Big Sur Part 2

Waking up after a “ cozy” nights sleep, we corrected ourselves from our sleeping position twisted together like the bottom of a wicker basket. Since I had mistakenly brought the one person tent the opening where your head goes was almost wide enough for both of us quickly funneled down to space scantly adequate for one person. After wiggling out of the tent we eat and pack up.

We spent most of the day hiking and exploring the coast in Andrew Molera and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Parks, also checked out a possible alternative route to the hot springs we were backpacking into tomorrow. We finished the day with dinner at Big Sur River Inn which also happened to be our accommodations for the night.

Having seen multiple “no camping, $1000 fine” signs all along the coast, I believe it would have been worth the risk if you made it a night before getting caught. If you had to pay the fine you would’ve come out ahead if you were staying in any of the glamping sites, inns, or resorts available. This is where my thought on getting the SUV rental as mentioned earlier in part 1 comes to mind. I feel it would have been feasible to risk paying the fine to camp in a vehicle. We went during shoulder season and had a hard time finding our accommodations. It would be totally worth paying the fine every two nights.

Waking not tied into a pretzel, but sprawled out in bed probably three times the size of the tent I brought, we got ready and had breakfast on our porch lounging around, slowly packing our backpacks. After scouting the alternative trail to the hot springs we decided to take the route that went through our first campground.

Hiking up the ridge was fairly drab with the brown and olive being the main colors with a touch of black char left on the forest from the 2017 Soberanes Fire. There were occasional pops of color the higher we hiked from the poison oak turning from green to bright red for fall. The hike in was overcast and mostly in the shade due to the sun position and foliage. I can see how this could be a brutal hike in the sun. We had a few options for camping along the trial on the way to the hot springs. We decided to push through the 10 miles and just shy of 4,000 ft elevation gain since we had gotten to our second possible camp site, napped, and had a lot of day light remaining.

We passed a couple, which I heard way before we saw them. From inadvertently listening to the conversation (since she was shouting at him) and by our brief interaction when we hiked by, I surmised they were on a date and hadn’t been together very long. I think he was going too fast for her. When I walked into his line of site, “oh look people”, he said, trying to distract her. No such luck! If it was our first date, I wouldn’t have a second. Reaching Sykes Camp at about 2:15 we set up then went in search of the hot springs.

We had a little trouble finding the hot springs since the map had them on the wrong side of the river, but it didn’t take long to figure it out. Sykes Camp was severely damaged and completely destroyed in several places. The man-made improvements that captured the hot springs in pools were removed by the high-flowing river. The trail was blocked by multiple washouts along creeks and dozens of fallen trees across the path. The trail was closed indefinitely. It was officially reopened in 2023, though it was passable at the time of our hike.

In our research for the trip we had trouble finding information about the condition of the trail and hot springs. I believe this was due to the over use and trying to protect the resource. I found this excerpt giving you an idea of the condition. The challenging trail to the camp from the coast has been littered with abandoned backpacks and tents, bras, jackets, food wrappers, water bottles, and toilet paper. The campsite and hot springs were at times very crowded, especially on holidays and weekends. Over 200 people have been counted camping near the river, although there are only seven officially designated campsites and a single pit toilet designed to support 20 visitors. Some visitors reported that unburied human feces were readily visible. Many visitors to Sykes are unaware that unlike state parks, the wilderness camp site does not provide garbage service. Unprepared for the difficult hike, they abandon trash and gear at Sykes, which encourages others to do the same. Richard Popchak of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance reported that, “The U.S. Forest Service is woefully underfunded and understaffed. In the Monterey Ranger District, they have not employed a Wilderness Ranger since the 1980s.”

The area was not nearly as trashed as the above mentioned excerpt details, but I did see a ton of toilet paper all along the camping areas. The information we found from the above mentioned Ventana Wilderness Alliance stated the trail was closed and the man made tubs were torn down. They also published the map we purchased which has the hot spring marked in the wrong location.

In the morning everyone had left so we did a soak then hiked to Redwood Creek Camp to explore the area. When we returned we had another nice soak before returning to camp. I slept outside to give Ally room since the tent started to spring a seam from both of us in it. By the end of the trip the zipper on the door failed completely.

Waking up we noticed that one other group had arrived, so we enjoyed the springs one last time before hiking back to where we had napped on the hike in. We decided to stay there that night and had an easy hike out in the morning. Leaving Terrace Creek campsite early we made it back to the car with time to go to Capitola Village for dinner on the Ocean to celebrate our first year anniversary!

Big Sur Part 1

Ally and I took a week to backpack and explore Big Sur, California for our 1 year anniversary. I started organizing and packing early then per usual I needed some of the gear for something else, then had a sudden mutisport day and threw gear everywhere, which lead to a frantic stuffing of everything I need for Big Sur into bags at the last minute.

We stayed in Wexford the night before the flight and hired a Supper Shuttle to the Pittsburgh airport. This is less stressful than a 2 ish hour drive at a ridiculous hour to the airport, followed by the long haul from extended parking (I am frugal in most instances, Ally not so much) since we moved to Garrett County, MD. I used to use Super Shuttle all the time when we were in Pittsburgh. It cost more than parking if your trip was less than 2 weeks, but worth it for the convince. The downside is you arrive at the airport at the suggested time, leaving a lot of time to kill. We stopped to have drinks since we had a lot of time to waste we also ordered breakfast sandwiches with our Bloody Mary’s. After receiving the bill I decided it was better to order drinks and food on the plane from now on. I am sure you have noticed that everything costs more now. I have really cut down the amount I go out to eat. The main reason being I go out for convenience, but now it seems everyone is understaffed so I wait for my seat, I wait for my drink, I wait for my food, then I wait for my bill. Good thing we were trying to kill time. This waiting kind of takes the convince out of eating out for me. Eating out has become like an event with hours of my time tied up in it. I could have cooked, ate and cleaned at home in the time it takes to eat out now. Anyone else feel this way? After receiving my bill and adding the 20% min tip I decided it was a bargain at a per hour unit cost, but ridiculous for two Bloodies the size of one and two tiny breakfast sandwiches. Rant over back to eating on the plane. As I mentioned above, I am frugal. Since I have a branded card I get 20% off food and drinks on the plane and there is not a tip option, so right from the get go I am saving 40%! I have to remember this epiphany.

After enjoying our comparatively cheap drinks and food on the plane we land and go to get our rental car. This is where Ally and I diverge on frugality. She upgraded to an Audi A3 because it was the same price with my credit card as a standard rental. I wanted to spend a little more per day and upgrade to an SUV. We will see which one was the cheaper choice later.

My first impressions of the car was- I am not happy. I was too tall for the car so after grumbling Ally said she would drive. Good thing the car had a sun roof, my head hit the top if I didn’t put it into super recliner mode. Ally burnt rubber, tires screeching at the first light leaving the rental as we speed across the intersection headed to get supplies at REI. I was thinking , “hmm I want to drive now” as I try to charge my phone. Seeing no USB imputs I lay my phone multiple places seeing if it will charge. By the time we get to REI we realize we need USB – C inputs to keep our phones alive. I giggle thinking I left a cigarette converter at home because surely new vehicles didn’t have that input as I discover one trying to figure out how to turn on the cars WI-FI.
As we gathered our supplies, mainly food from REI, striking out on both the lighters and lightning chargers, I joke about needing a tent because I probably messed up in my rush packing. Checking out we head to Target where we found the phone chargers in short order, but it took us a full on mission to find a lighter (well 3 lighters), we finally found what had to be the only lighters in the store a 3 pack near the vacuum cleaners.

Driving now in super recliner mode my arm fell somewhere, not quite out the back window, but definitely not in the front window. I have to admit driving down route 1 from San Jose to Big Sur was a blast. Leaving the city, we passed though farm land on the way to costal redwoods. Speeding around the turns catching glimpses of the ocean from high on the cliffs as we approach our destination, the smell of salt air wafting in through the open windows.

Stopping to hike down to the ocean briefly, on our way to eat at the Big Sur tap house, we watch the waves crash again the jagged rocky shoreline sending water exploding into the air before hiking back up, through bright pick flowers exploding sporadically amongst the carpet of green in the tiny area lining the boardwalk. This flower is Carpobrotus chilensis a species of succulent commonly know as the sea fig. Finally we arrived at our destination Wayland campground. This is a part of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. This has 1,346 acres of redwood, oak, chaparral, and meadow areas. Hikers can enjoy 8 miles of hiking trails within the park and over 200 miles of trails in the Ventana Wilderness (USFS) which borders the park which we explored while backpacking to a hot springs.

I go about setting up the tent, and immediately regret joking earlier about grabbing the wrong tent. As luck would have it I stuffed the one man tent in my pack as I was rushing to pack for the trip. I told Ally “I grabbed this one so we could cuddle for our anniversary” she immediately knew I was full of shit.