For many years now, we head to mid-coast California on vacation. Monterey, Big Sur, Carmel Village, Salinas valley, Paso Robles – we love this area, but now that Big Sur is basically an island it’s a little harder to get around.
If you haven’t heard, the recent landslides on the coast have taken out big sections of US 1 which is the only main road in and out of Big Sur. There’s a resort there we’ve been to that we love and when I got an email saying they were flying people to and from Monterey airport in a helicopter, we decided to go. When are we ever going to do this again? Fly over Carmel Valley or Big Sur just a few hundred feet off the ground? Never.
And it was worth it. I didn’t get many good shots because the movement of the helicopter was sometimes erratic and the reflections off the curved glass were a challenge. This first shot is taken looking toward the Pacific from Carmel Valley, basically the backside of Big Sur. The low clouds come in almost daily from the action of the warming air and the cool ocean. They played a little havoc with the helicopter, but our pilot was a pro and completely unshaken by the need to dance around a little.
When we landed on the lower lawn of the property we were greeted as warmly and attentively as usual and we had some snacks and champagne while we waited for our room to be ready. Here is the view from the room’s patio the next morning while I was enjoying my coffee.
Yeah, it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. lol.
The resort was functioning, but in a little more relaxed style than usual. A rough road through the valley and hills was opened through the back of Big Sur on a military base near the 101. It’s VERY slow and dangerous going, but it is literally the only way to get supplies and people into the property and Big Sur as a whole. There is staff housing on property, but the people still had to hike 2 miles to a parking lot where they could get a ride out this road and to their homes and families. One night we noticed the sommelier was a bit roughly shod. He explained that he hiked in that day, but forgot his dress shoes so was wearing hiking boots in the restaurant. No one minded, everyone understood and we proceeded to help drink down the cellar. How can you get wine in with conditions like this? Crazy. But it seems to be working and we spent a couple of lovely days on the island of Big Sur.
For a bit we hung out by one of the pools and this was our only company –
Before we knew it, we were whisking off to Monterey airport again. Different helicopter and different pilot and wow, a different view!
That is the Point Sur lighthouse sticking out there and on the right is US 1 where it is still open and functioning. We’ve driven by this little point a bunch of times, but never dreamed we’d see it like this! Sometimes there are cows grazing in the fields between the rocky outcrop and the highway. It’s so beautiful. If they ever get US 1 open again, drive it while you can. You won’t be disappointed.
One of the big challenges is going to be to replace a bridge that got wiped out near the southern reach of Big Sur. There are many small creeks and rivers that wind through the hills and down to the ocean. Even though they are tiny, the hills and valleys are enormous and require substantial constructions to span them, like the Bixby Creek bridge here –
We’d never even thought of the chance to see it like this and so it was amazing. Those little specks are cars and trucks. The beach is nearly inaccessible, but I think there is a steep path leading to it. So amazing.
Didja miss me?
Yes it’s true.
I’m a bad blogger.
Autumn is almost over (well photographically speaking) and I haven’t posted ONE shot yet. Haven’t even posted anything from my California trip either. Considering I was inspirationally and creatively pooped out was part of the problem. Several times I didn’t even bother taking the camera out of the bag. Just didn’t want to be that person, you know, the one with the camera. The one who doesn’t really experience where she is, just documents it. I did shoot though, in the one place I can never resist – the forest. And what a forest. Even though it isn’t terribly huge, the redwood grove at Garrapata State Park on US 1 in Big Sur is still pretty amazing. I haven’t spent a lot of time in redwood forests, but every time I do I’m stunned at how different they are from eastern forests. Not only in the size of the trees, but in the undergrowth, right down to the mushrooms (I saw exactly ONE). It even smells different. As fate would have it, I forgot my tripod in the hotel in Monterey and had to improvise like mad. Lots of camera on rock and camera on backpack and leaning on trees. In a way it was liberating; forcing me out of the normal shot and into something different.
Bracing myself and the camera against a tree –
Modified Weaver stance –
Camera on bit of rock sticking out of steep embankment –
Camera on backpack which was on a slope steep enough that I had to stand on one of its straps to keep it from sliding into the drink –
Surprisingly, even though it was so late in the season, I found a few lupines were still blooming. Their color is a bit different from the ones we have here, but the biggest difference is the leaves. Big Sur lupines have tiny leaves and the shade of green is much, much cooler. I couldn’t resist the contrast or the dew.
Even though the light was harsh and the wind wicked strong and relentless, I ventured over to the coastal side of US 1. I’m not thrilled with this shot, but at least I found something to put in the foreground besides scrubby bushes. The birds were a bonus. Couldn’t see them when I shot. Damn the wind though. I had to take my sunglasses off and put them in my pocket because I was afraid they’d blow off. Haven’t been in wind like that since the last time I was in California only that time it was in Mono Lake basin by the Sierras. Phew.
Another reason for no posts is that WordPress stymied me with picture editing. Normally I resize them slightly once I load them, but the icon didn’t appear. I searched the help forum to no avail and so just gave up. Hoping that things would be back to normal I tried again, looking in vain for the picture editor. Visiting the forum did turn up an answer this time and I got things to work. Roundabout way though and I’d have never thought of it so I’m glad to be back.
Back to California we go.
This time Big Sur. I’ve been through Big Sur before on the famous US1 highway that hugs the Pacific coastline. We even stayed at the impossibly posh Post Ranch Inn a few years ago and got to take one of the hotel Lexus convertibles out. Very cool. But it was March and clearly May is the best time to visit. I think California must have about 1,000,000 wildflowers per square foot or something and almost all of them bloom in May. It’s an explosion; a riot of color that really has to be seen to be believed. I tried my best to capture it, but in person is so much better. Highly recommended.
This first shot is heading toward the ocean on a little road that shoots off of the 46 and connects with US1…I forget what it’s called, but we had to stop and gawk. The water in the middle ground is Whale Rock Reservoir. The water in the background is the Pacific. You can see the dam holding the water in the distance, too. Spectacular.
On the day we drove by the reservoir we were heading to the beach for a bit, but we planned to hike in Big Sur in the next couple of days. Originally we wanted to hit Garrapata State Park, but due to miles and miles of construction on US1 the access was off limits unless we wanted to walk miles through construction zones to get there. We were bummed, but went to the Andrew Molera State Park instead.
Our first stop was a quick walk to the beach where the Big Sur River meets the ocean –
The view from up on the headland is spectacular. I love how there’s one guy on the beach in that second shot – it shows the scale really well. Later on tons of people arrived and the shots would have been ruined, so I’m glad we went here before heading up to the hills.
If you take a look at the 1st black and white river photo up there, you can see a pointed hill almost exactly in the middle of the background. Not the highest one, but the one just to the right of it. We decided to climb that – it’s the East Molera Trail.
It takes a few miles to get to the 1600 foot summit or so and the trails are pretty steep and covered in large loose rocks so going down was sort of nightmarish for me with my wonky ankles. You can see the trail zig-zagging up the hill. But oh the view. It was worth it.
As we neared the top, I looked back the way we had come. Way down was the ocean and the jutting headland where I took the pictures of the Big Sur river emptying into the Pacific (it’s there on the left). Pretty cool. Below us, hawks and vultures danced and soared in the thermals.
And even the moon seemed to dip low and appreciate the view –