The Pacific Coast Highway south of Monterey climbs towards Big Sur, yet another very cool place along the coast. This section of the coastal drive is stunning. And this is the same drive we took many, many years ago on one of our very first “big” trips as a married couple.
This time around, we planned a leisurely drive towards Big Sur with Angel. I say leisurely partially because for normal people this drive takes about one hour, for photographers it can take three hours or more!
The huge waves crashing on the rocks were impressive. As were the many wildflowers on the dunes.
One of our stops was the Bixby Bridge, a reinforced concrete arch bridge built in 1932 as an alternative to a road that was impassable most of the winter. It’s one of the tallest single-span concrete bridges in the world. With an aesthetic design and concrete that blends nicely with the color of the natural rock cliff formations beside it, it’s one of the most photographed bridges along the Pacific Coast.
Then it was time for lunch. Rocky Point Restaurant is located on a dramatic headland, an incredible setting. After debating this big splurge, we decided to go for it. The deciding factor was that they allow dogs in their patio.
During lunch, as Hector looked out over the ocean, he spotted the back of a gray whale pretty close to the shore. Then the head of another one. Then we both saw another one. And he managed to get a couple of photographs.
And later, when Hector looked closely at his photos, he noticed that one whale had a calf next to her – they were so close together that it looked like one back coming out of the water instead of two.
Hector went inside and he returned with a dreamy look on his face and said “the place is beautiful, there is a lady in a long white dress at the counter, and they’re playing beautiful tinkly music”. Followed by, it’s a bit more expensive than we planned but I want to stay here. Ok.
Turns out the place had themed rooms and cottages. We had “Edie’s room” with pictures of Edie and family – not sure who Edie was and I thought it was kind of creepy. There ultimately was a nice story about Edie, which unfortunately I don’t remember.
But we had a good night’s sleep on the room’s feather bed and a wonderful meal the next day. Then we took a walk out onto a beautiful field towards the ocean. We really loved the energy in this place.
Later we learned that Big Sur is a “vortex” – a place where powerful energy is concentrated. And it’s home to several centers of study and contemplation, including a Catholic and a Buddhist monastery. Hmmmm.
So here we were again at the Deet Jen Big Sur Inn, that hotel from long ago. Yes, it’s still there. And still has a beautiful restaurant. No lady in a flowing white dress though. We walked along the property and found Edie’s room. Ah, memories.
And we had one final destination in Big Sur: the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. There is an amazing beach there with a waterfall that tumbles into the ocean at high tide. The cove and McWay Falls can be seen from a very short trail named the Overlook Trail.
Just past the beach on the trail is a terrace that used to be part of Waterfall House, the residence of Lathrop and Helen Hooper Brown, originally from New York. The bedroom of their house looked out over the waterfall. Fabulous!
In 1962, Mrs. Brown gifted the ranch to the state for use as a state park and dedicated it to the late Julia Pfeiffer Burns, a local pioneer woman whom she’d become close friends with. Julia was the daughter of the first permanent Big Sur settlers, ran a cattle ranch (among other things), and was known for her deep love of Big Sur country.
Access to the beach is closed off, but it’s possible to scramble down a long steep path past a fence. Which is exactly what one guy did. Seeing him walk down in the cove helped us appreciate the size of the waterfall.
This was already a perfect day, but then, on our drive back to Monterey, we watched yet another stunning California sunset over yet another pretty beach. A day full of memories, discovery and awesome gorgeousness.