We are done wandering in eastern and central California. It’s time to go to the coast. It’s time to head to Big Sur and Highway 1.
In the course of working our way to the coast, however, we run out of time to reach our intended site for the night and stop at a truck stop. This is the only truck stop we have come to that has signs not allowing patrons to spend the night. It is almost surreal. But a smile, a simple purchase, and some small talk smooths over any concerns we have about where we will sleep tonight. Well, at least where we try to sleep. It isn’t the first truck stop we have spent the night. I don’t know if it is even the loudest. But it certainly is noisy enough that, at 4:30 AM, Cowboy and I look at each other and agree: there are better places to be when the sun rises.
Oh were there.
It is still pitch black when we reach the coast and Highway 1. The ocean is a black hole. The horizon is defined by stars above an empty void. We cruise through Monterey and Carmel. We wind into the more secluded climbs of the highway passed twice by other nocturnal wanderers.
Eventually, we settle on a broad pull out. We have clear sights along the coast, both north and south. Moreover, we can see the sky beginning to lighten. We pull out our camping chairs and get ready for the fireworks.
Kirk Creek Campground
After savoring the sunrise and then breakfast, it is time to settle on a camp site for the night. Yeah, this is Big Sur. We would be lucky to get any campsite at the last minute like this. Fortunately, landslides further south and slow construction have lead the State Parks to cease selling campsites in advance. Until access to the campgrounds is more reliable, campsites are released on a first come, first serve basis. Jack pot! We cross our fingers and drive. There is only one campground on our mind.
My first big road trip with Cowboy was up the California Coast along Highway 1. I remember when he pointed down to a small campground, perched above the ocean on a cliff and said, one day, we will camp there. But we will have to plan that trip way in advance because it was always the first campground to fill up.
Today is that day.
We pull into Kirk Creek Campground and chat up the hosts. They admired our vintage camper and tell us that we are in luck. There is a space but are we sure we want it? A better place may open up… No, we want it now. With campsite confirmed. It is time to explore.
New Camaldoli Hermitage
Possibly the best real estate in Big Sur belongs to the monks of the New Camaldoli Hermitage. This monastery is open to hikers and even has some rental cottages available. We drive up the steep winding road to catch a glimpse of the view and see if we can buy a loaf of their date bread. While we had to compromise on fruit cake, there was no compromising on the view.
Crossing the Bixby Bridge
I’ve become rather obsessed with photographing the Avion. So, crossing the Bixby Bridge becomes a bit of an ordeal. I insist on jumping out to photograph Cowboy driving back and forth across the bridge. As tedious as it may have been. I am delighted with the results.
Tidepools & Sea Anenome
It’s time for a hike! Any hike. No, a hike down to the water! I want tidepools.
Tidepools were meant for observation. A quick glance would miss the delicate forms engaged in the exquisite dance forming these microcosms. The only thing that keeps me from spending hours meditating on a single tidepool is the tide itself, gradually progressing up the shore line to conceal these ephemeral pools.
I crouch over the tidepools snapping photos of crabs, muscels, gulls, and sea anemone. In the course of this trip, I’ve learned something new about sea anemone. @two_dogs_and_a_vagabond for Instagram asked if we had licked a sea anemone. As I have never heard of this practice, I am inspired to do a little research.
On Licking A Sea Anemone
Sea anemones are predators who capture their prey with a toxin ejected with a small barb when touched—similar to jellyfish. Human skin is so thick that we con’t even feel this toxin though we can feel a resistance when we move our fingers against an anemone.
Our tongues, however, are much more sensitive to the toxin. In some sources I have read that licking sea anemones can result in sore tongues and hospital visits. As I am not a marine biologist, I’m not going to pretend that I know what the threshold is for these reactions. And, frankly, I find this anemone was too pretty to disturb.
Wine, Campfire Cooking, And A Brilliant Sunset
After a day of wandering, we are ready to relax. We have been saving a bottle of wine for a special occasion. I think this is it. So Cowboy pops the cork as I start roasting potatoes and preparing steak. As we eat, we lean back and savored the sunset. We fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves.