Tag Archives: Highway 1

Monterey to San Simeon

The Big Sur coast along Highway 1 south of Monterey

The Big Sur coast along Highway 1 south of Monterey

We are back on the road again. It has been some time since we posted anything. These last few months have been pretty hectic but a new phase in our lives has just began. On Friday I retired so from now on Tom and I are on an endless vacation.

(Click on the photos for larger versions.)

To celebrate this event we took on a short road trip down Highway 1. We set off just after 6 on Sunday morning. At that time we were in the midst of a heat wave with temperatures of over 100 degrees in most of central California and more of it to come the following week. Hopefully it would be cooler on the coast. Of course, at 6 in the morning, it had been wonderful 64 degrees when we left home.

Heading towards Monterey on 101, we had the road to ourselves. Later on in the day we knew it would be packed with folks making their way to the Monterey peninsula but at the time we were there it had been bliss. The sun was up and blazing away on our left hand side in all its glory but lacking the heat it would throw out later on. All that changed as we approached Highway 156 to the Monterey peninsula because suddenly we were in fog with restricted visibility. It cleared a bit by the time we reached Castroville and by the time we were passing Sand City we could see the Pacific Ocean with a view of Monterey in the distance.

We stopped for breakfast in Monterey (post coming) and afterwards made our way back to Highway 1. Soon we were at the start of the scenic coastal route to the south. All trace of fog had disappeared and everything sparkled in the early morning sun with temperatures hovering around the low 60s. When we stopped to get a better view of the rugged coastline, the cool breeze felt good.

The iconic Bixby Creek Bridge

The iconic Bixby Creek Bridge

There were roadworks on Rocky Creek Bridge (which is the bridge before Bixby Creek Bridge) which were quite scary. The road was reduced to one lane with traffic across the bridge controlled by traffic lights. Just driving across some of the bridges on Big Sur normally is scary enough because they are so high but when half the bridge appears to be missing it is positively frightening. We made it safely to the other side thank goodness.

The views along this stretch of Highway 1 make it one of the most spectacular scenic drives in the west. The coastline is rugged and the road follows the contours of the mountains. There are many twists and turns and each change of direction brings a new mouth dropping vista into view. Little stores and restaurants are located along the way and interesting stops, indicated by small gravel parking places with one or two parked cars, hint that there is something worth looking at nearby.

Just before the  Point Sur lighthouse an amazing sandy beach can be seen. It is obviously a beach which begs to be visited but a wire fence with out-of-bounds, keep out and no trespassing signs posted makes it quite clear that visitors are not welcome. I wonder whether there is a house down there or maybe the cliffs are too dangerous to climb down.

Looking south along Highway 1 in Big Sur

Looking south along Highway 1 in Big Sur

A short distance before we passed Nepenthe (a restaurant/cafe/gift shop complex that is a well worth a visit), the most amazing view of low fog hovering above the ocean with the hilltops behind, beckoned Tom to stop and take a few photos. We stopped again just past Nepenthe to take more photos. The temperature had risen to 84 degrees. It was here we met an English couple who were visiting the area for the first time. They came from Kent, which is very near to where I lived, and it was great to chat to them.

Once beyond Julia Pfeiffer Park, Tom and I were in new territory. Both of us had been along here before – Tom on several occasions and me just once in 1998 – but this is our first time together on this stretch of Highway 1. Just south of Lucia there were more scary roadworks. Once again there were lights and one way traffic but this time it was due to a new bridge being constructed. It looks very different from all the others because this one has a roof, presumably to stop bricks falling on top of cars.

North of Lime Kiln State Park we stopped at Willow Creek Beach to stretch our legs. It was not much of a beach but it was nice to gaze out at the ocean. A few gulls were resting near the water. As I studied them I realized that they were split into two groups. One group were certainly resting but the second group were grooming and bathing in the rock pools. When one gull shook itself after bathing, finished its grooming and flown away, another gull from the resting group took its place. It was fascinating to watch.

Our next stop was at Gorda. There is not much to Gorda at all apart from the Gorda Springs Resort which looks very welcoming from the road. They have cabins to rent, a small store and a cafe called the Whale Watchers Cove. We just wanted a drink and a restroom and this place seemed ideal. First we went to the cafe where Tom ordered a beer and I asked for a hot chocolate. The server was unfriendly to say the least. The beer came in a bottle and the hot chocolate from a package and the price was outrageous. Guess that was to be expected as this is the only stopping place on Highway 1 for miles in either direction. We sat out on the sheltered patio with an amazing view of the ocean but saw no whales. The gardens were pretty impressive and all the while we sat there we watched a guy meticulously watering all the plants. We then visited the store. Would you believe it, the guy there was just as unfriendly as our server in the cafe. Eventually found the restrooms – at the back of the store – and we were back on the road again.

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

The Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery along Highway 1

A bit further down the coast we stopped at Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. Here you can see elephant seals close up and personal and you don’t have to walk too far at all. There is a large car park right next to Highway 1, which was very nearly full when we arrived, and within 20 feet you can see the elephant seals.At this time of the year, there were both young males and females who had drawn themselves up on the beach to molt. Some of the males were pretend sparring, which looks quite scary but it is nothing like the bloody battles between the breeding males during December and January when they are fighting for their harems. To view the elephant seals here is easy but I much prefer Ano Nuevo, which is between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay, where you have to walk some way to see the seals and there are less people around.

After leaving the rookery and driving further south on Highway 1, we spotted Hearst Castle up o the hill. Many people have told us that a visit to Hearst Castle is a must but neither Tom nor I are convinced. I’ve seen pictures of it and it is so way over the top and ostentatious. At San Simeon we saw some colorful wind surfers out in the bay and a little further on we spotted a herd of zebras, which seemed really strange. We later found out the the zebras were owned by the Hearst Castle Estate of course.

Next stop would be Cambria but you will have to wait for the next post.

 

San Mateo Coast

Crystal Springs on a beautiful morning

Crystal Springs on a beautiful morning

Today is our first trip out this year. It is a cold and frosty January morning and we are heading for the coast. Normally we would get there by driving over the mountains towards Santa Cruz on Highway 17 but decided to drive north and take Highway 92 towards Half Moon Bay because not only is it a shorter journey through the mountains but the pass is lower and less likely to be icy.

(Click on the photos for larger versions.)

Even though it is 32 degrees outside, the sun is shining. We are expecting it to be cold and maybe even foggy at the coast but we have dressed appropriately in layers with extra jackets, etc in the trunk.

We have no set destination in mind; it depends on where the fancy takes us. It is such a long time since we saw the ocean that just seeing, hearing and smelling it will satisfy us. There is a warning out about sleeper waves – several people have been swept away by huge rogue waves – so we will not be getting too close to the water’s edge.

Driving on 280 just north of Palo Alto, the temperature dropped to 30 outside. Thank goodness it is not raining as it would be falling as snow. Exiting 280 to 92 we encountered a thick layer of low lying fog across Crystal Springs. Tom couldn’t resist stopping to take a photo. It did look beautiful with the sun shining above the fog and the white, frosty grass on the ground.

Entering Half Moon Bay it was bright and sunny with no trace of fog at all. Not only that, the temperature had risen to 36. We ate before we left home this morning so no breakfast blog this time. Tom didn’t have any coffee though so we stopped off at the Half Moon Bay Coffee Company for a coffee and hot chocolate.

Refreshed, we set off again driving south. The ocean was near and after a few miles we could see it. It looked magnificent, glittering in the early morning sunshine. The water was calm and there were no white caps to be seen.

Pigeon Point lighthouse

Pigeon Point lighthouse

We passed San Gregorio beach. There was only one car in the car park and an awful lot of driftwood on the beach which had been washed up by the recent winter storms. Pomponio, Pescadero and Bean Hollow beaches were also by-passed They all tempted us and were worthy of a visit but we had decided to make our next stop at Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

Before long we saw the lighthouse in front of us and turned right on Pigeon Point Road. There have been a few changes since we were last here. The car park was been enlarged and the porta potty is no longer there but it had been replaced with a much better outhouse. We made our way to the deck at the back of the lighthouse where my second favorite bench is. This is a really good secluded spot to sit and look at the view and a prime place to spot whales. At this time of the year the  whales are swimming south and they some way offshore.  With the ocean so calm I thought I might spot whale spouts on the horizon and I was armed with my binoculars just in case. I spent a happy half hour in the sunshine and enjoyed watching the surf breaking over the many rocky outcrops just off Pigeon Point and the one lone pelican skimming the surface of the water. No whale spouts to be seen though. I became quite warm sitting there I even took my jacket off. Both of us may even have got a touch of sunburn!

Path down to Franklin Point

Path down to Franklin Point. Our favorite spot along the San Mateo Coast.

On to our favorite spot – Franklin Point. Even though we did not really plan where we were going, somehow I knew we would end up here. The place draws us because it is unique. Normally we drive north from Santa Cruz and it is easy to find but driving south from Half Moon Bay we were not too sure. Everything looked different plus the old tree stump which marked the beginning of the trail fell down a few years ago and there are no signs at all for Franklin Point. Once on the trail though I recognized it. It felt good to retrace my steps down the familiar path, wondering what the changes would be since our last visit a year ago.

First thing I noticed was that the old tree stump is now covered by shrubbery with just the bottom exposed. The second thing were the number of stinging nettles growing along the edge of the path. There have been times when we couldn’t get down the trail at this time of the year due to   one section being flooded after heavy rain. A few years ago a couple of short board walks were been put down and it is easy to get through. One thing is always different each time we come and that is where the path actually meets the beach. On this visit the sand was a bit wet and much lower than last time, in as much we didn’t have to scramble down onto the beach.

The beach was deserted, although I did pass one couple on the trail making their way back to the road. I stood for a while just drinking in the view, as I do every time. It felt so good to be back. Slowly I ambled along the beach but staying on the dry sand. Up on Franklin Point I could see my favorite bench and made my way towards it. At one point the waves came too close to the shore to get past  safely but fortunately there is a trail over the bluff which led straight to the boardwalk, which in turn led to the bench.

Franklin Point

A young couple about as far out as you can get at Franklin Point.

I had the bench all to myself for about ten minutes before Tom arrived. I watched a young couple down on the beach scramble over the rocks to get past the point which I decided not to walk round. They were obviously heading for the bench as well and sure enough they turned up about five minutes later. Tom had spoken to them earlier down on the beach. We chatted with them for bit and then they climbed off the deck and made their way as far as they could over the rocks. At one point they called out to us as they indicated a couple of seals bobbing along just offshore.

It was so relaxing sitting on that bench. I spent the time trying to write but, inexplicably, my eyes were drawn to the view. Off to the north I could see the lighthouse; nearer the waves rolling onto the beach were mesmerizing and straight in front the surf broke over the rocks and the spray exploded into the air. Tom and I chatted now and again and we agreed that we were in a perfect spot.

Eventually we made our way back to the car. Nobody else was on the beach at all. We decided to drive into Pescardero, where we bought artichoke and garlic bread fresh from the oven at Arcangeli Grocery Company and goat cheese from Harley Farms. We sat outside in the car enjoying our picnic lunch of bread and cheese while enjoying the view of a swathe of mustard growing in a field and gazing at the goats in the paddock. Then we took the scenic route home through La Honda up to Skyline and then through Woodside back to 280. Once again we enjoyed another perfect day.

Pescadero State Beach

Pescadero State Beach

Pescadero State Beach

This morning we overslept and didn’t get away as early we wanted to. The drive over the Santa Cruz mountains was as beautiful as ever. Our destination today is Pescadero State Beach. In November, 2009 we did a post on some of San Mateo beaches between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay and said in it that Pescadero State Beach deserved a post all to itself. In January 2010 we wrote a post on the northern part of Pescadero State Beach so today was the day we decided to do the rest. The sun was shining brightly when we left San Jose but we hit fog as we descended from the summit of the Santa Cruz Mountains. We stopped at a great little place in Santa Cruz for breakfast.

Click on the photos for a larger version.

Driving north up Highway 1 towards Half Moon Bay, we were in fog most of the way. We couldn’t even see Pigeon Point Lighthouse when we drove past. Of course we wondered whether we would see anything at all when we got to Pescadero beach but we were optimistic. The further north we drove the lighter the fog became. As we passed Bean Hollow Beach we actually saw not only the ocean but patches of blue sky.

There are three car parks at Pescadero State Beach along the mile long, sandy beach and we parked in the southernmost one, which is right opposite the turnoff to Pescadero. It was still a bit foggy but looked to be clearing up. We walked down some steps onto a small peninsula. The tide was high and the water was choppy. Looking south I spotted a couple of surfers out on the ocean and I stopped to watch them for a while. They managed to catch a few big waves and they made the most of them, weaving and turning until the energy of the wave died down. Then they were off again, paddling to get back to catch the next big one. I thought about something Tom told me only this morning about great white sharks and the fact that at this time of  the year they congregate between Monterey Bay and Bodega Bay, so I hoped there were none nearby for the surfers sake.

Pescadero State Beach

Pescadero State Beach

I looked to the north and down onto a sandy beach. I noticed more steps leading down to the beach and off I went exploring. Beaches always fascinate me because there is so much to see – shells, different colored stones, driftwood and washed up vegetation. On this beach were balancing stones and dried seaweed with looked as though they had been laid out in spiral designs but they may well have been washed up the beach like that. There were no washed up logs or a convenient rock to sit on so I stood contentedly on the beach and watched the waves break and the surf wash in. I walked back up the beach to the bluffs. Here there were huge rocks embedded in soil and further along the sandstone rocks looked as if they had been sculptured. One such sculpture looked just like a human head, with the brow and nose clearly defined (see below).

Flock of sanderlings at Pescadero State Beach

Flock of sanderlings at Pescadero State Beach

I rounded a small headland to another beach and spotted a gull pecking at something on the beach. Originally I thought it was a crab which he was trying to get into but when the gull gave up and walked away, I noticed that it was a rather plump starfish. It wasn’t moving at all but I gently moved it with my foot to the edge of the surf just in case it was playing dead. Further along the beach I came across a flock of sanderlings. These birds are a pleasure to watch as they race down the beach chasing the outgoing surf and then racing back back when the surf comes. They looked like a group of little children playing a game on the beach and having fun. I even imagined them whooping for joy as they managed to avoid getting their feet wet. But of course they are not playing because every so often they paused to dig for food in the sand. Suddenly they took off all at once and weaved and turned in the air before landing again on the beach further up and resuming their manic dashing around. We reached another small headland but the tide was too high to carry on so we turned back. I checked to see if the starfish was still on the beach but it had disappeared. I like to think the tide had come in and it had managed to get back to safety.

Rock face at Pescadero State Beach

Rock face at Pescadero State Beach

We discovered another stairway which led back to a different section of the car park. I had visions of having to walk along Highway 1 to get round the headland but then I noticed a pathway leading across the top of the bluffs. It was an unusual path and, for some it reason, reminded me of the yellow brick road from the Wizard of Oz. The path twisted and turned and at one point ran alongside the road. A group of cyclists passed and most of them smiled and several of them even called out a greeting. They looked as though they weren’t out just for a ride because they had packed saddle bags so obviously they were travelling some way down the coast. The path took us to the northern end of the car park.

Here we found some more steps down to beach. A group of California Gulls were gathered on the beach a short distance away but amongst them were a few different gulls. They were darker in color and had red bills. I had no idea what they were but later discovered they were Heermann’s Gulls. In the distance, on another headland, I spotted a bench. Most of you know by now how I am drawn to benches, especially benches with a view, so I naturally made a beeline for it. This was a rather peculiar bench as it was quite high. When I sat on it my feet hardly touched the ground and I have long legs. It was a nice bench to sit on though and it gave me an opportunity to try and catch up with my note taking but there was a problem. The fog had almost gone and the sun was shining brightly which made it difficult to see the the screen on my iPad. I was distracted from my efforts to write by voices. Tom was chatting away to a man, who then came to join me at the bench. It turned out he was another expat from the UK. He was born and raised in Lyme Regis, which is on the south coast. He now lives in Vancouver and the last couple of years he has spent his vacations exploring Highway 1. On this trip he is concentrating on the section from Monterey to San Francisco, which to my mind is the best section. On his next trip he will do the section north of San Francisco.

Lone fisherman at Pescadero State Beach

Lone fisherman at Pescadero State Beach

Once again I found some steps down the the beach. It was here I discovered how fragile the California coast is. All you need to do is to pick up a piece which has broken off and see how easy it is to crumble between your fingers. The constant pounding of the ocean against the sandstone bluffs must be like a battering ram. No wonder there are frequent landslides along Highway 1.

Decorating this section of the beach were a lot of logs and other pieces of driftwood. A couple of wigwams had been built out of the driftwood. It must be a lot of fun, especially with a large family, to build some sort of structure on the beach and then play imaginary games.

Once again we were thwarted from walking further along the beach by a headland which jutted out into the ocean so we retreated to the steps. We walked to the end of the carpar and found a trail leading to the north but it didn’t take us very far. Our way was blocked by a fairly wide river. This is where the Butano Creek and the Pescadero Creek flow into the ocean and where we were prevented from exploring the southern part of the beach in 2010. The only way across is to go back to the road and walk over the bridge. As it was lunchtime, we decided to walk back to our car and drive into Pescadero.

Always have to vist the goats and buy some cheese at Harley Farms just outside of Pescadero


Always have to vist the goats and buy some cheese at Harley Farms just outside of Pescadero

Between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Beach there are not too many restaurants but in Pescadero there is a gem.  Duartes Tavern  is certainly the best place to eat on this stretch of the coast but, be warned, it is very popular and waiting times, especially on a sunny Saturday lunchtime, can be long. We struck lucky this day as we only had to wait twenty minutes due to the fact that we didn’t mind eating at the counter. I had a bowl of their Cream of Artichoke Soup and Tom had Chilled Artichoke Hearts with an Aioli Sauce. Both dishes were wonderful. We both finished up with a slice of their signature dessert - Olallieberry Pie and Ice Cream – which is to die for. We didn’t like to hang around too long because we knew there were lots of hungry people waiting, so we paid the bill and left.

But there was one more place to stop at and that was to vist the goats at Harley Farms. We call in here every time we come to Pescadero because it is such a neat place. You can walk down and watch the goats out in the field. It is always fun in the springtime when there are lots of frisky little kids to keep you amused. Of course we also have to pay a visit to the shop where all their cheeses are not only on display but can be sampled as well. This time we bought some feta cheese and some chocolate made with goats milk. Then it was time to make our way home going by the scenic route to 280 via La Honda. It was the end of another perfect day.

 

 

 

Big Sur

Garrapata State Park along Highway 1

Garrapata State Park along Highway 1

We were on the road before six to drive to Big Sur. The reason we were heading to Big Sur is because we read an article in the September/October edition of ‘Via’ called ‘The Secrets of Big Sur’ by Jennifer Reese. It has been quite some time since we had taken a drive down this very scenic route on Highway 1 and decided it was about time we went there again. I remember the first time I drove through Big Sur and thought it was just a lovely drive with wonderful views of the stunning North California coast but there was nowhere really to stop and explore. Now I know differently and realize that there are so many places to visit. We have been to Point Lobos State Reserve, Pfeiffer Beach to name two and we were going to investigate a couple more on this trip.

When we left San Jose it was dark and there were no clouds. Stars were twinkling in the sky and the slightly less than full moon was shining above us. At the San Juan Bautista exit off 101 we ran into fog so we missed the sun rising. The fog remained with us all the way to Monterey and only started to lift when we hit the outskirts of Carmel.

Our chosen breakfast spot was the Wagon Wheel Coffee Shop on Carmel Valley Road, see previous post. The fog disappeared just as we reached the turn off for the Wagon Wheel and the sun came out for us.

It was round about 8 o’clock we crossed the Carmel Bridge and had officially entered Big Sur. Before long we could see the ocean and the coastline was clear. A few miles offshore though, a huge fog bank lurked but we kept our fingers crossed that it would wait out there until after lunch. It was the perfect day for a drive down Highway 1. I was armed with a list of all the interesting places along Big Sur and their nearest milepost to make them easier to find.

White egret perched on a kelp bed at Garrapata State Par

White egret perched on a kelp bed at Garrapata State Par

We parked in a turnout near Garrapata State Park and took a walk down towards the beach. At first the trail was steep but leveled off a bit further down. There were several little trails branching off along the way but nothing was signposted so I guess they must be unofficial paths. We could hear the raucous sound of sea lions and I thought they were down on the beach but the nearer to the beach we went, they still sounded the same distance away. I then realized they must have gathered on a couple of rocky outcrops about half a mile offshore. We wandered around the trails for about half an hour, stopping now and again to peer down at little inaccessible beaches and inlets at the bottom of craggy cliffs. The kelp beds were abundant but I didn’t spot any sea otters. We did see though, not only a snowy white egret perched on the kelp keenly watching for passing fish but also a blue heron. That is the first time I had ever seen those birds on the ocean. It was really quiet and peaceful with not another human being in sight.

Back on the road again I saw a sign which told us that there would be curves for the next 64 miles. Yep, that’s Big Sur for you. Soon we were crossing the most photographed bridge on Highway 1 – Bixby Creek Bridge (see photograph at the very top of this page). Already there were a few tourists parked up and taking photos. Both Tom and I always hold our breath as we cross this bridge as we don’t like to think about how high up we are.

Our next stop was just south of the Big Sur Lighthouse. We were heading for Andrew Molera State Park  but parked in a turnout about a quarter of a mile before the park. Once before I had ventured a little way down this path but today we planned to go further. At the entrance to the path there is a sign saying there is a primitive camp site and I wandered what exactly that meant. The pathway starts off as a grass track through a pasture and then we entered a wood. In front of us was an old, fenced off cabin with an information board outside from which we learned that this is the oldest structure in Big Sur. It was built by George Austin in 1861 for Captain J.R.B Cooper and is now known as the Cooper Cabin. Over the 150 years since the cabin was built, all of the shingles on the outside have been replaced but the rest is more or less as it has always been.

Some deer on the trail down to the beach at Andrew Molera State Park

Some deer on the trail down to the beach at Andrew Molera State Park

We continued on our hike by going down some steps to join the Beach Headlands Trail but there was no sign to tell us that – I just happened to have a map I’d printed the night before. The trail became wider and we left the trees behind us. The only people we saw on this part of the walk were a father and his two sons walking back from the beach with their surf boards. The sun was shining and we wished we had not brought our sweatshirts with us. The path narrowed slightly and became a little sheltered from the wind. We walked around a corner and Tom suddenly stopped because just ahead of us were a doe and her 6 month old youngster. They stopped and stared at us for a couple of minutes before walking towards us and then turning off into the bushes at the side of the path. Silently they disappeared and were seen no more.

After a while we found ourselves walking beside the Big Sur River. It looked cool and inviting as it meandered along. Before long the path ended at the top of a small, sandy beach and the river flowed into the ocean. The only way to get to the main beach, where we could see some people sitting and quite a few surfers out on the ocean, was to cross the river but there was no bridge. It wasn’t very deep but quite wide and I could have done it as I had my walking boots on but Tom only had tennies on. One alternative was to take our shoes and socks off and wade across but there was a third option. Not too far back up the trail there had been a signpost to the Headlands Trail and I could see from the map that it would get us to the other side of the beach though not actually to the beach. I could see a bench on the far side and it looked very inviting, so back we went to take the side trail.

Pelicans gliding up the coast

Pelicans gliding up the coast

It was a fairly steep climb up a wooden stairway but we were entertained along the way by numerous lizards which darted off as we approached. If they had remained perfectly still, we would not even have seen them. The trail lead us down more steps and onto to path to the tip of the point and the bench. It was so nice to sit on that bench looking across at the beach and watching the surfers patiently waiting for the next big swell. I have a few favorite benches I like to sit on overlooking the ocean and this one has now joined the list. For half an hour we sat there enjoying ourselves and relaxing. Occasionally a line of pelicans would suddenly surprise us by appearing right under our noses. Just before we left the bench to climb back up to the headlands, half a dozen horses and their riders appeared on the beach – where they came from we have no idea.

Back in the car and still traveling south on Highway 1, our next stop was the Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant. By the time we arrived, it was nearly 12 noon and finding a car parking space proved to be a bit of a challenge. Fortunately they have an overfill car park and we found a place there. We followed a short part back to the bakery. I was really looking forward to a cool drink and a pastry of some sort but we were to be disappointed. A line spilled out of the door so we couldn’t even get inside. I did manage to have a quick look inside but there didn’t seem to be many bakery items on display. In fact it looked more like a bar. There was a printed notice saying that tickets were on sale for a BBQ which was to be held there at noon so I guessed the line was to buy tickets for that. We decided that perhaps this was not the best day to stop here so that will have to be put on the list for our next visit.

Instead we drove a few miles down the road to Nepenthe  which is always worth a visit anyway. Here they have a restaurant on the top level with marvelous views down the coast and on the middle level the Cafe Kevah which has a lighter menu and the same view as above. Tom had an ice tea and I had a hot chocolate and we shared a pastry. Unfortunately the fog had rolled in so the views were not spectacular at all but it was nice to sit under an umbrella and chat about everything we had seen and done that day. And then it was time to drive home at the end of another perfect day.

Bean Hollow State Beach

Davenport coastline looking south towards Monterey

Davenport coastline looking south towards Monterey

It was a foggy morning when we set off from home for Bean Hollow Beach but the forecast said the sun would burn off the fog. We were slightly concerned that the Santa Cruz mountain range would be fog bound, which would have made the drive a little scary, but miraculously the fog disappeared as soon as we left the valley. In fact the drive over the mountains was wonderful with a perfect view of Monterey as we crested the summit.

(Click on the photos for larger versions)

Once again we must apologize for the lack of posts recently, due to bad weather over several weekends and an unfortunate accident. Both situations are much improved now I’m pleased to say.

Crossing over the tracks heading towards the ocean at Davenport, California

Crossing over the tracks heading towards the ocean at Davenport, California

After our fabulous breakfast at Zachary’s in Santa Cruz, we drove north on Highway 1. We stopped in Davenport because Tom had read somewhere that there were the remains of old pier in Davenport. We parked right opposite the Whale City Bakery Bar & Grill and walked towards the ocean. We soon came to the edge and looked down on a railway track. There was a worn path on the other side of the tracks and all we had do was to find the way to it. At the end of the parking area near a clump of trees we found shale like rock which looked a bit like a staircase so we climbed down, crossed the tracks and picked up the path on the other side. Soon we were at the edge of a steep cliff with wonderful views over a sandy beach and we could see Monterey in the distance. The coastline was spectacular but saw no sign of a pier. Further down I spotted someone sitting on the edge of the cliff with his hound by his side so I went to ask him about the pier. The guy was obviously a local with his dreadlocks, ruddy face, full beard, woolly cap and holding a large cup of coffee in his hands. He readily told us where the remains of the pier were, which was around the point to the north. The path was easy to follow but we stayed away from the edge of the steep cliff. As we walked there was a lovely smell but at first I couldn’t work out where it came from. Then I saw a big swathe of white alyssom and the penny dropped.

Three Pelicans gliding up the coast at Davenport, California

Three Pelicans gliding up the coast at Davenport, California

We spied the remains of the pier easily. Only three concrete supports remain. As we didn’t know the history, it was the first thing I checked when I got home. A whaling captain called John Pope Davenport (the town was named after him) built the first pier in 1867 at the mouth of what is now known as the Muddy Water Creek. Lumber was brought down from the hills and shipped to Santa Cruz a little way down the coast. When the steamers could no longer get alongside the pier due to the mud which was also being brought down from the hills, an extension was built to the pier but this did not solve the problem. An even longer pier was built later but that one was destroyed in a storm. (This information came from Wikipedia).

While Tom took loads of photographs, I sat on a concrete block on top of the cliff and contemplated the view. Strings of pelicans skimmed the waves beneath me and out at sea a group of small fishing boats kept me fully absorbed. It was bliss. The sun was warm with no wind to speak of. While I sat there only one person, a surfer, walked by. It was very relaxing and peaceful.

An hour later we were back of the road again driving towards Half Moon Bay. Along the way many cars were parked and surfers were either getting changed into their wet suits, walking towards the ocean with their boards or out on the water waiting for the next big wave. A drive on Highway 1 on Big Sur to the south is always wonderful but this drive to the north is even better in our opinion with it’s many accessible sandy beaches and each of them unique.

Bean Hollow State Beach along the San Mateo coast

Bean Hollow State Beach along the San Mateo coast

At 9:30 we arrived at Bean Hollow State Beach. I expected there to be a day charge to use the beach but I couldn’t see anywhere to pay. We walked to the sandy beach down a partly eroded path. Immediately the unusual honeycomb rock formations attracted our attention. I wandered off down the beach while Tom paused to take photos. There was so much to take in. Looking down at the sand I could see all kinds of tracks – birdlife, crabs and human – besides all the flotsam washed up on the beach like seaweed, shells and driftwood. By looking up I could take in the cliff face and then, looking out over the ocean I could see the waves breaking on the rocky outcrops. A family group with four small boys were having fun in a little lagoon. Several sandcastles attested to their other activities. I sat on a big driftwood log and even thought about taking my sweater off as it was so warm but all too soon Tom had caught up with me and it was time to explore the trail along the top of the beach.

A half hidden flight of wooden steps at the north end of the beach led to the top of the bluff. The trail is close enough to the highway to see and hear the traffic but the sound of the waves breaking blurred most of noise.

It was an interesting trail. I was surprised at the amount of color around in the plant life from both flowers and greenery. The ice plant, even though it is an invasive plant, has bright purple or yellow flowers. There were small information boards every so often which told me things I didn’t know like the fact that the Ohlone people collected olive shells here to make jewelry and the fact that the foam seen washed up on the beach is created by algae and is natural. In other words, it is not soapsuds. The trail is easy to negotiate though very narrow. Several small wooden bridges crossed the wetter places and the occasional flight of wooden steps made climbing the hills easier.

Strange rock erosion called Tafoni

Strange rock erosion called Tafoni

About half way along the trail there is a convenient bench to sit on and I took advantage of it. Here I did take my sweater off. Sitting there gave me a chance to catch up with my writing. When I saw Tom appear in the distance I carried on with my walk. I spotted a small snake slithering across the path and through the plants and wanted to take a photo but it had disappeared before I was able to get my camera out of its case. Should be easy to identify when I get home because it had a bright yellow line along its spine. (It was a Santa Cruz Gartersnake but, as it was not very big, I’m guessing it was just a baby one).

I walked all the way to Pebble Beach where there was a small car park. It is also part of the Bean Hollow State Beach. Here was an interesting information board telling me that the honeycomb rock formations are called Tafoni which is caused by rock weathering and erosional processes. I tried calling Tom on my cell phone to tell him where I was but there was no network coverage so I turned around and walked back.

Ice plant flower. Stuff grows like a weed (is a weed) but at least the flower is pretty.

Ice plant flower. Stuff grows like a weed (is a weed) but at least the flower is pretty.

I caught up with Tom back at the bench and he told me all the interesting features he had been using with his camera. On the way back to the car we analyzed the remains of a large bird which had come to grief in a patch of ice plant. When I passed it earlier I thought it was the remains of a young sea gull but Tom deduced it was a pelican by the shape of its skull.

We stopped in Pescadero on the way home at Harley Goat Farm to buy some of my favorite honey and lavender cheese plus some feta cheese as well. Of course we had to sample lots of the other cheeses and some scrumptious boysenberry, blackberry and raspberry preserve. Since our last visit they have extended the shop and now on sale are some gorgeous wooden chopping boards imported from Wales, socks made with wool from angora goats imported from Yorkshire and garden tools made of copper and tin imported from Hungary.

We were home just after 2 o’clock and we both agreed that for the price of gas, a wonderful breakfast and some cheese, it had been a perfect day.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Coastal scene from Point Lobos State Reserve

Coastal scene from Point Lobos State Reserve

Our destination was Point Lobos State Natural Reserve  to the south of Carmel just off Highway 1. On our last visit to Big Sur, we had planned to stop off at the park but, being tight with our cash, we wanted to park outside and walk in. There were no safe spots outside the park so we carried on. This time we were prepared to pay the entrance fee.

We set off before 6 while it was still dark. There was a nip in the air, Fall is upon us. Traffic was surprisingly heavy for a Sunday morning at that time. Within an hour, we were approaching Monterey. It was beginning to get light. Then we ran into fog, which was not unexpected. We hoped the sun would burn it all off in due course.

Of course breakfast was a priority and we stopped at the Barnyard Shopping Village outside Carmel at the From Scratch Restaurant – see previous post. Driving back towards Highway 1 afterwards on Carmel Valley Road, we were surprised to discover that we couldn’t turn left. We assumed there must be another way out of the Barnyard  Shopping Village which would have brought us to traffic lights where we would have turned left.

Old whalers cabin in Whalers Cove at Point Lobos Reserve

Old whalers cabin in Whalers Cove at Point Lobos Reserve

The entrance to Point Lobos SNR was on our right about a mile further south. There were several cars parked outside but we turned into the park. The entrance fee is $10 per car or $9 for seniors. We happily parted with our $9 and received a brochure, which included a very detailed map. Looking at the map, we decided to head for Whalers Cove first.

The car park was very nearly full but we were lucky to grab the last spot available. This is the only place in the reserve where scuba divers can enter the water and we decided that most of the cars parked there must belong to scuba dives because there were a lot of people walking around in wet suits andy most of the vehicles had scuba gear in the back. According to the Point Lobus SNR, only half of the park can be viewed onland.  By scuba diving you see the other half.

Immediately we were struck by the awesome beauty of the place. A sheltered bay was in front of us thick with kelp. We walked back up the road to the old cabin at the side of the road. A plaque outside said it was built by Chinese fishermen in the 1850′s. It is now used as a cultural history museum. Peeking through the window it looked interesting but it didn’t open until 9 am. Just opposite a sign marked the beginning of the Granite Point Trail so that is where we headed.

Sea otter at Point Lobos State Reserve

Sea otter at Point Lobos State Reserve

It was a beautiful trail and so peaceful. The sun had come out and it was quite warm but it felt chilly when walking through the shady parts.  Fortunately I had my sweatshirt on. I also had my binoculars and was on the lookout for sea otters as kelp is their favorite feeding ground. I saw no sea otters at that point but I did hear the distinctive tap, tap, tap of an otter probably using a stone to break open a shellfish. The path twisted and turned and a different view was revealed every couple of minutes. From the other side of the bay, I watched a boat pull into the cove and half a dozen scuba divers swam out to it. The first part of the trail is wheelchair accessible and where that part ends there is a conveniently placed bench.  If it hadn’t been in the shade I would have taken the opportunity to sit down and take in the view.

Instead we took a less accessible trail down to Coal Chute Point. The point is so named because in the 1870′s coal was discovered nearby. After the coal was mined it was taken first by horse drawn wagons and then loaded into ore carts on a tramway and taken to Coal Chute Point.  The water there is very deep and ships could get close to land to take on the coal as it cascaded from the chute. Now there is a a wonderful view of Monterey Bay.  It was here I saw my first otters of the day. A pair of them were not far off shore, an adult and lighter colored juvenile. The white face of the adult was clearly visible. They swam on their backs and dived every so often. After one dive the adult appeared with a shellfish in its paws and it turned on its back and swam out of sight. It was a real treat to see them so close. Tom spotted a bird down below, busily probing the rocks. It was black with yellow eyes, a red beak and light pink feet. I’d seen one before at Mendocino and couldn’t work out what it was. This time I tried harder. A lady walking by saw me consulting iBird West on my iPad. She said she thought it was an oyster catcher and with that information I was able to find out that it was a Black Oyster Catcher.

The trail we were on went a little further towards Granite Point and joined up with the Moss Cove Trail but we turned back. The museum in the whalers cabin beckoned us. Inside the cabin Wayne, the volunteer in charge, was happy to talk about the reserve and passed on lots of useful information. The exhibits in the museum displayed not only the cultural history of the area back to when a branch of the Ohlone tribe called Rumsien were in residence for about 2,500 years until the early 1800′s but also the commercially viable industries which sprouted up in the mid 19th century.  The first to arrive in the early 1850′s after the Rumsien had disappeared were Chinese fishermen who made the perilous journey across the Pacific in small junks. They set about harvesting abalone which abounded in the ocean. This industry flourished until the 1920′s.  In the mid 1850′s a granite quarry was established in Whalers Cove. The car park is now on the site. From the trail you can easily see where the quarry was. Portuguese whalers arrived in the 1860s and that business thrived for over 20 years.

The pristine park we can enjoy today was very nearly a non starter. In the 1890′s a scheme was hatched to sell 1,000 residential lots in the Whalers Cove area. Fortunately an engineer from back East came and fell in love with the area. His name was Alexander Allan. He bought 640 acres and he also set about buying up all the residential lots which had been sold. In the 1920′s, efforts were made to protect the cypress tress which grow here and no where else. First of all Allan sold some of his land to the State of California and later donated a whole lot more and the reserve was born.

The fog rolling in at Point Lobos Sate Reserve

The fog rolling in at Point Lobos Sate Reserve

It was time to move on and explore some more of Point Lobos. Our next stop was where both the Sea Lion Point Trail and the Cypress Grove Trail start. The park was getting busier but once again we found a parking place without too much trouble. We decided to take the Cypress Grove Trail and discovered a whole lot more of the attractions to be seen. At the end of this small peninsula is the Allan Memorial Grove. It is a circular trail and we took the counter-clockwise direction. We walked to the first overlook and were surprised to see some fog rolling in which looked like smoke coming off the trees. While I was admiring the view and Tom was busy taking photograps, a group of bird watchers turned up. One of the guys was wearing an Oregon Ducks T-Shirt and he commented on my Oregon Ducks sweatshirt. It always surprises me how many people say ‘Go Ducks’ when they see my sweatshirt. They were a chatty group and as we were leaving someone spotted an Oregon Junco – how appropriate. Apparently it is hard to tell the difference between them and the Yellow Eyed Junco apart from their call.

Further along the trail as we neared North Point it became steeper and the views more spectacular. At Pinnacle Cove there were steps going up and then down on the other side. Although there was fog offshore it was not drifting ashore so the views along the coast were of the Big Sur coastline which has to be seen to be believed. I can see why they call this reserve the ‘jewel of the California state park system’. Back in the car park, we contemplated taking the Sea Lion Point Trail but opted to drive to the end of the road to take in the whole park. The road is a wee bit narrow in places and because folks are so busy looking at the views, they tend to wander into the middle of the road. One has to drive very carefully. At the start of the Bird Island Trail we turned around in the car park and headed back.

We certainly enjoyed our time at the Point Lobos State Reserve and wonder why we had never visited before.  I’m sure we will come here again and walk some more of the trails.

 

From Scratch Restaurant, Carmel

From Scratch Restaurant in the Barnyard Shopping Center off Highway 1 in Carmel Valley

From Scratch Restaurant in the Barnyard Shopping Center off Highway 1 in Carmel Valley

From Scratch Restaurant is located in the Barnyard just off Highway 1. Many times we have driven this way and neither of us realized what a gem there was so close to Highway 1. I had found the restaurant online the day before and thought it would be worth trying out but we were not prepared for the Barnyard. For those who you who have not discovered it either, let me explain. It is a shopping center but it is more than the normal run of shopping malls. It is called the Barnyard Shopping Village because it consists of half a dozen large barn like buildings which house small shops in and around them which all fit in with the barnyard theme.

All this cuteness has a downside. Finding any one shop is difficult. We drove round several times without spotting the From Scratch Restaurant. I saw a directory on a wall so we stopped to look at.  It wasn’t all that easy to find the restaurant but we realized we were pretty close, at least we were near the correct barn. Nearby we noticed the Carmel Valley Roasting Coffee Company and thought we would first of all find the restaurant and then come back for a coffee.  I knew the restaurant opened at 7.30 and as it was only 7 am, so we had plenty of time.  We walked around a very nice patio, with benches to sit on and lots of flowers, and saw a sign for the restaurant. OK, we knew where it was, so we went back for a coffee for Tom and a hot chocolate for me.  The coffee shop was very nice. For starters the coffee was good but the surroundings were very pleasant too.  Several comfortable sofas and coffee tables were placed around the room and most of them were vacant. The half an hour we spent there was relaxing and the natives were friendly.

Just after 7.30 we set off to walk to the restaurant thinking it would be easy.  It wasn’t. We thought the sign we saw was above the shop but we were proved wrong.  There was a very nice florist there and a couple of other interesting shops but no restaurant.  We wandered a bit further and come to another inviting patio but no sign which said From Scratch Restaurant.  On a pillar there was a noticeboard which looked suspiciously like a menu board showing the specials.  On closer inspection it was what we were looking for but there was no sign saying From Scratch Restaurant and if there was we certainly didn’t see it.

Inside there were a few customers and lots of empty tables. We were told to sit where we liked and we chose a table near a fireplace and close to the window. The server came straight up with the menus and she was very friendly. Tom ordered Smoked Salmon Benedict, which was 12.95 and I had Oatmeal for $5.95.

The decor was very nicely done. On the wall near us were lots of original water colors by Mary Alice Hinman which could be bought for $150 each. The opposite wall displayed framed colored photographs by Miguel Dominguez which could also be bought. On the mantlepiece above the fireplace were a decorative teapot, fruit in a tall glass jar and a sign which said ‘ Live High’.

Before long our food was served and it looked wonderful. Tom really enjoyed the benedict which was plumped full of smoked salmon and my oatmeal, although it was not steel cut oats, was scrumptious.  In fact the food was amazing.

Our visit ended with my trip to the one unisex restroom. Although it was not quite as luxurious as I expected it was perfectly adequate. A poster, depicting whales and tropical fish, hung on one wall and an orchid growing in a pot sat on a small table.

This is definitely one breakfast restaurant which we both recommend highly and will certainly be visiting again. I’m sure it must get really busy later in the morning so I suggest you get there early if you plan to visit.

Big Sur

Big Sur view from Nepenthe

Big Sur coast from Nepenthe. A million dollar view. We talk about Nepenthe further down.

We decided it was time to revisit Big Sur as it has been a couple of years since we took the scenic drive along Highway 1.

(Please click on the small images to see larger versions, the resolution is better.  Sorry, but just about all browsers don’t do these photos justice.  Most browsers aren’t color managed so much of the shadow and color are lost.)

As we approached Gilroy on 101 we saw signs for the Garlic Festival. This is a big event which thousands of people will attend. I have never been and maybe one day I should just go to see what it is like and to sample garlic ice cream. Encountering traffic on the way home though could be a problem.

We arrived in Pacific Grove at 6.45a.m. and as the cafe we planned to have breakfast in did not open until 7 am, we had a little bit of time to kill. We drove down to the end of Lighthouse Avenue to see if I could find the motel I stayed in on my first trip to California in 1997. On that occasion I was with my son and daughter and we were spending New Year in the area. We found the motel almost at the end of the road and it looks the same as I remembered it. As we still had a few minutes to spare we drove down to Lovers’ Point which is a nice little cove with a sandy beach. In the past I have spotted sea otters amongst the kelp beds not far from shore but not today.

After breakfast we found our way back to Highway 1. When we crossed Carmel; River Bridge we were officially on the Big Sur scenic drive.

We wanted to have a quick look around Point Lobos State Reserve. There is a car park but it has a day use charge. According to ‘A Guide to California’s Big Sur‘, walk-ins did not have to pay to enter the reserve and that there were parking places along the road. All we found were ‘No Parking’ signs posted.

Our first stop was at the 67.00 mile marker (for more information about mile markers see this) in a small gravel pull off and we were in for the

Blue or Gray Whale?  We're not sure.  Anyway they were very close to shore.

Blue or Gray Whale? We're not sure. Anyway they were very close to shore.

treat of our lives. There was an no official trail but there were signs warning of dangerous cliffs. We walked down a rough beaten path towards the ocean where we had a good view of the coastline. There was no access to the shore at all. Here the rocks meet the sea with not a beach in sight. I was gazing out to sea at the kelp beds, keeping my eyes open for sea otters but what I saw took my breath away. Just offshore, maybe no more than a quarter of a mile, I spotted a water spout. Could it have been made by a whale? No, it couldn’t be, not at this time of the year. The whale migration was over a couple of months ago. But I saw another one and then another. I called to Tom and we kept our eyes trained on that section of the ocean. There was one water spout after another and deduced there were more than two whales out there. All the activity seemed to be in one spot but after we had been watching for at least half an hour we realized they were slowly moving north. Every so often we saw a fin rise out of the water but none of them breached. We concluded that they were feeding. Tom took lots of photographs but it was very difficult to actually capture anything. Sure wished I knew what sort of whales they were. The next day I mentioned to someone what we had seen and was told there was something on the news about the number of whales spotted off the coast of California. Of course I had to check online and found this. Maybe it was blue whales we saw. Wow.

Big Sur coast line

Big Sur coast line

Eventually we tore ourselves away an continued our drive. At the 65.32 mile marker we stopped to take some photos and again at the 62.5 marker. The latter is called the Abalone Cove Vista Point. It bet there are no abalone there now. Tom reflected that back in the day you could probably walk out at low tide and pluck them from the rocks (note from Tom: Wild Abalone is the best food I ever ate.  It is rich but not overly so.  Texture, taste and sweetness from the sea.  Man, it doesn’t get any better). Just off the the right there was a line of trees which effectively blocked off a lot of the vista. They were screening somebody’s back lawn. At the end of the garden, on the edge of the cliff, was a bench. I expect that is the place to be when the sun goes down.

By this time is was 9.30 and the tourists were out. I guess we could be called tourists today. I expect all the small gravel pull offs at the side of the road will be packed later on as more and more people hit the road. Just past the Rocky Pit Restaurant we stopped again. A field, with half a dozen grazing cows, sloped down to the ocean. When we looked along the coastline to the south we spotted a rock archway in the cliffs.

The road becomes more and more scenic the further south we went but scary too. If you don’t have a head for heights, some of the bridges are

Wind blown cypress along the Big Sur coast

Wind blown cypress along the Big Sur coast

difficult to cross. I just take a deep breath and look straight ahead. Bixby Creek Bridge is the most photographed bridge on this road. Up close you don’t get a true appreciation of it. A little further south at Hurricane Point (58.3 marker) is the perfect place to take a picture. It was a little foggy up there so Tom did not attempt to photograph it today. To see one of Tom’s photos of the bridge just look at the top of the page. The history of why Highway 1 was constructed and who did the hard work can be found here.

About eight miles further on, the Point Sur Lightstation is located on a large rock. There are three hour guided walking tours led by volunteers at certain times – November to March on Saturdays and Sundays at 10 am and on Wednesdays 1 pm; April to October on Saturdays and Sundays at 10 am and 2 pm, Sundays at 10 am and Thursday during July and August at 10 am. Admission is $10. There are moonlight tours as well, admission $15. No advance booking is required but it is first come, first served. Must put that on our list of things to do in the future.

We stopped again just before the entrance to Andrew Molera State Park at the beginning of a trail. A sign just inside indicated that it led to a primitive camp site and this was the only access to it. While Tom took photographs from the road, I stretched my legs by walking a little way down the trail which cut through a field. Wildflowers grew profusely along the edge of the path. When it became a little chilly I turned back because I no longer had my sweatshirt on. A father and son passed me on their way into the campground carrying a surf board.

Back on the road again, we took a detour down Sycamore Canyon Road to Pfeiffer Beach in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. It was a steep 2.5 mile drive on a one lane road through woodland and past a few houses. We passed only one car coming up but there were two behind us and one in front. The fee for day use is $5. A sign displayed at the pay booth amused me – ‘Yes it is windy and no refunds’. There was short walk to the beach alongside a stream which was not in full spate. The beach was sandy and hemmed in by high cliffs and three huge rocks which were just offshore. At first sight it did not look very big but when we walked north a little way, around a small point, we saw that the beach extended some way. The surf surged through the gaps between the rocks and through a tunnel in one of them.

Archway at Pfeiffer Beach in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Archway at Pfeiffer Beach in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

There were quite a few people on the beach. Lots of family groups with picnics. One family were flying a kite and another building sandcastles. A couple of little girls in swimming costumes were walking a little way into the water and then running back again screaming in mock fright when the tide came in a covered their feet. I walked along the beach and spotted several cairns of balancing stones. The beach does not have larges pieces of driftwood but lots of little sticks which could be used to build small structures. I also noticed that a lot of seaweed had been washed up, most of it kelp.

I walked back to the northern end of the beach, leaving Tom busy with his tripod near the first big rock. Wading across a small creek I found a convenient rock to sit on in almost total seclusion. The sun, having burned off the fog, was shining brightly. There was a warm breeze which felt very pleasant so I used my sweatshirt as a cushion. Then I started writing. It was a glorious feeling to be sitting in the sun, listening to the surf and the happy sound of children at play and I was thoroughly content.

Heading down towards Nepenthe along the Big Sur coast

Heading down towards Nepenthe along the Big Sur coast

Our last stop was at Nepenthe. There is no way you can drive down Highway 1 and not stop here. Nepenthe was designed by Rowan Maiden, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright in the late forties. Nearby is a cabin, which was built in 1925 and at one time was owned by Orson Welles and, his wife at the time, Rita Hayworth. Nepenthe is on three levels with a restaurant on the top deck with a large outdoor terrace, Cafe Kevah on the middle deck with another large terrace and the Phoenix Gift Shop on the lowest level. From the top two decks are wonderful views down the coast. When we arrived we parked at the road level. Because there were a lot of cars around, most of them appeared to be Corvettes so assumed there was some sort of rally or meet going on, we thought it would be difficult to get anything to drink, never mind something to eat. We opted for the Cafe Kevah and were pleasantly surprised to find it almost empty.

We ordered a grilled Cheddar and Fontina Panini sandwich, served with a mixed green salad plus a beer for Tom and a hot chocolate for me. All the tables are outside underneath umbrellas. The sun is warm so the shade was welcoming. We had views over the ocean and inshore. Two years ago Nepenthe was threatened by the Basin Complex wildfire, which took over a month to contain, but we have not seen evidence of that fire anywhere today. As soon as our food hit the table, we were surrounded by a family of Stella Jays and a couple of crows. They sat waiting to snatch up the crumbs but they were out of luck. When we had finished eating, one of the jays hopped from the adjacent table onto ours, hoping I expect to glean any crumbs from our plates. One slight movement from me and he flew away.

After lunch we climbed to the top deck just to see what was going on. In stark contrast to the deck below, it was crowded. Obviously the Corvetters had congregated there. From this level you get a better view down the coast but it was a bit hazy so we could not see very far. On our way back to the car we stepped into the Pheonix Gift Shop and somehow managed to resist the temptation to buy anything.

Time to head home. We had a marvelous day exploring parts of Big Sur we had not visited before but there is still lots we have yet to see.

Franklin Point

Heading down the trail to Franklin Point.  This photo looks back towards Highway 1.

Heading down the trail to Franklin Point. This photo looks back towards Highway 1.

After stopping for breakfast in Santa Cruz, we set off for our favorite spot on the coast – Franklin Point. When we left San Jose just before 7, the temperature was already 77 degrees and it looked like it was going to be another hot one. What we needed was to cool off at the coast. We were expecting it to be a little foggy and in fact there was a sign on Highway 17 which said to watch out for fog ahead but as we reached the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains there was no fog and in fact there was still none in sight as we approached Santa Cruz.  It was a different story though when we left Santa Cruz to headed up the coast.  First of all it was just a little foggy but it cleared around Davenport, only to appear again as we approached Ano Nuevo.  That’s the trouble with fog, you never know where it is going to be exactly.

Franklin Point was not too bad actually.  As we got out of the car there was a stiff breeze so we donned our jackets.  There  were no other cars parked by the tree stump but ahead of us on the trail we could see another couple walking towards the beach.  The trail is only half a mile long to the beach.  I strode ahead so Tom could take his time to stop along the way and take photos.

It has been nearly a year since our last visit and I was looking forward to sitting on my favorite bench.  The trail has been modified since then.

Click on this photo for a larger version and youll be able to see our favorite bench at Franklin Point

Click on this photo for a larger version and you'll be able to see our favorite bench at Franklin Point

The first modification was man made.  About two thirds of the way along it used to get very wet and muddy in the winter and on occasions the trail has been impassable at this point.  A few years ago small logs were put down over the worst section to form a pathway but over time they have either been burried of have disappeared.  A raised boardwalk has now been constructed, which will make it possible to walk to the beach every day of the year.  The second modification to the trail was natural.  Due to shifting sand, the trail itself has been altered nearer the beach.

When I arrived at the beach, I took my time to absorb the scene, taking deep breaths to fill my lungs with the fresh air.  The only people in sight were the couple who I had seen earlier and they were making a beeline for the bench, which was clearly visible half a mile away up on the point.  But they only stopped a few seconds and did not even sit down before they turned away and carried on walking south.  Such a pity.  It might be blowing up there but five minutes rest on the bench would have set them up for the day.

I didn’t head for the bench straightaway but walked on past for about half a mile, just to see what I could see.  I stopped to look down into a little cove and spotted a huge pink starfish clinging to a rock.  The path at this point was perilously close to the edge of the cliff.

Turning back, I retraced my steps to the point where a boardwalk leads to the bench.  Last time I remarked how the boardwalk itself was beginning to deteriorate.  This time I noticed how some of the metal poles were very rusty and a few have corroded to the point where the metal is very flaky.  I won’t be surprised if on my next visit some of them will have rusted through completely.

Looking out at Franklin Point from our favorite bench at our favorite place along the San Mateo Coast.

Looking out at Franklin Point from our favorite bench at our favorite place along the San Mateo Coast.

Eventually I arrived at my bench.  OK, it was windy.  As I wrote I had to hold down the pages of my journal with the other hand, but I’m not complaining.  The sound of the waves coming in and going out and the surf breaking over the rocks was soothing.  The smell of the ocean was invigorating – all those negative ions working their magic.  On top of all that, I could taste the brine on my lips.  The fog was thicker out to sea and I could not see Pigeon Point Lighthouse off to my right.  I knew it was there but the light was not even visible.

Normally we see a lot of pelicans flying low around this point and Tom waits patiently for them to arrive.  You have no warning at all that they are coming.  Suddenly they appear, gliding in formation and skimming the waves.  But today we were out of luck.  We saw lots of gulls and cormorants sitting out on the rocks but not one pelican.

As we sat there, contemplating life and the future; glorying in the scenery and the cool breezes, the sun began to warm our backs.  Ironically the fog seemed to be getting thicker off the coast.  Eventually we both took a deep sigh, turned our backs on the ocean and headed back to the heat of the Santa Clara Valley.

San Mateo Coast – Highway 1

It has been over a month since we have done any day trips, due to a nasty cold that Tom has been suffering from and

San Gregorio Valley

San Gregorio Valley

several very wet weekends.  This weekend is not going to be any dryer but as only scattered showers are forecast today, we decided to at least go for a drive.

We set off just before 7am, heading towards the coast.  On the peaks of the Santa Cruz mountains there was a dusting of snow.  There was a beautiful but ominous cloud suspended above.  That must be the next storm moving in.  We desperately need the rain though.  After two dry winters, we welcome the rain but it has been a long time coming this year.  It probably will not be enough,though, to prevent water rationing this summer.  When it rains here it hopefully falls as snow over the Sierras and when that snow melts in the spring, it fills our reservoirs.

The sun was shining but the temperature only registered at 43 degrees F down in the valley.  It is the sun shining on the clouds which made them look so beautiful.

We took Highway 85 to 280 and headed north.  Near the Alpine Road exit, we caught sight of a partial rainbow but it disappeared before our eyes.  Above us a hawk hovered, the sun making it look almost white.  Just before we reached the Woodside exit the rain started to fall but only lasted a short while.

We took the scenic route to Highway 92 by turning off 280 at the Edgewood Road exit and turned left.  As we drove back under the freeway, the view in front of us was glorious.  Ahead was a heavily wooded slope, c0vered in pine trees and with small patches of flog clinging to the trees and filling the small dips.  At Canada Road we turned right and drove past Filoli House (open Tuesday – Sunday) and the Pulgas Water Temple (open week days only).  Neither were open but one day we will visit both.

Tom wanted to stop and take some photos but there were “No Parking At Any Time’ notices posted at regular intervals plus a high wire fence made it impossible to take a decent shot.  Further along we did find a place to park where there was no fence.  From there Tom had a good view down to Crystal Springs Reservoir, which is the source of San Francisco’s drinking water.

This section of Canada Road is closed to cars every Sunday for cyclists to have the road to themselves (apart from the odd roller skater).  We once brought our bikes to Bike Sunday.  It was great and we must come again.  We will be taking part in the Strawberry Fields Forever charity bike ride in May so we may well come here again on our path to getting back into condition.

We turned left onto Highway 92 on the final stretch into Half Moon Bay.  First we crossed the reservoir and then started the climb over the Coastal Range.  Crossing Skyline Blvd we caught our first glimpse of the ocean.

The downhill section of the road into Half Moon Bay is always fascinating.  There are so many interesting businesses  along the way – Christmas tree farms, pumpkin patches (though at this time of the year there are no pumpkins to be seen), equestrian centers, plant nurseries, huge metal sculptures of animals and further along a lot animals carved out of wood, a winery (it used to be called Obester Winery but the name has changed to Nebbia Winery) and Spanish Town with it’s seven shops selling a variety of crafts.

We drove through the historic main street of Half Moon Bay but didn’t stop.  There was nothing open.  We were thinking of stopping for breakfast here but the Main Street Grill was not open (and it was gone 8 am!).  Pescadero will be our breakfast destination.  At the end of the street we turned left onto Highway 1 and enjoyed a glorious ride.  The sun was shining, even though there were still those threatening clouds around, and the ocean was very calm with not one white cap to be seen.  Everything was wet and dripping and lots of surface water on the road.

Just before San Gregorio State Beach we turned left on La Honda Road towards San Gregorio.  We are taking another scenic route, this time into Pescadero.  On the way we pass a couple of small trees covered in pink blossom.  In San Gregorio, which is just a couple of houses and a rather quaint little store, we took a left on Stagecoach Road.  Tom wanted to take a photo of the valley.

Along Stage Road heading into Pescadero

Along Stage Road heading into Pescadero

We drove back to San Gregorio, crossed La Honda Road and carried on along Stagecoach Road, passing the old stage post on our right and further along, up on a small rise, the old school house on our left.  The road starts to go uphill and there are many twists and turns.   We think it is along here that our friend Tim had his encounter with the mountain lion (see the post on Point Reyes) so we had our eyes peeled but we were out of luck.  The road continued to wind around giving us distant views of the ocean one minute a secluded valley the next.  Approaching Pescadero we passed a farm on the right which had an enormous rusty metal skeleton “Terminator” sculpture holding a machine gun on the roadside.  Passing the cemetery, we entered the main street of Pescadero.

We had breakfast at Duartes Tavern.  This is one of our truly favorite places to eat at any time of the day (see the post on Duartes Tavern).  Today was no exception.  As it was Valentine’s Day, I expected it to be more crowded.  I did hear though that they were fully booked later in the day.  There was a fresh red rose on all the tables.  Tom had an omelet and I had oatmeal with a side of wheat toast.  With the oatmeal you get milk, brown sugar, raisins and pecans  There were two sorts of home made scrummy jam served with the toast.  While there, I bought one of their legendary ollallieberry pies to take home.  A bit expensive at $23 but a splendid treat for a special occasion.  I was presented with a single, white rose, when we left – as all women were.  What a lovely gesture.

We left Pescadero by turning left onto Pescadero Creek Road. which is another scenic route.  So far we

Misty fog threading through the trees

Misty fog threading through the trees

have not had any more showers but when we drove through the redwoods big drops of water fell from the branches.  Before we reached La Honda, we turned right on Alpine Road.  Tom and I have never been on this stretch of road before and it was spectacular.  Very narrow with just room for one car in parts and with lots of hair pin bends along the way.  At one point, we passed a couple of parked cars on a small lay by and I noticed a trail leading to a little wooden bridge over the creek. I looked on the map and saw that it was the Towne Fire trail which heads back towards Pescadero Creek Road.  We’ll have to walk it one day. There were a few residences we passed but we couldn’t see them.  The only indication were mail boxes and huge imposing gates.

We stopped to take some photos where the woods ended and the open spaces began.  On our left was the Russian Ridge Open Space and on our right the Skyline Ridge Open Space.  The views were amazing and the rising fog looked like smoke.

Approaching Skyline Blvd, we drove though several patches of fog and encountered four cyclists freewheeling down an incline before they hit the next rise to Skyline.  Fortunately they turned left and we crossed Skyline and descended Page Mill Road to 280.  In several spots we had good views down to Palo Alto, the Dumbarton Bridge and the whole South Bay.  Halfway down we saw a flare in the road.  Rounding the corner we had to stop because a Land Rover had gone into a tree.  Fortunately the driver was not hurt as we saw him sitting at the side of the road looking rather dejected and embarrassed.  Soon we hit 280 and were soon home.

We had a very enjoyable day, saw some wonderful sights, had a great breakfast plus we avoided the rain.  What more could anybody ask for?

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