California Day 3 – Big Sur

I awoke during the night once again, and a few times in the early hours of the morning. My plan had been to get up at 05:45 to go out for a run, and I was awake at that time, but somehow I’d managed to set my alarm for 06:45 instead. Despite this, at 06:10 I quickly got ready and went out for my first run in California.

As I was later than intended I decided I wouldn’t do the full 8.5 miles I’d planned and instead decided I’d do about 5 miles. To start with I ran around the blocks until I got to some sand dunes along the coast – this was the start of a trail so I decided to join this. Along the trail it wound up and down along the coast and in some places required a lot of effort. By the time I got to 3 miles I could hear something in the distance, so instead of turning back to make the run 6 miles, I instead accepted I’d be later back at the hotel than intended. I was stopping every now and then to take photographs, but at 3.67 miles I found I’d stumbled across the start line for the Bay of Monterey Half Marathon just in time to see the elites start. If I’d known about it prior to flying out that I may have considered entering it.

After 47 minutes of running I’d done a couple more miles than planned, but was back at the hotel and getting ready for breakfast. It wasn’t amazing, but there was enough there I could eat to make it filling. I had some apple and cinnamon oats, a banana, a bagel, and some fresh orange juice.

By the time we were ready to leave it was already 09:00 so not quite the early start we’d wanted – but we’d failed to plan the day the night before as we’d wanted so had to check on Google in the morning to see what there was to do.

Our first proper stop of the day was at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. This one cost $10 to enter again, but we found that the entrance fee for this also covered entrance into other state parks along Big Sur. The very first part of this trail goes past a number of impressive California redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens) – some of the tallest trees in the world. Although reminiscent of Endor in the Star Wars film, Return of the Jedi, those redwoods were actually located further north in Redwood National Park.

After this the trail was partially closed which required us to continue on the road for a while before rejoining it. This trail continued for quite some time, winding around the valley as it went up and down until it reached a fork in the trail. To start with we took the right-hand route which led down to a waterfall. Whilst photographing this though I managed to knock the lens cap off my big lens and it dropped over the rock and down into the stream below. Not wanting to lose this I climbed over the rock, down a couple of metres to the stream, carefully crossed and moved down it until I reached my lens cap and safely retrieved it.

The climbing back up along the waterfall, stream, and rocks was not so easy but again I managed it without falling into the water. A definite relief!

This seemed to inspire a couple of English tourists we’d met to also go off the path, and closer to the waterfall – so we joined them also. We didn’t stay there long though due to the number of flies so headed back to the fork in the trail, and this time took the other trail to a view of the tree-covered canyon.

On the way back from this one we bumped into the English tourists again who introduced themselves as Aaron and Caitlin, professional photographers – one of which had been paid to fly out to Houston for a day of photographing a wedding and was now spending 7.5 weeks travelling around. They recommended another sight along the route called Ragged Point where apparently they have a large number of Hummingbirds you can get close to – this seemed like a great idea for something to do.

Back at the bottom of the trail we checked out the gift shop, but there wasn’t really anything of interest so we went back to the car and continued on our drive along Big Sur. The next stop was another state park called Julia Pfeiffer Burns where there is a coastal trail that gives a good view of a beach and McWay Falls. The waterfall wasn’t that impressive, most likely due to the extended drought that California has been experiencing, but it was a good view though. Whilst here we could also see what people were saying was a condor flying around overhead – I did think it looked more like a Turkey Vulture though. We then took a coastal route in the opposite direction as well – but this turned out to be a waste of time.

This state park also had redwood trees, but we decided we didn’t have enough time to see them here as well so we continued on our way, with our next stop being at Lucia Lodge for a late lunch. I went for the locally made Lucia burger – which was a beef burger with cheese, lettuce and tomato on a seasoned bun – this also came with fries.

It was a great view at the lodge as we could see the waves crashing along Big Sur as we ate. The downside though was the number of flies, and by 14:00 it was starting to cool off. We did however see a hummingbird up close that was feeding on some flowers there.

The next stop was at Lime Kiln Trails, but this one was apparently not included in our parks pass so cost us an additional $10 for entry. This one was intended to be a short stop as we were getting closer to sunset and didn’t have much time left to see the hummingbirds. The trail leads through a camping ground and eventually to a bridge across the stream. The bridge however has been damaged by a tree falling through it so instead you have to climb down to the stream and cross there instead. The trail then wound through a valley and eventually reached a place where we could either continue on to the lime kilns, or fork off to a waterfall.

To start with we headed to the waterfall – this involved crossing the stream many times as the path switched sides. Eventually we got to the waterfall and found that once again the droughts had reduced the waterfall to a very meagre effort. I decided to climb up to waterfall to get a closer look, though even then it didn’t really improve the photo opportunities.

After a few photographs we headed back to the fork in the trail and decided to risk spending the extra time to take that trail to see the lime kilns. My friend wasn’t sure about taking this diversion, but I insisted that if it took any more than 5 minutes we’d turn back. As we passed some American hikers we asked how long it was to the kilns, and when they said 10 minutes I suggested that at our usual pace it would only take us five.

It only took us around 4 minutes to get there from that point, even if at one point we did have to crouch under a fallen tree to get passed. There are 4 lime kilns there – all of which are damaged to some degree revealing the inner workings.

The area is partially roped off saying it’s dangerous to go up to them, yet it’s actually possible to walk around them anyway. These kilns were built in the 1890s to convert limestone into lime and was then transported from there in carts along the local road to the Everett area. None of the structures that were used for loading the carts still exist, but you can still see the various ports for stoking the fires that were used up until the 1930s.

We took the trail back to the car as quickly as we could to try and save some time. Once back at the car we then headed onwards to Ragged Point as it was starting to get dull – partly due to the cloud cover. Unfortunately we didn’t see any hummingbirds when we got there, though I get the feeling they’re probably only about until around midday at the latest anyway.

From Ragged Point I took over the driving and found it really strange. This was my first time driving on the left-hand side of the car (and on the right-hand side of the road), and my first time driving an automatic. Awkwardly I found the brakes were far more sensitive than I was used to with my MX-5, so it took a while before I was actually used to them.

As we reached a viewpoint for Elephant Seals the sun had about set, be we pulled in there anyway to find out if we could see any. When we went to Antarctica we’d seen only juveniles and females, we hadn’t seen any of the really large males with the proboscis they’re famous for. Sadly there weren’t any of the large males on the beach, even though there was a small chance that they may have arrived by now, but we did however see some larger juvenile males fighting.

As I carried on driving from this viewpoint it grew dark and eventually I was driving on a winding pitch black highway along the coastline. For my first time driving like this it was a little stressful, but I got us there without mishap. After over an hour it was a relief to finally reach San Luis Obispo and roads with street lights, although it had started to rain.

This motel looked a little better than the Magic carpet from the outside, and sure enough once inside it looked better too. With the car was unloaded once more I then drove us to a nearby place called Firestone Grill. This was a barbecue place that did a good variety of dishes – I went for the half chicken which came with barbecue beans and a reasonable amount of garlic bread. It was a very tasty meal, but also incredibly filling. Although it wasn’t quite as good as the one I’d had in Kansas it was still one of the tastiest meals I had in California so far.

On the way back to the motel we filled up the car with some petrol – we still had half a tank, but we wanted to save some time when we reached Santa Monica as we’d have a busy couple of days coming up. This however did turn out to be a little more difficult than you’d think as you have to pay by card, but when putting the card in the machine it asks you for a ZIP code. As we don’t have one we used the one for the motel, which presumably was the same as the gas station. This resulted in having to go into the station and handover a credit card before being allowed to fill up and then retrieve the card and the receipt. So very different to in the UK!

With the tank filled, another day was over.

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