Traveling on the famous Highway 1 in California allows each person to experience the open road, picture perfect scenery, and the tranquility of the ocean all at once. I will focus this piece on the sixty seven mile (one hundred and eight km) stretch between Santa Cruz and Big Sur, located south of San Francisco. I explored this prime area a few times throughout my road trip and could not pass up the opportunity to witness such a gorgeous landscape so close to San Francisco.
Big Sur is about a hundred and fifty miles south of San Francisco, stimulating my eyes for over ninety percent of the ride. Some points were more intense than others as I was zigzagging through the curves and sharp turns of the road, riding between the forests and traffic on one side and the steep cliff side to the ocean on the other. I sound a bit over dramatic, but this ride requires full attention.
Summertime at Big Sur is a big deal and loads of people come to bask in its natural bliss. Camping under the redwoods at multiple campsites was great and having the choice to hike through the forest, on a beach, or both defined luxury. Big Sur is no cheap endeavor, but worth the price for sure. I have been going back and forth how to state my distress about the abundant tourists consistently flooding Big Sur all summer. I realized that the majority of the visitors are squeezed into this small strip, Big Sur, and that a lot of the coastline and National Forest are left untouched.
Hiking a strenuous trail around Andrew Molera State Park helped me appreciate the amount of land that is protected around Big Sur. The trail came off the beach and more or less circled a mountain to bring hikers back. This is probably one of my favorite hikes I have taken in California because I got a taste of everything; the beach, the ocean, forests and prairies.
Other Highway 1 highlights included Monterey’s Cannery Row and visiting Carmel, a coastal town where Clint Eastwood was the mayor. I made a day trip or two in each town as I passed through, not committing much time. They were a bit touristy and expensive for my tastes, however both attractive. On the southern end of Monterey Bay, Monterey’s downtown is made up of the old sardine canning factories that use to operate there, hence the name Cannery Row. The collapse of the fishing industry and conservationist actions transformed Monterey into what it is today. Carmel has a flawless beach that runs down the coast and a “cute” downtown. I noticed exceptional woodwork on many of the homes throughout the town to the point that I concluded it must be an ordinance. I am only intrigued by Clint Eastwood because I was told a few weeks ago I look like him in his younger years. I took this as quite a compliment because Clint Eastwood is badass.
Santa Cruz has an assortment of different shops downtown, most interestingly to me is how many are yoga themed. Om Rhythms and The Om Gallery instantly come to mind with at least one more in the area. I was amused because I never knew this many existed, let alone all before me in one town. I laughed really hard. Lying on the northern end of the Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz has an ideal waterfront as the ocean meets the beach and boardwalk. The beach also has a number of volleyball nets and I was fortunate enough to catch a mini tournament, which was extremely entertaining. The wharf stretches from the beach out onto the ocean and within only a few minutes of gazing out off the end of the pier, sea lions began putting on a show below. Out of it all though, the defining quality that sets Santa Cruz separate from all the other Highway 1 excursions; an amusement park overlooking the ocean. It just makes a person that much happier.
I find it funny that I began this post with no idea what the hell I was going to write and the end result is better than I expected. I could write all day long how beautiful it all was, but it never really gets the point across. As long as I am honest and describe the moments that created a memory, then the images of pretty trees and water become clearer. I used my camera sparingly during this trek. No reason in particular, I was just caught up in the moment, which is the perfect indication that I was having fun.
–Thank you to all of those who have supported my writing and travels.
——Next time, San Francisco. Peace.