Last New Year’s Eve we patiently waited online at www.parks.ca.gov, ready to book a campsite for the summer of 2011. We didn’t want to miss our opportunity to reserve a spot in one of Big Sur’s hike-in environmental campsites – they're typically booked up almost a year in advance.
We were lucky to get two nights in beautiful July. The site, $30 a night, was located right above an 80-foot waterfall that drops into the ocean. It was wonderfully cool and pristine, surrounded by redwood, tan oak, madrone and chaparral that framed an exquisite sunset over the Pacific.
Very excited, we started our drive up from Carlsbad, California, to Big Sur country. Battling traffic is no one’s idea of fun – so after a little bit of bad luck with traffic on the 405, we decided to change our course and veer off to Pacific Highway 1.
The extra time spent on the winding roads of this beautiful coastal highway is absolutely worth it. We stopped in Cambria, a little town just south of Big Sur, to break up the trip.
Cambria seemed stuck in time with its old architecture and quaint main street. The boardwalk on the ocean offers great views of seals and sea lions on the rocks and looked ideal for a run or walk. The landscape and hikes around the town of Cambria make it definitely worth the stop.
Big Sur and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park are only an hour's drive north from Cambria, and the drive took our breath away. It’s hard not to stop at every turn to take in the views along this stretch of coast. No wonder it’s one of the most photographed landscapes in the world.
We finally arrived at our campsite, and everyone just gasped at the views. Even though we had to deal with hikers trudging through our site about every hour to capture the view, I could hardly blame them. With only a couple primitive toilets at the top of the hill, we had to trek in our own water and settled into not washing for a couple of days.
The stars at night were spectacular, and the shooting stars made you believe your dreams would come true. The days were calm and blue and the water alluring. We did a couple beautiful hikes; one towards a waterfall where we could cool off and enjoy an icy shower.
The other, more scenic hike – although short – led us down to the ruins and terrace of the McWay Waterfall House, where we found an incredible view of the waterfall cascading down from the granite cliffs and our campsite above. My imagination again went wild, imagining what it was like to live here with these views and mountains to climb.
I have a feeling we'll be at home again this New Year’s to make sure we get another chance to soak up the beauty of the Big Sur and its magic.