Stopping in Tahoe to eat gave us a chance to recognise just how tired we were after our 6 mile hike in Blackwood Canyon. This drive would be trying. I was currently in no shape to drive. I always expend a lot of energy when in nature because I get a all childlike, intoxicated by the wanderlust, and this time was no different. Matt too was quite beat but he insisted that the double shot espresso he was drinking would allow him to drive some of the way. I told him that is he could drive for an hour while I slept, I’d be alert enough to finish the journey. Matt said that’s no problem, if I could sleep through the loud bass banging set he was going to play in order to stay awake… I was asleep before we even hit the highway.
When I came to, I looked over to see Matt still bobbing his head to the rhythm, fatigue strong in his face. I announced my revival and we agreed to switch at the next service stop. We followed the signs another 15 minutes until we reached the service station. Instead of pulling in, Matt drove around to the back of it and pulled into a dark road. I was a little unsure why he did this initially, until he pulled a small blue container from his glove box and extracted a bright green flower with fiery red hairs. The car filled with a smell reminiscent of patchouli oil and cinnamon. “Girl Scout Cookies” he called her as he packed a bowl. We got out the car as he took a huge rip, blowing out a massive cloud of smoke. I held out my hands awaiting my turn when it occurred to me that it was my turn to drive. Womp womp.
Now in the driver’s seat, it was my turn to select the playlist. I was feeling more mellow than electronic, but still wanted the bass line. I decided to put on some Reggae Dub. I got the basic directions from Matt though he insisted he wouldn’t be able to fall asleep on the drive.
He slept like a baby until i reached the end of my directions and needed the rest of the route. He directed me onto Highway 1. After about 10 miles, my nose began to pick up the faint smell of salt blowing through the cars air vents. I could tell we were near. A couple corners later and I saw the culprit. As if welcoming us, a wave crashed into the cliff edge rocketing a white mist skywards. As the ocean spray subsided, I could see the vast ocean shimmering in the moonlight. The road became windy as we hugged the cliffs of Big Sur. We had finally arrived, but we still had to find a place to camp. There were no towns near to us to ask anyone’s advice, so I figured we’d wing it. I’m not sure what prompted me to stop, but something told me that somewhere near this particular cliff we would find rest.
We got out the car and walked down a path that lead to the cliff edge. Looking over the edge hoping to see a sandy bank, my eyes met a rocky outcrop. Turning around, I could see that the path had several other paths that diverged from it, but ultimately let back to the road, so I wandered down one. Either side of the path was bramble bush. The only hospitable place here appeared to be on the path itself, which wasn’t so appealing. Walking back to the car, Matt past a tree then let out a “boom” into the night. I went to see what he discovered. The tree’s branches fell over the tree creating a perfect dome underneath it.
This would be our sanctuary for the night. The air was so warm that I opted to not use my tent and instead sleep in the hammock. Matt set up his tent minus the rain-fly. We cracked open some beers and snacked on some Girl Scout Cookies. A curious little field mouse bobbed and weaved around us interested in what we were up to. I told him we were cool and he should come over to say hi. He instantly listened and came towards me. The immediate reaction to my words startled me so much that I squirmed and giggled when he ran up my hand. This scared him and he scattered. I apologised for my behaviour and asked if we could still be friends. I poured some beer into my bottle cap for him and said if he forgave me please drink some as a sign. He came and drank not one, but 4 capfuls with us. We then settled down to sleep and dozed off listening to the purr of the ocean and squealing seals.
In the morning I awoke with the rising sun, two little birds, perched on my hammock, singing sweet songs, a melody pure and true.. Jolly good stuff. As I rustled they fluttered to the branch above and continued serenading me. Like the day before, my eyes were treated to the kaleidoscope of colours the sky makes as the earth turns to reveal the sun again (if you haven’t read part one yet, check that out here, when you’re finished reading 😉). I got out of the hammock, stretched and walked out to the cliff edge. Out on the edge, the wind howled as my hair danced in it. It’s moments like these that I really become aware of my hair and how long it has grown. The light pull on my scalp from each of my 49 branches was euphoric. I went through a few yoga poses, holding the upward facing dog pose especially long, smiling while deeply breathing in the ocean air. I sat and watched the ocean below. Birds were swimming in the ocean in pairs. Sea gulls floated on the tides. A lone otter swam by on his back, a happy little fellow.
Matt walked out to the cliff and we nodded in recognition. He ventured down the cliff to the rocks below, taking in the scenery. I too eventually wandered down there. We sat in amazement at the view in our own corners. After some time we headed back to our camp so we could begin to pack up. Back at camp, Matt noticed that the bottle cap the mouse drank had words in it. He picked it up and read it aloud, “Drinking is Believing.”
We gathered our belongings and headed for the car. I got in to the driver’s seat as I wanted to enjoy the windy road. Wow, what an awesome drive. Matt gave me some information about the highway we were on. It is Highway 1 and stretches most of California. This part of the highway in the Big Sur area was opened in the 1930’s and is considered by many to be an engineering masterpiece. As we drove, we crossed a bridge. Looking over the bridge, I saw a group of Dolphins frolicking in the water. We stopped for a longer look. I inspected the cliff and if I could have found a way to climb down I would be in the video below.
We continued on driving until we began to see redwoods which surprised me. I didn’t realise they were also found so far south. We pulled into the Pfeiffer Big Sur State park. We spoke to an extremely knowledgeable park ranger who advised that we’d find the better trails here. We parked and took a look at the park map on the notice board. We tried to memorise the trial that we intended to do and set off. In the first mile we had to cross a river in order to reach the trail that lead up the mountain. We couldn’t find the set way to cross the river so Matt and I chose our own paths across. Matt found a part of the river that had fallen concrete slabs in it and stepped across. I hop scotched across a few rocks. Despite a few minor slips on the mossy rocks, I made it across without getting my feet wet. We found the path that wound its way up the mountain in the midst of the forest. The trees towered above us as magical wands pointing to the heavens. The undergrowth comprised of a few varieties of plants. I recognised species of bay leaf and of a herb known as dill weed. I got lost in imagination thinking how awesome it must have been for natives to just take a walk through here and pick their tea, food and medicine. This is something I envision for myself in the future, I have a strong desire to make common practice for myself the art of foraging. I firmly believe that we as a species need to remember that we are earthlings first, and we need to work with nature.
After a few miles of winding up the mountain, we finally made it to the top. Up there we found a small building which seemed to house a radio antennae inside or something. Someone had graffitied a beautiful design on it which left me feeling optimistic.
We hung around for a while discussing how peaceful and mind-silencing it is to be in places of nature like this. It allows one to relax and recognise that most of the problems we cling to are unnecessary.
We headed back down the mountain. We joked about how fun it would be to have a race down the slope. Two days of hiking and the resulting lack of energy however prevented us from enacting this idea. When we returned to the river, I suggested that we climb down to it and go away from the trail. This was so that we could use the river to take a wash, which we hadn’t done for a couple days now and were smelling pretty ripe consequentially. The river felt absolutely revitalising. I got lost in the moment and spent a while splashing in the water.
Refreshed, we made our way back to the car and set out in search of a view for our sunset. The park ranger advised that we go to the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State park where we would find a waterfall and a spectacular look out to the ocean. We drove there, and the view was amazing.
Afterwards, we drove further south looking for new real estate to make our camp. The cliffs became steeper and closer to the road, to inhospitable for us to take rest. After a few hours of searching, we saw an official camp ground and decided to at least take a look. I had no intention of paying to camp, but as soon as I saw families huddled around a warm crackling fire, I was sold. We found a site, paid and set up shop. Matt was skilled with setting up the fire and in a few short moments had our fire roaring. Like a moth, I became entranced by the flame and drew near to it. We ate dinner by the fire, and soon after I headed to bed while Matt stayed up to watch the fire and do some writing of his own.
The next day we agreed that we would keep hiking to a minimum as we were feeling the last two days in our body. We continued South, stopping to see some elephant seals, or “blubber fish”, as my mountain family affectionately call them. We made it to Santa Barbara just after lunchtime. This is where Matt calls home so he showed me a few of his favourite surf spots and in the evening we went to hang out with a few of his friends. We also played some disc golf and hiked up another mountain.
Be sure to check out the FB page at http://www.facebook.com/ABigPicture and the Instagram @a_biggerpicture for some video clips of my time in Santa Barbara.
Thank you for experiencing my journey with me,
May me continue to rise in love together,