. Here we had a mini-picnic of a few ounces of cheese left over from last night’s snack dinner, the only food we had with us.

The jagged rocks at Pfeiffer Beach

Waves crash through a natural arch

A creek flows into the Pacific, Pfeiffer Beach

Partington Canyon Trail: A steep, short trail through a rock tunnel to an interesting cove. In the 1800s mules pulled timber through the tunnel to the cove for shipment. Later, the cove was a great transit point for bootleg liquor.

Partington Canyon Trail tunnel

Partington Cove

McWay Falls: The water flows 80 feet over a cliff onto a beach in a gorgeous little cove. There is a 1/2-mile trail overlooking the falls. We’d seen pictures a million times, but now we have our own. We arrived mid-afternoon, a great time of day lighting-wise. Bet you can’t take just one photo!

McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Just south of Gorda, traffic came to a standstill for an hour and a half due to clearing work at a rockslide. It was necessary work, but it messed up the end of our day as we ran out of daylight.

Another beautiful Big Sur view

Limekiln Falls: It’s supposed to be spectacular, but Limekiln State Park was closed, so we missed it. I don’t know if it was closed due to the 2008 wildfires and mudslides or due to its close proximity to the aforementioned rockslide work.

Big Creek Bridge

Salmon Creek Falls: You can see this 120-foot falls from the road, but a 1-mile round-trip hike takes you to a much closer and better view. It’s a nice waterfall, but we were low on light at this point and had to make a very quick visit.

Salmon Creek Falls

Black Swift Falls: The last waterfall on our to-see list, it was too late for a hike by the time we got there. There is a steep, difficult trail to the waterfall that we started down, but it was too dangerous in the fading light, so we turned around. Then we found an overlook point, but the waterfall was far away, and it was too dark for a good photo.

Thus ended our tour of Big Sur. We drove in the dark the last 15 miles to San Simeon, where we got a room at the Day’s Inn for only $49 plus tax. Wow, what a great deal! What we didn’t know when we registered was that at least half the rooms were not habitable. What we never found out was why.

What the...

Very hungry by this time, we had dinner at El Chorlito Mexican Restaurant. The tacos and salsa were awesome, but the fajitas were covered in some kind of sweet sauce, and the chile verde was sweet and tangy as well. Disappointing.

Continue to March 8, 2010

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