Monday, June 30, 2014

Day 3: Big Sur

For our third full day on vacation we planned our longest outing to explore some of the parks making up the Big Sur Coastal Region of California. This area is known for it’s dramatic coastline and it’s coastal redwood forests. It’s packed with stunning views and great hiking which is what we enjoy most about travelling. Luckily, our friends Nary and Gerald had done pretty much an identical trip (without a baby) just a week before us, so Nary passed along tips and info for what to focus on in Big Sur. First, you should know that about 75% of attractions in Big Sur have Pfieffer somewhere in the title. 

This gets confusing so if you’re planning a trip, make sure to take note of the entire title of a park or a beach, otherwise you may end up in the wrong spot. You’ve been warned. 

To get to Big Sur from Monterey Pennisula, we had to travel down the iconic Highway 1. This is widely known as one of the most jaw-dropping scenic highways in the world. It didn’t disappoint. 
The road clings to the edge of the coastline which made me thankful that Jonathan was the one driving. 
We stopped at the famous Bixby Bridge to take some photos.

Jonathan went back the next morning to do some off roading with his Jeep on the old coast road and took some awesome pictures of the bridge from another viewpoint. 

The first park we stopped at was Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The admission to get into the parking lot was $10 but this covers your fee to get into the rest of the Big Sur State Parks for the day (with the exception of Pfeiffer Beach, which we will get to later).
We took Nary's advice and hiked the Valley View trail to Pfeiffer Falls. 

We continued to hike up the mountain a ways before deciding to hit the road to our next destination, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The crown jewel of Big Sur is quite possibly McWay Falls which is just about 1/4 mile from the parking lot here. Again, we had perfect weather which went hand-in-hand with the *perfect* scenery. 

We were seriously amazed by how spectacularly beautiful this overlook was. It was for sure the highlight of our day trip to Big Sur. 

After soaking in the views, we headed to our last stop of the day: Pfeiffer Beach (I was not exaggerating about everything being named 'Pfeiffer'). Pfeiffer Beach is not included in the $10 admission charge for the Big Sur Parks so will cost you an additional $10 to enter. 

I wasn't sure what to expect but everything I read leading up to our trip to Big Sur urged that we MUST visit this hidden beach. Well, it is very well hidden, that's for sure. It's about 2 miles down a small nondescript country road. It's a beautiful, protected beach featuring purple sand and natural rockway arches. 

Apparently it's the place to be for the perfect California sunset. Unfortunately Fortunately, our baby goes to bed way before the sun sets so we missed out on that particular experience, but we still had fun taking in the sights. 

That is until Jonathan totally misjudged a wave and got his shoes soaked in the process. If you want to make Jonathan a cranky-pants, get his socks and shoes wet. He immediately declared the day as 'ruined!' so we headed back to the car and made the hour drive back to Pacific Grove (Just kidding; he was a good sport about his wet feet:). Jon went to grab some take-out dinner while I got Forest ready for bed. We all slept good that night after such a long day of exploring! 

P.S. I have never owned such a conversation piece quite like our Deuter Kid Comfort Air carrier. 
We get so many compliments and comments and several people will reminisce to us about how they used to hike when their babies were small too. It's just such a great ice breaker and we are super glad we splurged on it, all the way around. We joke about Forest riding in his chariot with scenic Northern California as his backdrop. 
Not a bad life for a   8 month old! That's right, today is Forest's 8 month birthday! He's working on his guest post so you can expect that soon, along with a recap of our final day in P.G. and our weekend with Jonathan's parents in San Ramon. We are some busy bees this summer!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Day 2: Carmel-by-the-Sea and Point Lobos State Reserve

Our second full day of vacation started with a coffee run and a stroll around the bay. After Forest’s morning nap we loaded him in the car for a 20 minute drive down to Carmel-by-the-Sea. Carmel is known for it’s shopping, eating, celebrity sightings, and it’s white sandy beach. As cute as any European coastal city, we enjoyed window shopping and people watching while we meandered the streets of this charming beach town. 

We made our way down to the beach where Jonathan hung back with the stroller while I toted Forest down a gigantic hill to the ocean. Carmel is extremely dog friendly so we had fun watching the dogs run wild into the surf. A nice couple saw me awkwardly trying to take a selfie of us and offered to take our picture in front of the water. 
My selfie attempt. Terrible pic of me but cute of the little man so I had to post it. Ah, the things I do in the name of motherhood...

Since we didn’t want to leave Jonathan hanging for too long, after snapping some photos and dipping out toes in the water we made the treacherous hike back up the dune behind the beach and then went to track down some lunch. 

Our friends Nary and Gerald had just been to Carmel the week before so they recommended Bruno’s deli where we picked up some sandwiches and hit the road back to Pacific Grove since Forest was on the verge of a meltdown. That was probably his biggest fit of the trip so it wasn’t so bad. 

We rushed him down for a nap when we got back to the cottage, enjoyed our lunch and then headed to Point Lobos State Reserve for some hiking once Forest woke up.  There was a $10 fee to enter the park (this is a pretty standard entry fee for all of the natural attractions in this area) which was probably the best $10 we ever spent. We parked at Whaler’s Cove and hiked the North Shore Trail to Sea Lion Rock. 

The weather was beyond perfect. It was warm, but with a refreshing cool ocean breeze, like Scotland on its best summer days. This was probably my most favorite excursion of the whole trip. 

As we approached Sea Lion Rock, we could hear them barking from about 200 yards away. There was a sizable parking lot and bathroom in this area for those who didn’t want to hike the trails in between the points of interest. We went from mostly having the trail to ourselves to hitting a bit of a crowd, but we didn’t mind. 

The scenery here was awesome.- rocky, treacherous coastline looking out over powerful and swirling crystal-blue waters. The views were only enhanced by the solid sunshine and refreshing sea breeze.  Not to mention looking down to spot a pack of sea lions sunning themselves on a rock while some of their friends swam playfully in the harbor. 

It was definitely better than any zoo exhibit and I couldn’t believe how closely we were getting to observe them. 

Seriously, this kind of thing is right up my alley. While hiking, I’m used to ‘wildlife’ consisting of deer (we saw those too on this hike). 
It was a nice treat to have wildlife mean sea lions for a change! 
After hiking along and observing them for about 30 minutes, it was time for us to head back to the car in order to make it home in time for our little squirt’s bedtime. 

I definitely recommend a walk around Point Lobos if you find yourself near the Monterey Bay Peninsula! Check back later for details of Day 3 of our trip: Big Sur and Driving the famous Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast.