Monday, October 08, 2007

Spontaneous Big Sur.

This weekend began with an entirely Sacramento dilemma. Sacramento is so centrally placed, so close to everywhere, that the hardest part of a good weekend, can be deciding where to spend it. Our original plan was to head north towards the Shasta Cascades for a climb of North Yolla Bolly and some fishing in the proposed Sacramento River National Recreation Area. But once in the car, we realized our other options. If we were headed north, why not explore Lassen National Park? Or maybe we stay closer to home and go play in the year's first snow drifts at Lake Tahoe. Or how about we go to the hot springs near Bridgeport? Or Yosemite?--most the crowds should be gone by now. But its cold in the Sierras this weekend...let's go to the city instead, maybe to San Mateo for some Chinese hot pot. How about Napa? Of course, if we're going that way we might as well go all the way. Mendocino is nice in October, we could be there by dinnertime...etc. etc.

If you care about these things, a decision like this can be quite a struggle.

But, of course, there is always Big Sur. And Big Sur makes these decisions quite easy, actually. We hooked south on I-5 and were halfway to Big Sur by sundown. Sacramento has its perks.

We camped at Bottchers Gap. This is the view south from the Bottchers Gap campground over the Little Sur River to Pico Blanco and Launtz Ridge. Pico Blanco is owned by Granite Rock Company who bought the mountain in the 50s with the intention of mining the limestone that composes the mountain in order to make concrete. In the 1980s, they even received permission from the Forest Service to begin digging an open pit mine on the mountain. A road was built up the side of the mountain (you can see the road from Hwy 1) but the Coastal Commission intervened to stop the project. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court who sided with the Coastal Commission. The mine hasn't happened yet, but Granite Rock stills owns the mountain and is trying to get permission from the state to mine it. We'll see about that...

In the morning we drove down to Nacimiento Fergusson road and hiked up Mill Creek. Mill Creek is a pretty typical Big Sur trail. It follows a small creek up a narrow redwood gulch. The entire time you are surrounded by a mess of large redwoods and fallen limbs and twisted vines. It is dark and cool and eventually you forget that you began the hike on a hot, brown, dusty slope pasted with sun. The redwoods really do have some kind of strange relaxing effect. On the way back down we just stopped, midtrail, and took a nap. No planning or discussion preceeded this act. We just stopped, lied down, stared up towards the tops of the redwoods, and fell asleep. I woke up feeling as relaxed as I ever get. It was like you feel after a good, long massage, or after sitting in a hot tub for an hour or so. We were so relaxed we were whispering to each other.

This is a cool remnant from when they used to log these woods. That board is a "scaffold". Redwood trees are often hollow or burn scarred or otherwise irregular at their bases and so the loggers would carve steps into the trunk of the tree, jam these scaffolding boards in, and then stand on them and cut the tree down at a point that gave them a better, more uniform log. This scaffolding was still resting in the severed trunk of this redwood.

Lunch spot.

Coming out of the dark gulch...a view of the ocean and sun. The transition is so startling that you kind of flinch at the brightness.

Lucia Lodge and restaurant. The view from the "patio". We were the only people out there.

Never has a six dollar Pacifico seemed so cheap.

After a great long day we were stuck without somewhere to camp. Kristen suggested we just sleep on the Carmel River beach, but I was reluctant. She convinced me, and it was one of the best nights I've spent this year. We woke up to the loud sounds of ocean birds and breaking waves. This is the after effects of the sunrise. Kristen made a point that there is something "youthful" about sleeping on the beach. I agree. As long as we spend at least a night or two on the beach each year, we'll be fine...

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