Pacific Coast Highway

I had been down the PCH once before. My last family summer vacation as a teenager we headed to San Fran, Gilroy California for the Gilroy Garlic Festival and down a chunk of the PCH. My parents had made a trip to California on their honeymoon so we did a little chunk as a family. I’m a Florida West Coast girl and I love a good sunset, growing up I was spoiled and got to see them all the time. I, unfortunately, don’t get to see them as much anymore so when we arrived in Monterey I was gung ho for a cold dinner (cheese, fruit and some salted meat) and a sunset. Ben was extremely tired since he drove most of the way and we got held up in San Francisco Giants baseball traffic and Silicon Valley traffic in general. After some debate, Ben was a trooper and we headed down to the shore at Carmel State Beach only to be greeted by grey cloudy skies. On the plus side, they grey skies made the succulents on the beach look lovely in the pictures! We stopped at a grocery store for dinner and headed back to the hotel.
Sunset at Carmel State Beach

Succulent love
 The next morning we got up, had breakfast and headed down to coast. Even though there was no rain in California that summer, in that area it is pretty cloudy a lot of the time. We read online that most of the California State Parks are free to go in, but they are charging for parking.  The next morning our first stop was at Point Lobos a place that I had been with my family 15 years earlier. Ben and I hiked in from the main road and did the loops along The Pit and Whalers Cove. There were a few sea lions out on a rock that were hard to make out but easy to hear.
At Point Lobos
A picture with both of us in it!
Tiny little specs out there are sea lions!
We continued down US 1 and stopped at the standard stops like the Bixby Creek Bridge and McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. McWay Falls was pretty neat, unfortunately, we paid for parking here which was a mistake. It took forever to get in and out and then tripled our walk to what we wanted to actually see. There was the old remnants of Julia Pfeiffer Burns’ house which is an amazing place to have a house. The views were stunning even on a cloudy morning. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to hike down to the beach there and if you do there is a hefty $300 fine that come along with it. The only way to arrive at the beach would be to kayak to it which looks pretty challenging based on how to coast is shaped and how to waves pound into the rocks. Nearby the house was a camping spot that overlooks the ocean, called Saddle Rock Environmental Campground, unfortunately, they were all taken when we arrived, but it looks like the primo camping spot on the PCH. My friend Sara had stayed in a yurt along the PCH which we drove past and they looked pretty fantastic as well.
Bixby Creek Bridge (I think - we got faked out once!)
Lovely wildflowers down the cliff. 
We were sort of back from the steep cliff (Sorry mom!)

Bird catching the updraft
McWay Falls
A view down the cliff
The remnants of the house, quite the location! 
Most of our drive down the PCH was cloudy, but that’s just that part of the coast but we did make a turn around one bend in the Big Sur area and all of a sudden there were magical beautiful blue skies. One of Ben’s desired stops was at a silent hermitage along US 1 Ben had read about the New Camaldoli Hermitage online a few months prior to our trip. As soon as we took a left off of US 1 the whole vibe was different up the hill. It was peaceful. It was quiet. It was serene. It was wonderful. The views from above were magnificent. We drove up the hill to take a better look, stopped in the gift shop, with their permission we popped into the chapel and got a tour of what a room there looks like. They recommended at least a three-day stay to fully get the benefit of the hermitage.

Gratuitous Forester shot.
The view from the top of the Hermitage.
One of the cottages at the Hermitage
Ben being so patient with me and my picture taking!

The next stop that I was amazingly excited about was towards the end of the chunk of highway that we were going to do. It was at the Elephant Seal Vista Point. Since we didn’t get to see many seals up close at Point Lobos I was super excited for the Elephant Seals. The best part of tourists is that they are almost always the indicator of where wildlife is. This was no exception. Everyone huddled at the end of the lookout meant lots of seals. We sat and watched them for quite a bit. There were a few that reminded us of Mirabelle, that silly little pup of ours, goofy throwing sand and smiling. 
The smiling one was a ham!
Animals that snuggle are the best.
This one was like Mirabelle - kept eating sand and throwing it around. 
Elephant Seal Vista Point.
Unfortunately for us the coastal camping situation was slim without reservations and there were not many National Forests nearby for us to disperse camp in nor was there much daylight left. So we ultimately decided to drive up to Fresno spend the night and head to Yosemite in the morning. 

Comments

  1. Looks like you enjoyed the highway really well and the pictures you have shared from the occasion show the beauty of the area. Will be going there on a drive really soon.

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