May 1 – 5, 2008


The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes –
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands –
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

~ Louis MacNeice

I think that one of the reasons I am grateful for travel is that it breaks me out of my rigidity – it humbles me. Have I become too set in my ways? Have I become too insular? Have I become bombastic about how I think things should be done? Then I travel,  and I am suddenly immersed in “the drunkenness of things being various”. There is so much to see and do, and so many ways to do it! And I am always struck by the ordinary things – here I am, in a place where I have chosen to vacation, and I see a car wash or a laundromat, and it is brought home to me that there are people living out their entire lives in this place, that what is extraordinary to me is simply ordinary and everyday to them. Conversely, I am also struck by the homogeneity as I travel, the way in which all of the stores and restaurants are becoming the same – although it seems less unusual to me every year. I am almost coming to expect, and maybe even rely on, the familiar things that will be everywhere I travel. We toured some of the Central California Coast May 1-5,  and we were thrilled that there was a Whole Foods grocery right across the street from our motel in Monterey. After sightseeing in Monterey a bit on the first day and going to the Aquarium there, we picked up some dinner at Whole Foods and drove down to Point Lobos for a picnic. We hiked all around the Point Lobos Nature Reserve,  saw lots of sea lions and cormorants and watched the sun set. This was Jonathan’s favorite place on our trip; he just stood and soaked in the views.

The next morning we checked out of our motel and again went to Whole Foods where we stocked up on food for the next couple of days of “camping”. We headed south to Carmel and drove around a bit, visited a few shops, but by noon we headed on to Big Sur. It was a stunningly gorgeous drive. I suggested we try to see Pfeiffer Beach and some of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park for our first day in Big Sur. We decided to have a picnic lunch at Pfeiffer Beach. That part of the trip didn’t work out so well! It was so windy that we huddled against some of the rocks for a bit of protection, but still had quite a bit of sand blown into our food. When we were almost done, something on top of the rocks (wind? birds?) caused a small avalanche, sending a shower of pebbles and rocks down on top of us. I got hit in the arm with one about half the size of a fist,  Jonathan got hit on his head. At this point, we just grabbed our food and high-tailed it back to the car.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, several miles farther south, was a much better success. We walked out to see the waterfall that runs right down to the beach (you can’t get down to the beach, but the overlook is lovely – built on the spot where the Browns had a house). After admiring the views for a while, we hiked into the park. A guidebook had mentioned a nice three mile loop hike – but either we were on a different trail, or they meant 3 miles one way, because we figured we’d hiked between 5 and 6 miles by the time we got back! It was a great hike, though – climbing high into McWay Canyon amongst redwood trees and coming out to a grassy bluff where there were great vistas of the Pacific Ocean. After the hike, we figured we’d better check in at our campground, and then we decided to give Pfeiffer Beach a second chance and see if we could watch the sunset from there. It was still ridiculously windy. The rocks we’d sheltered next to before were now surrounded by water (the tide was in) so we found a crevice in the bluff where we could stand and watch the sun go down. We wondered if it was always so windy – but if so, surely Pfeiffer Beach wouldn’t be as popular as it is! After that, we pretty much went back to our tent cabin and collapsed for the night.

The next morning we had reservations for a tour of Hearst Castle at 10:00am. It was about an hour and a half drive from where we were staying, so we got up early and showered and headed out. It was a much foggier day than the previous day had been, but the coastal drive was still lovely. Hearst Castle was the farthest south that we traveled on this trip,  and supposedly it has a great view out to the Pacific near San Simeon. Our tour was from 10am until noon, and the fog never lifted, so we didn’t get to enjoy that part,  but even so,  it was an incredible place. Afterwards,  we stopped by the nearby elephant seal rookery. There were tons of females and juveniles in residence for their yearly molting (males,  apparently,  are off feeding up near the Aleutians at this time of year). It was amazing. Then,  as we meandered our way back north,  we stopped to hike back to Salmon Creek Waterfall. This turned out to be my favorite spot of the entire trip! It was an incredibly beautiful grotto, with live oaks,  huge boulders,  and a beautiful waterfall with algae covering the rocks around it with different hues of green. We stayed there for most of the afternoon,  climbing around on the rocks and taking lots of pictures.

We tried to fit in a few more things that afternoon. We’d wanted to stop by the Coast Gallery, but they were already closed. We made it to the Henry Miller Memorial Library, but only 10 minutes before they closed. We stopped by another little gift shop and also checked out Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park,  hiking through huge redwood groves to another little waterfall. There’s so much more that would be worth checking out for next time! We spent the evening at our campsite,  cooking corn on the cob over our campfire and talking about the trip. The next morning, we packed up and drove back to Sacramento to catch our flights back home.