Dory is down there, in her awesome spot.
It has been a long time since we’ve been down this way. We learned about this campground from an Alto friend, and it was one of the first “WOW!” premium sites I’d ever experienced. I had reserved a lesser premium site, but Richard was able to score a cancellation in gorgeous site 4. It is still every bit as WOW as I remembered. As we checked in with Daisy, the campground host, she cheerfully noted that we had the best site in the place. “We know,” we answered, trying not to seem smug.
The Bixby Bridge marks the real entrance to Big Sur.
The campground is located underneath one of those Highway 1 bridges, common up and down the coast, feats of engineering in their own right. There have been so many catastrophic slides over the years, it is testament to California’s stubborn determination that they continue to keep this highway going. The drive down south is the exciting direction, where you are right next to some jaw dropping plummets. I will say, they have guard rails in all the places I wanted them, and everyone knows to take it slow. There are relatively frequent pull outs in case there are eager beavers wanting to get past you, which was great on Sunday when there were lots of cars and motorcycles doing the drive.
Just spectacular for a solid hundred miles
Once you pass the small town of Big Sur, there really isn’t much else beyond a lone restaurant, or Inn, or art gallery. We gassed up at a quaint looking Chevron station, even though we had about three quarters of a tank. We pulled out at viewpoints to gape and take pictures in several places, and eventually arrived at the campground around 4. I did a quick Caravan Mover spin to optimize the morning coffee view because how can you not? We had a perfect vantage point to stare at waves and sea otters for hours and hours.
A surprising sight, aptly named “Flower Trap,” just waiting to stop photographers along the highway
Daisy the campground host, in addition to being super friendly, is a wealth of information. She gave us great tips on some hikes further south. One went to Salmon Creek Falls and the other went along a zig zaggy uphill trail near the Kirby Creek Campground. Salmon Creek Falls was pretty but covered with Poison Oak. It was everything we could do to avoid touching any and we will find out in a couple of days whether we were fully successful. That one is located about fifteen miles south of Limekiln and past the tiny “town” of Gorda. The Vincente Flat Trailhead is directly across from Kirby Creek Campground, which is a Forest Service Park and looked beautiful. On this trail, you can keep going up and up, until you’re tired of climbing, and enjoy breathtaking views of the ocean the whole time. Eventually, the trail gets to the top of a cinder cone peak, and then to Vincente Flat Camp, but we had no intention of going that far.
A wealth of wildflowers overlooking the ocean on the Vincente Flat Trail
On our way back, we noticed a chimney like structure way up on the top of a peak. We asked Daisy about it, and sure enough, she had all the info. She said it was all that was left of a gentlemen’s club from the 1800s. She said there was a whole complex up there. Then she said, “There was a big slide.” Here’s the fun thing about me: I hear all kinds of crazy things all the time because of my hearing impairment. If I were to stop and ask, “What?” every time I heard something weird, I would never finish a conversation. So, I let things go constantly, working out later what the person probably said. So, when Daisy said, “There was a big slide,” my mind pictured an actual literal slide. Like somehow the gentlemen’s club had an activity where the well-to-do could shoot themselves down the cliff and into the ocean. Like my mind went with that for a minute before I decided I must have misheard. But I did imagine a couple of them flying down a massive ramp, in their 1800s swimming attire. I wasn’t sure how they were supposed to get back up, or survive, and that was what clued me in. Later that evening, Richard said something about the gentlemen’s club buildings sliding off the side of the mountain, and I thought, “Yeah. That makes way more sense.”
Naciamento Fegusson Road – a trip highlight for Richard
Richard got in one of his “Jay’s Essential Bike Rides” adventures on Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. He collects information about great rides before we go places and gets very excited about doing them. The only hitch was that the road was closed to cars, due to “12.6 million dollars of road damage,” and there was no cell service. He almost psyched himself out because that can be a dangerous situation to put oneself in, but we had a chat with a Park Ranger, who allayed his fears. He loved the ride and said it was great to have no cars on the road. From Limekiln, it’s about two miles to get to the road, which is also located across from the Kirby Creek Campground. From the start of the road, after a cattle grate and a closed gate, it’s all uphill for seven miles to the summit. He made it safely up and back to camp right as I was wondering whether I should worry.
Obligatory McWay Falls photo – sans selfie
We took a drive back north toward Big Sur because I wanted to make a stop at McWay Falls. I’m going to try to remember that I don’t need to do that again. I’ve done it twice and this time felt very touristy. I mean, it’s a required selfie spot, but it didn’t stand out as much to me before. It might have been because the overlook platform is closed now, so people were closer together on the trail. It also could have been due to the difficulty finding a parking spot, even on a Tuesday. Or it may have just been this one woman who was really invested in taking glamour shots with a tripod and lots of makeup and cute poses. And that’s fine if that’s your thing, but it left me with the thought that this is a view point I can skip from here on out.
Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground
We left and checked out the Pfeifer Big Sur campground for future reference. That is a big place that I’m pretty sure I went to as a kid with my dad. Richard is sure he stayed overnight at the lodge once when he did a crazy bike ride from home to San Luis Obispo. It is a proper redwood forest there, so zero solar potential. It is situated next to the lovely Big Sur River and there are amenities like super expensive food at the lodge, and a campground gift shop. There’s a dump station and lots of hikes to do in the area. The little town of Big Sur is not far away, but no cell service to speak of, unless you drive to the top of a rise just south of town.
Tough to beat a place like this
After that we did the twenty-mile drive back to Dory for a delicious Blue Apron and a movie before bed. All the sunsets have been blocked at the last minute by a low-lying fog layer. Still, we got nice, diffused glows to the crashing of the waves. We both slept especially soundly, and I didn’t miss the internet at all. There are a few viewpoints along 1 where there is unexpected service, but mostly it is fully cut off and maintains the remote feel for about a hundred miles. The highway is an unlikely marvel, that rises and falls hundreds of feet above the Pacific Ocean, a precariously carved little ribbon in constant need of repair. I’m glad they keep repairing it. It is a special gift to those who brave the journey.
Total miles from Half Moon Bay: 146.6, 17.2 mpg, 5 hours 25 min taking in view points and stops along the way. Site 4, awesome. Great solar. No dump. No cell service. Sites 4 and 5 have ocean views. It’s a very small campground with a tight descent and curve to get in. I would not try it with a big trailer, but someone made it in across from us with a pretty big one, so it can be done.