A Small Trip to Big Sur

A few days ago, having the thought to take a last-minute trip somewhere for this weekend, Lisa and I decided to rent a car and find a place to go.  Luckily, being the Bay Area, there were a number of options to choose from.  We had originally thought to go visit Calistoga yesterday, but after doing some checking we found that we would really need to reserve a place to stay to do the things we thought we would go try to do.  We did drive around town to a few places we never managed to get to since we don’t own a car, but yesterday was largely a quiet day.  We did however make plans to go to Big Sur today, and the trip work out beautifully.

Waking up a little later than we had originally planned, we took showers, ate breakfast with some coffee, and managed to get on the road a little past 8:15 AM.  We started off the trip listening to Bjork’s Homogenic, an old favorite for both of us, driving down the highway, the sky a bit overcast and gray, excited to be on the road.  After a brief stop to pick up some coffee, we continued on our way listening to another favorite album, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s album Shahen-Shah.  The sheer ecstasy of the music was welcome, especially as we continued along and saw such beautiful landscapes that were always a couple hours away from us and that we never knew were right there.  (Listening to this album in particular reminded me of the long drives I had taken back in college to visit John in Wake Forest, as well as all the many times I used to listen to this album on Minidisc while walking around campus…)  It had been too long since I had listened to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and I had certainly made a note to spend more time with his music in the coming weeks.

We had missed a turn in our directions, but luckily Lisa had realized and we were able to catch another way to get to Highway 1 without losing much time at all.  When we got to Highway 1 and driven along for a few miles, we were surprised to suddenly see to our right the Pacific Ocean so close!  Beautiful… As we drove along, it all became only more and more incredible.  Stopping by the side of the road often, we took picture after picture of the many incredible views of the ocean, the rocks in the water, the formations of rock which the the highway wrapped around, and more. The sky was still a bit dark at this time, the wind strong and chilly, but beautiful nevertheless. Listening to Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon was wonderful accompaniment as we continued on, taking in the wonderful views before us.

Arriving in Big Sur at about 11:30 AM, we listened to John Adams’ The Dharma at Big Sur (though, I must say, much of which is difficult to hear while driving in Big Sur as the noise of the road often drowned out the music), and made our way to the Big Sur Tourist Center.  After asking for some information, we decided for our day two waterfalls mentioned on the list of things to do: Pfeiffer Falls and McWay Falls.

Driving back North a short half-mile, we entered into the park, parked the car, and then walked over to the trail.  A mile or so of fairly easy hiking through a beautiful forest filled with Redwoods, we made our way up the path to see the small waterfall at the end, enjoying the fresh air and taking in the beauty around us. Walking back, we took a small pause to simply sit on a bench and to just take it all in.  I sat there savoring the sounds of the trees, the leaves rustling in the wind and creating such a soft but strong sound.  The sound reminded me much of a wave of water, how it seems to move slowly but with carrying such volume of water as to be a very large force…  Ten or so minutes later, we proceeded back the way we came and stopped by the lodge there at the beginning of the path to have a small bite to eat. Afterwards we got back in the car and drove on to the next stop. 

By this time, the gray sky was beginning to lighten up and the sky and water begin to better define themselves.  We drove 10 miles or so South to the next park, parked our car, then took the short walking path to McWay Falls.  The scene was absolutely gorgeous! We could not walk too far along the path due to some renovation work they were doing, but from where we could walk to, we could see the falls from a distance pouring into the ocean and waves of water from the ocean coming in and out of the little cove.  The sky was brightening and the water–a dark, murky color when we first saw it in the day–had turned a beautiful blue.  Standing there we took many photos, talked quite a bit about what we were seeing, listened to the waves, soaked in the sun, and generally just marveled at it all. 

We walked back to our car and drove back North to our final stop of the day at the Henry Miller Library. A quirky but very charming place, we enjoyed a cup of coffee and tea there, perused the books on sale, and enjoyed looking around the library.  Close to 4PM and needing to get back to Berkeley, we got back in the car and started our way back.

Driving back along the same roads, it was amazing to see the views once again in such brilliant light.  It really felt as if we had gotten to see two completely different landscapes and was really just delighted at how well the timing of the trip had worked out.  My original worries from the morning that the trip would be dark and even rainy ended up turning into the opportunity to see such a beautiful view in two completely different lights. 

The drive back was met with some traffic, but overall was not bad at all.  The 3 hour drive back felt like it went by fairly quickly as we enjoyed listening to the CD’s we had brought once again and listening to NPR on the radio, as well as simply chatting about everything we had seen and enjoying each other’s company.  The trip worked out excellently and was really rejuvenating and inspiring.  Our first time there has proved to be a wonderful experience, and I think we’ll both be looking forward to another trip to further explore all that is there.

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