California's Stunning Coast

After catching a few rays on the beach near our Santa Barbara campsite and tossing the frisbee back and forth until Kristen nearly hit a beach neighbor, we paid for our previous-night’s campsite (an exorbitant $45!!) and headed further north. We took our time, relishing the treacherous-looking cliff views, stopping in charming and small Morro Bay for lunch. We’d hoped for fresh seafood, given the bay setting and all, but lunch turned out to be a bummer: the cafe we’d chosen had not seen its fisherman for the day, meaning there were literally no fresh fish items on the menu. Kristen ordered a hamburger, Loren ordered a smoked salmon salad, both which were relatively unmemorable. Trying to put the dining experience behind us, we continued north with Big Sur in our sights.

Elephant seals north of Morro Bay

Near elephant seal beach, looks like whack-a-squirrel bush

A roadside detour to see some elephant seals delayed us somewhat, and we started to worry about our dwindling gas reserves, ending up paying $6.70 a gallon, and going through the motions meant Kristen didn’t even think to partial-fill... which amounted to a $90 filled tank! Nonetheless, all worries vaporized as we entered stunning Big Sur, a hilly forested residential area that is so small it barely has a “strip.”

Big Sur

We totally lucked out when, after passing at least two full campgrounds, we found a hike-in campground at Andrew Molera State Park, and took the last spot for our first non-car-camping experience of the trip. At the car camping spots you sometimes end up with rowdy neighbors and loud RV generators. Here, the 5-minute hike to the campsites acts as a sort of filter that keeps the riffraff out of the campground. We were literally happy campers.

Big tree behind our campsite

Also adding to our jovial spirits, we were welcomed into our campsite by a pair of ground squirrels and a guinea-pig-looking-mole guy, all who kept close tabs on us while we set up our tent. The night was pretty chilly, requiring a full zip on the sleeping bags, and facilitated Kristen’s first good nights’ sleep in the tent.

We woke early and had time to hike out to the ocean, where the water was cold enough to numb our feet after about a minute, and then up to the headlands, which provided some gorgeous coastline views. By the time we arrived back at camp, the temperature had risen to the 70s again, and we packed up to head out.