The alarm on my watch woke me from a deep sleep as the first rays of light lit up the eastern sky. At dark thirty places can look similar and for a few moments I peered through the windows of my van, trying to remember where I had parked the night before. The Large redwoods tipped it off. A 35-dollar-per-night campground in Big Sur, or so they charge if you check in and out during normal business hours.
Five more minutes? No I shouldn't push it.
Leaving the comfort of my sleeping bag, I crawled to the front seat and fired up the Syncro's 2.0L Audi engine. I motored out of the spot and followed arrows pinned to trees towards the exit in first gear. For what seemed like an eternity, the path wrapped around redwoods exposing RV's and groups' tents before ending at an unattended gate. "35 dollars the richer, " I grinned to myself as I shifted into second. In 10 minutes, I emerged from the fog laden valley and pulled off Highway 1 at an appealing pull off with the false notion of falling back asleep for an hour or so.
Instead of crawling back into the fold-out bed, I sat in the driver's seat and looked towards the east. The light increased and every few minutes. I turned my head and inspected the shadows retreating down the nearby hills. The occasional pickup sped by on its way to who-knows-where, rocking the van briefly. Time check: 7:03. I erected my two burner Coleman stove and opened a pack of bacon. In ten minutes or so the sun will begin to warm up the beach. Bacon or beach, decisions. Deliberation. Reaching for the bacon, I put it back in the cooler. "That can wait, sunrise cant." Throwing on my Nike Free's, I hopped the fence and headed towards the beach.
Last light at Andrew Molera State Park.
As a taxpayer and owner of multiple state parks passes, I take offense at paying shitty motel rates to park my van for a night. Ten dollars perhaps, but $35 is out of the question.
Jay Carroll. Splash.
Capturing the capturer.
I walked through waist high grass before reaching a well used trail. Snaking through a grove of eucalyptus trees, it ran a mile or so along a stream before ending up at small lagoon and sand bar. The sun lit up the top of the largest trees. I took this as a cue, and started jogging. I can make it there by sunrise. The sun was now on the hills some hundred feet away. Time to run. Breaking out onto the lagoon, I was just in time. Finding a seat on a rock I sat for twenty minutes. Shivers and the promise of bacon and eggs cooked on a cast iron pan finally lodged me from my perch. This time I walked.
People talk about Big Sur like it's the first Star Wars, it changes their lives and is a constant reference point. Mention the place to anyone on the West Coast, and their eyes light up with a story, After exploring the area on a few trips, I now know why it lights up people's eyes when discussed. It's gorgeous and relatively accessible at two and half hours from San Francisco and six hours from LA. As drives go, it can't be beat. Highway 1 wraps around countless points and hundred-foot plunges into the ocean, conjuring plenty of "what if" thoughts. As for the Coastline, take a look at the photos in this post. If you ever have the chance go to Big Sur, do it. Just don't sneak in and out of campgrounds, or at least you didn't hear it from me.
Here are some more links,