Big Sur Weekend, November 1-3, 2003

People often ask, well, where exactly is Big Sur? There is a Big Sur Park Station, about 25 miles south of Carmel, and that's the canonical site. But generally, the 90 mile expanse of coastway and mountains from Carmel (which is just south of Monterey) to San Simeon, home of famous Hearst Castle, is all known as Big Sur. It used to be called El Sur Grande: The Big South.

The wonderful coast redwoods flourish here, or used to, until they were logged out in the early 20th century. I think this is the farthest south you'll find Sequoia sempervirens.

The Esselen Indians lived here as hunters and gatherers, and mostly didn't survive the arrival of European settlers in the late 18th century. Little is known about them, but the new-age center to beat all new-age centers (probably the first new-age retreat and seminar and hot tub place in California), Esalen, remembers them in the name. For fans of Richard Feynman, let it be known he adored Esalen and came often, playing his drum and painting and thinking deep.

This rugged and beautiful and remote and haunted section of coast is home to another famous spiritual center, the Tassajara Zen Buddhist Center. (Click on "Tassajara" at the top of the page.)

And spiritual in a slightly different way, the Henry Miller Library and bookstore and performance center invites you to drop on by if you'd like to use their one-Mac internet cafe. There's a jar on top of the computer for donations - drop in what you think is fair. Henry Miller, noted American author, lived here from 1942-1962. I bought a copy of "Henry Miller on Writing".

    November 1, 2003:

  1. Pfeiffer Falls, an easy walk (less than a mile) from the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Big Sur Lodge, where I stayed two nights, is located inside this state park.

  2. The redwoods can be logged, but they (almost) can't be destroyed - they come back, growing from the miles of underground roots. The coast redwood is the world's tallest living thing. The tallest one alive today is up near Ukiah - about 368 feet tall. The Colonial Tree in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park has a circumference of 27 feet. The oldest redwoods in the park are the 800- to 1,200-year-old trees in the Proboscis Grove.

  3. Another shot of the Pfeiffer Falls.

  4. After visiting the falls, you can make a quick scramble up "Valley View Trail." You can't tell in this photo, but that's the Pacific Ocean out beyond the ridges.

  5. From atop Valley View, looking down to some buildings at road-level; these may be some buildings that are part of the Big Sur Lodge.

  6. My humble cottage. There are four "cottages" in one long building; perhaps 75 cottages total. Inside, it's quite plush and comfortable, with beautiful knotty pine furniture and as much hot water as a tired and dirty hiker might wish. Unfortunately, no fridge or kitchen.

  7. The heart-stopping beauty of the Big Sur coast. After my short hike in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, I decided to explore the road south. I was curious to see if I could get onto a beach. I didn't do that, but after about a half hour, I found Esalen, and got a copy of the current catalog from the kind Swedish woman at the guard booth. On the way back up the coast, I pulled into the Henry Miller Library.

  8. Rocks making waves. Well, OK, they don't actually make waves. They do make whitewater.

    Sunday, November 2, 2003:

  9. I decided to try my luck at finding a beach at the Andrew Molera State Park, 5 miles north. There is an advertised 8-mile beach loop. More on that later. If you squint hard, you can see a deer in this picture.

  10. Hours later, and two false turns later, I make it to the outlook spot at the junction of Ridge Trail and Panorama Trail. It should have taken me less than two hours to get to this point, but I managed to make it almost four, by following the wrong trail on two different occasions. I think my subconscious knew I really wanted to do a 12-mile hike, not a 8-mile hike. Anyway, we're looking north at Molera Point.

  11. More rocks-in-water. I think these are named the Franciscan Rocks (I have no idea why.)

  12. I finally make it to the "halfway" point, 8 miles and more than 4 hours later -- the gorgeous beach. The sun was not with me on this shot. I ate a hasty lunch as it was a bit cool and windy. The beach was deserted.

Marianne Mueller
Last modified: November 3, 2003