Monday, November 30, 2015

October 5, 2015 Driving Down PCH from San Francisco to Big Sur

We left San Francisco this morning driving down Highway 1 which has many other names along the way but I will call it the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH. We planned on stopping at Mavericks but the ocean was pretty flat and I missed the turn off to Pillar Point. So we kept driving and made San Gregorio State Beach our first stop. We only stayed for a short time because we didn't have small bills to pay the $6 fee and the $6 in quarters (we'd been saving them for laundry) wouldn't fit in the metal box for the payment envelop.  
Looking north on the cliffs at San Gregorio.

While Christy enjoyed watching wildlife do what wildlife does to survive...

...I found this interesting piece of graffiti artwork. A search on Google seems to attribute this work to a crew from the Oakland might stand for "Don't Hate The Bear" which might be a take on California's symbol of a bear.
Besides animals eating each other, Chrissy also took this picture.

The sun kept popping through the clouds which were getting darker. So we left San Gregorio State Beach...

...and stopped at Pomponio State Beach which was about 2 miles from our last stop.
Well it looked a little bit sunnier here...
...and a group of artists were painting the scene looking south down the coast.
We were hoping the clouds would give way to the sunshine and it began to look like that would happen while we were on the cliffs over the beach at Pomponio. Maybe by the time we stop again we will have blue skies...

Well would you look at that blue sky...we drove for less than five minutes before stopping at Pescadero State Beach. It looks like our plan of just winging it and stopping at whatever looks going to take longer than I originally planned.
We hiked down to the actual beach and walked around enjoying the sun, sand and warmer temperatures.

There were lots of interesting things to see in the tide pools between the rocks on the beach.

Pants rolled up and walking barefoot on the is good.

There weren't big waves but several crashed loudly over the rocks.

It seemed like all the birds were on this one rock out in the water.

As much as we both enjoyed our extended walk on this beach, we have a long way to go to make it to Big Sur before dark....which was the original plan.

Our next stop was one we planned to visit, Ano Nuevo State Park...a short hike to see the elephant seals.

The coast has been just as beautiful as everyone has told us it would be.

The hike to the viewing areas on the beach is not that interesting but the views of the beaches at both viewing points are very good. There weren't many seals at this time of the year...December - March is the time to see the seals give birth here. 

The volunteers at the viewing platforms were very friendly and full of interesting stories and facts about the elephant seals. The most interesting fact is that mothers only feed their pups for a month, then the youngster is on it's own to figure out how to swim and feed itself. 

These could be juvenile elephant seals sparring to gain strength and learning how to survive.

At this point in the day, I was ready to relax on the beach with these two seals.

Wildlife along the hike back to the visitor center.

There was another volunteer about half way along the hike that had artifacts and these skulls of the pinnipeds found in the waters off the coast.

Our next stop was in Santa Cruz at Natural Bridges State Beach.
Another offshore rock full of roosting birds at Natural Bridges.

This place is famous for the monarch butterflies that spend October through February here. We only had a few minutes to stretch our legs and check out the view before we headed south on Highway 1.

Our only stop in Monterey was for dinner at the Old Fisherman's Wharf. We were welcomed by this local resident who pointed us toward the wharf when we asked for directions.

We had a forgettable dinner at the Old Fisherman's Grotto.

Chrissy loves do I.

With the daylight quickly slipping away, we stopped at Point Lobos State Reserve for a sunset hike.

We decided to make a loop hike on the Sea Lion Point and Sand Hill trails. Even though we were very short on time...we got here about 6 pm and the park closes at 7 pm...this was a spectacular hike during photography's golden hour. 

We had seals below us and pelicans flying in front of us on the cliffs.

The scenery and the colors were amazing.

 Since we had to leave the park, I am not sure where we took the following shots but it was definitely south of Point Lobos and before the Bixby Bridge. Maybe it was at Castle Rock but I'm not sure...

...either way it was beautiful standing on the edge of the continent and watching the sun go down over the ocean.

Our last stop was at the Bixby Creek Bridge just after the sun set.

We really did have amazing views everywhere we stopped...

The Bixby Creek Bridge.

I think that smile was on my face all day long. What a great beginning to our trip down the coast. Now I have to find the Big Sur Lodge in the dark. Spoiler alert...I found it. And we enjoyed a very nice dessert before heading to our cabin.