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Big Sur

BIG SUR

It was our first honeymoon.  Yes, neither Alli nor I had been married before but we had our official honeymoon booked for Bali in November and with Columbus Day weekend open a month on the heels of our big day, we sprung for a first honeymoon, something I’d recommend to any newlyweds if given the opportunity.  Ours was seized in Big Sur.  

Big Sur’s coast is rugged and pristine with only so much real estate before the mountains plunge into the vitriol ocean.  Based on the economics of scarcity, accommodations can be steep.  They’re certainly worth it and if you can spring for a night at Post Ranch, tell me everything about it.  We opted for a wooded cabin on the northern end of Big Sur near the border of Carmel that we found on VRBO.com.

The charm of a Big Sur trip began minutes from our Santa Monica home on the Pacific Coast Highway.  This drive is no drag, hugging the water nearly the entire way up.  Past Malibu and into Ventura County you’ll nick some inland farmland and beautiful sandstone mountains before you’re quickly back on the ocean.  

Just shy of the famed Hearst Castle, home to roaming zebras, is the Elephant Seal Boardwalk in San Simeon.  A simple pull over stop, we walked along the boardwalk above the beach covered in lumbering elephant seals, crowding together to nap, to annoy and lounge around.  There are hundreds and you can spend hours observing the personalities of each one.  

Not long after San Simeon, the views begin to make even Malibu seem ordinary as your prominence over the water gains and you wind along the S turns cut into the mountainside.  It’s difficult to balance the concentration required for these roads and mindless gawking. 

 We arrived at our cabin in the late afternoon where light poured through the damp redwoods in bright columns.  We met the owner who lived next door when she dropped off firewood and gave us a tour through the cozy two bedroom.  Only a couple miles up the road was Point Lobos State Reserve so we dropped our bags and headed out for a sunset hike.  We picked a three mile loop that wove through spooky Cypress groves and coastal bluffs leading to long protected beaches and granite cliffs diving into blue.  At the headland we watched the sun pass the horizon and walked back to the car.  At the cabin we had beers on the deck before grilling into the night.

In the morning we were off along PCH, scoring the must have photos at all the scenic turnoffs.  At one spot, a party of a dozen or so were all crowded around a telescope, beside a van of Condor researchers.  Perched on a ridge a hundred yards above us were three of the rarest wild animals in the world, California Condors, which have been reintroduced to the region after narrowly escaping extinction.  We were able to have a look into the telescope and watch the group as one took flight on nine foot wings.

Next we went to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park which holds some amazing quick hitters.  We hiked a short trail into a stand of massive redwoods split by a rocky creek less than a half mile from the lot.  Afterwards we walked the paved path under PCH to the McWay Waterfalls lookout, the veranda where one of the original settler homesteads of Big Sur once stood.  It’s a magical view as fresh water pours eighty feet onto the beach of the delicate cove as seagulls drink from its splash.

In the afternoon we drove twenty minutes north into downtown Carmel, a charming tourist village with stone walls, quiet streets and nice shops.  Since Central Coast vineyards are much more spread out than places like Napa and Sonoma, the vineyards have come to the people, setting up shop in a walkable, drinkable radius of blocks in town.  Walk into any tasting room and sample their specialties.  On your way out pick up a passport of all the tasting rooms in town and try to tag them all.  While the Monterey area is known mostly for its Pinot Noir and Syrah, each vineyard has its own distinct standout.  After sampling quite a bit of wine and our fair share of cheese and chocolate in adjacent shops our bourgeois escapade was over and we drove back to the cabin.  On the road home the sky caught fire with one of the most sensational sunsets of our lives and we wandered into some endless seaside pasture to absorb our last night in Big Sur.