Riverside in Big Sur

The smell of the sea melds with the many varieties of sage, drifting through the air on a cold wind. This is Big Sur in the winter. It is a tender scent, lacking the musk of summer. There is dampness too, which is new. Wet earth, fresh green grass, and the beginnings of the first blooms of spring. No one seems to have told the plants that it is January. 

Artemisia californica, California Sagebrush (I think I properly identified this) overlooks one of Big Sur's most photographed destinations. I'll let you guess which. 

 I'm captivated by the hoards of people moving through Big Sur this time of year. stopping at every pullout with folding chairs and binoculars to catch a glimpse of migrating whales. I am entranced by the hills, as they turn noticeably green with the first winter rains. I am in love with the creeks and streams as the swell to their banks, full of water, and life. The sparkle of the winter sun seems more crisp, more icy than the beating glare of summer.  The moon, nearly full, lights the world at night. We set out to explore Big Sur once again. 

Salina and crew pull into the campground. 

Bear admires the cobbles and flowing Big Sur River, which, by the way, is frigid. 

We met Catie and Caitlyn at the Riverside Campground, and from there headed further South to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It was a complete zoo, countless people speaking at least three distinct languages, gathered at the overlook. It seemed like every single one of them was carrying a GoPro on a stick, but perhaps my memory is being clouded by prejudice. 

Captain Mike takes in the scar left over from a major landslide that provided the source of sand for the beach under the falls, and many other beaches south of this spot. 

Waves swell over kelp covered rocks, and the color is beyond explanation, or imagination. 

The people and the lenses are thick at the overlook to the falls and the coast. It is understandable, the view is something out of a dream. It is certainly not a sight to be missed, especially since we were accompanied by some who had never seen it before, but for some of us, the crowds put a sour mood on the viewing. To cure this, we turned to the hills. 

This creek feeds the iconic falls. It is small, but swift. Walking alongside it, it seems as though the whole thing is one long riffle tumbling recklessly through Redwood Groves.

Though the falls are crowded, the trail following the creek back into the canyon is significantly less populated. 

There is something inherently good about exploring the outdoors. It enlivens, it refreshes. It encourages play. 

Captain Mike enjoys his Simpler Times Lager at the climax of the hike.

 Bear was meeting a friend in a bar near our campground, so it was time to return. Catie and Caitlyn recommended the Maiden near the River Inn, where they had warmed up the night before. We bolstered down on worn out barstools. 

As dark fell, we made our way back to camp. I do not enjoy the cold, but there is something authentic about gathering around a campfire because of a need to stay warm. With the right supplies, and the right people, you are warmed by laughter, as well as wood. 

Morning comes too soon, but groggy sleepers move slowly as the day breaks. Catie and Caitlyn departed before Bear and Captain Mike were roused from their tents. The chill adds magic to a morning campfire.

Breakfast cooked over the fire. 

Bear and I love making french toast when we are car camping. For this batch we baked some Challah bread at home, and cooked it in my dad's cast iron skillet over the fire. 

Extra Strong Big Sur Blend

With full bellies, we loaded up Salina and headed north

Back to the coast. Bear gets credit for this photo, he was enthralled by the seagulls on this rock. 

While we were driving south a flash of white caught my eye. I was determined to find what it was once we were making our way north. 

Maybe I overuse the word magic. Maybe not. 

We climbed to the bluffs to admire the Pacific, and try our luck looking for whales. The plant life was abundant and diverse, but the sage and yarrow stole the show. 

Yarrow is a relatively common plant that can be used medicinally on cuts and scrapes. It also carries a light and sharp smell that is one of my favorites. 

As we stood on the cliffs, looking out over the Pacific, dozens of migrating whales were spouting in the distance. Watching whale spouts doesn't grow old for me. For some reason, each spray of misted sea water and air is as exciting as the last. Maybe it is the anticipation, looking out across the endless blue, hoping you spot it at the right moment to catch a glimpse of the great grey creatures. I couldn't say. But the whales are migrating, as they have done for centuries past, and we stood on those cliffs as a witness to their journey. I suppose that is enough. 

And with that we said goodbye to Big Sur, until next time.