"The Greatest Meeting of Land & Sea in the World"
The area known as "Big Sur" refers most specifically to the section of history Highway 1 (The Pacific Coast Highway), between San Simeon in the south and Carmel to the north along the coast of California. I simply call it, my favorite place on the earth.
Big Sur is rugged, isolated, and surrounded by jaw dropping views in nearly every direction. It has an energy like no place I've ever been, which explains why it has been the home to numerous writers, artists, and spiritual gathering places. Landscape painter, Francis, McComas, famously called it, "the greatest meeting of land & sea in the world." I traveled briefly through Big Sur in the summer of 2003, but it wasn't until 2006 that I was able to return and it give the proper visit it so justly deserves.
I chose to begin my journey in Los Angeles, meaning I would be driving up the coast from south to north. With the Pacific Ocean to my left and the mountains on my right, I set out. Following the win of a landmark case by the residents of the area to preserve the land in 1962, Highway 1 adopted one of the country's strictest land use plans, which has prohibited any new construction within sight of the highway. What this means is that as you drive the highway through Big Sur, the road is not clouded with large billboards and fast food residents, what you see is pure earth- giant redwood trees, mountains, and raw land at the tip of the continent dropping into the Pacific ocean- a rarity in these modern times of over development and exploitation of the land.
On my first day, I visited the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Perched high on the hill of San Simeon, this beautiful estate, built between 1919 and 1947, was the home of newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. It has 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, both indoor & outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theatre, an airfield (for flying in guests), and the world's largest private zoo. I spent that night at the Ragged Point Inn. This lovely 39 room hotel floats on the cliffside above the ocean. Every room has a view of the ocean, guests have access to the the large lawn, which is simply stated with comfortable chairs, perfect for sitting on while enjoying the entrancing sunset. There is a gourmet restaurant, gift shop, and coffee bar.
The following day, I drove to Kirk Creek Campground. In all the research I had done to prepare for my trip, I found repeated recommendations to make a point to camp there- within two minutes of arriving it became clear why. The campground is laid out on a wide cliff, which jets out a bit into the ocean. After setting up came, I wandered around and found a simple sign which read "trail"… of course I followed. As the path lead me down the cliffside, I began to be surrounded by trees and the ocean stopped being visible, I then realized I was following a creek. As I reached the end of the path, I found myself at the exact point where the gentle flowing creek poured into the ocean. It was such a sight to see! Previous visitors had used the abundance of rocks from the beach and path, to damn the creek into small wading pools, which allowed hikers (during low tide) to sit in and around the pools as the ocean crashes all around. I spent the remainder of my day sitting on a giant boulder placed a few paces out into the ocean. The sun shone down on me, as I felt the pulse of the world surround me. Eventually the tide brought the water back into the mountainside, slowly filling the pools with ocean water. I carefully hiked back up the hillside to my campsite and after hydrating and eating with the sunset as the backdrop to my meal, I watched the fog roll in and engulf the mountainside, making it nearly impossible to see the headlights of cars driving Highway 1 from my campsite. Then a full moon filled the sky and lit up the entire campground, making flashlights unnecessary. I slept the night knowing I would compare nearly everyday for the rest of my life, with the dream-like day I had just experienced.