The Pacific Coast Highway

Big Sur  005Big Sur  030The 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. Big Sur  010Big Sur  003Big Sur  007

That long ago trip began in San Francisco and ended in Los Angeles.  With a memorable stop in Big Sur.Big Sur  001

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!Big Sur  011

Big Sur  002This part of the coast is particularly striking with rugged cliffs and remote beaches.  There are various trails along the coast, and we ventured out on a few of the trails and beaches.

The huge waves crashing on the rocks were impressive.  As were the many wildflowers on the dunes.

Big Sur  012Big Sur  008Big Sur  013Big Sur  015Big Sur  016Big Sur  033

Big Sur  031One 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.

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Big Sur  019Then 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.Big Sur  023Big Sur  021

Big Sur  020Big Sur  022During 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.

Pacific Gray Whale

Pacific Gray Whale

It seems the whales were getting pretty close to shore as they migrated north.  We heard that they do this to avoid orcas, who are their predators.Big Sur  028

Lunch was worth every penny.  Big Sur  027

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.

Grey Whale and Calf

Grey Whale and Calf

Back to our drive south from San Francisco many years ago.  We were having a hard time finding a hotel with vacancies on the coast.Big Sur  034

It was getting really late, and we were really tired when we found this one place in Big Sur that showed a “Vacancy” sign.  It had a series of small buildings or cottages and seemed kind of dark.Big Sur  035

Big Sur  037Hector 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.

Big Sur  038Big Sur  009The room was rustic in a nice way, but one thing really bothered me – there was a back door into the forest and no locks on either door.   I was a city girl and this was new.

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.Big Sur  036

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.

Big Sur  042Big Sur  046And 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.Big Sur  039Big Sur  043

Big Sur  044Just 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.

See the guy with a red shirt on the beach?

See the guy with a red shirt on the beach?

Big Sur  047Access 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.Big Sur  048

Big Sur  045Big Sur  050Big Sur  049This 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.

~ BrendaBig Sur  051

33 thoughts on “The Pacific Coast Highway

  1. Awesome post. Stunning images. If I’m not mistaken the Edward Weston home and Gallery along with the Ansel Adams one is close by.

    • Darn, we missed the gallery, but saw Ansel Adams gallery in Yosemite later. Yosemite post is coming soon.

  2. Mike always knows when I am reading your blog posts because I make gasping sounds at your amazing photography. I can’t tear myself away from just looking at these beautiful photographs. We, too, had a romantic Big Sur weekend when we were newlyweds in 1991. It’s just an amazing drive along PCH. We got pampered at the Ventana Inn, including a masseuse and masseur from the Esalen Institute of Big Sur. Oh, the memories!

  3. What amazing photos! You had such a beautiful day for this adventure. The sunny day really made the water the prettiest blue.

    I found a fellow that detailed all the trails along the road. It turns out there are very little numbers along the road that show where you can get through and find a very unused trail down to the water into some magnificent coves. We spent a day with his directions and hikes many of the trails. One was at the bridge you photographed. The trail takes you down on the other side. It was a real butt crawling almost straight drop but way cool. The down side to all this hiking which I did in shorts was the poison ivy!! CA poison ivy doesn’t look or grow like east coast poison ivy. I was covered from where my socks were to where my shorts stopped. It was so bad that when it moved to my arms and face I had to find a doctor. She said I had to keep my skin out of the sun until the skin healed. It was so badly damaged that it was as if it had been burned. Not fun!! But the hikes were great!

    What a perfect lunch…Angel could join you and whales:)

    Sounds like a great memory trip for the two of you. Thanks for taking us along and sharing so many of the gorgeous photos. Love the sunset:)

    • The trails are great, we found several just wandering out towards the coastline. We didn’t know you could get to the other side of the bridge though, very cool. The poison ivy experience sounds horrible, you poor thing. But glad you enjoyed the post, thanks for coming along!

  4. I am delighted every time a new post from you pops up, and more delighted to read and see. An esthetic pleasure.

    • Thanks, Nina. The weather has been perfect, unfortunately, due to a drought here in California. We would welcome rain at this point, it’s much needed!

  5. I’m going to refer to this as Brenda Brilliance… what a place to visit, what beautiful photos that accompany such descriptive wording… I love this blog as I get to learn about places beyond my reach…

    • Thank you so much, Rob. I’ll be catching up on your blog soon, we had no internet or cell for two weeks, had to drive 20 miles to post! California is beautiful!

  6. Ahh, you are making me nostalgic! Driven there so many times but Hectors photography jumps out… complemented by your story made me yearn for CA.
    I have to ask though, having driven the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia, is it fair to stack them side by side for comparison?

    • Funny, you made me nostalgic for Florida with your posts. Re Cabot Trail and PCH, wow, they are both gorgeous, hard to say one is better than the other.

  7. What a gorgeous day for a wonderful trip down memory lane! The color of the water is such a stunning turquoise, and you captured it beautifully. And whales, too! We love traveling the California coast, and I think we’re due for another trip, very soon. 🙂

  8. Hi, Great memories are right. What a beautiful place. The pictures and write-up. Awesome as always. Enjoy the day,
    Karen : )

  9. We are going to a wedding in Big Sur on July 18th! Thank you for sharing your journey! xoxo

      • Big Sur is spectacular and I am so pleased to have seen your post before the wedding and so excited to see it now after the wedding.
        Hector’s photography and your writing are truly a perfect blend that nourish the soul!
        Mil gracias! xoxo

        • It really is. We are loving the “partnership” of the writing and the photography, so happy you are along with us on the journey.
          Un fuerte abrazo a los tres,

          • The “partnership” is just another dimension of your already amazing relationship… a blessing for the two of you and for all who travel with you via word and image. xoxo

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