Big Sur Camping, Part Two: The One Where We Camped, Hiked, and Hot Spring’ed ‘Till 3 AM

After our productive morning (Part One) that included a hike to Pfeiffer Falls, Sarah, James, Jarrett and I headed back to camp where we found Paul and Lisa, who had just arrived moments earlier. Their arrival was extra exciting because Paul told me where Sarah and I had failed to get through to the hot springs reservation line, he had succeeded! I was ecstatic, and everyone else was an appropriate amount of excited.

While helping P&L set up, we enjoyed the classic PB&J for lunch and were able to really take-in and enjoy our awesome campsite, which was situated right on the Big Sur River. Overall the campgrounds were pretty crowded, with sites pretty close to each other, but we were lucky and had booked one of the larger sites right next to an opening to the river bank. We spent some quality time enjoying the river and skipping stones. Fact: James is a stone skipping artiste — I think I counted seven skips in one throw.

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Check out our digs right on the water! Doesn’t get much better than this…

Our afternoon hike took us about twenty minutes south on Highway 1 to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park where we couldn’t stop taking photos the second we stepped foot out of the car.

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Seriously!? This actually exists in California!

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In which I embarrass my friends again by blocking off the entire walkway for another awkward group photo — yay!

After admiring the coastline and the falls for quite some time, we started our actual hike onto the Ewoldsen Trail, a 4.5 mile loop that is known as the quintessential Big Sur hike. Unfortunately because of some landscaping and trail upkeep, half of the trail was closed of, but we were able to take the western half of the loop all the way up to the lookout point.

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Here’s a brief map of the trail — it’s only a 4.5 mile loop, but it was extra challenging because of the route we took. Because the eastern portion of the loop was closed, we did an out-and-back pathway on the western potion of the loop, which was a very steep uphill climb. Hiking up to the lookout point was pretty strenuous, and we ended up taking quite a few breaks along the way, but it was all worth it. The journey is documented below.

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A random tunnel that facilitated the production of some great monkey sounds.
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Lisa and Jarrett hustlin’
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Holy shrimp, we actually made it — phew!
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Check out that amazing view! It seriously felt like we were on top of the world after the crazy hike. The fog rolling in below also contributed to that effect.
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James and Sarah at the end of the trail. I love these two 🙂
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Heading home as the sun sets…

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This is sunset at McWay Falls, one of the three waterfalls in the US that empty into the ocean (the other two being Alamere Falls, which we’ve hiked to, and Waiulili Falls in Hawaii). The beach area you see to the left used to not exist — the entire inlet was filled with water, and the falls emptied directly into the ocean. However, a large landslide and resulting highway reconstruction project in 1984-1984 filled the little cove with enough sand to create the beach you see pictured.

With that last shot, the hiking portion of our trip came to a close. We were seriously exhausted as we headed back to camp, but we still had a significant part of the trip left — the hot springs!

Back at camp, we had leftover quesadillas and Sarah’s homemade lentil soup, which was fantastic. Camp was seriously cold; our area was tucked away under the cover of trees and foliage, so it never really warmed up during the day. We set up our campfire to stay warm, and then, of course, we s’more’d!

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So, instead of telling scary campfire stories, we decided to reveal our most embarrassing and hilarious childhood moments. I’ve known this gang for so long, but some of these tales were news to me. I’m still cracking up when I think about them.

We were killing time around the fire, waiting for the most anticipated part of the trip — the hot springs. As I mentioned earlier, Paul had managed to get through the busy phone lines that morning to make a reservation for our group at Esalen Natural Hot Springs.

The Esalen Institute is a beautiful retreat situated on the rugged Big Sur coastline that boasts natural hot springs. The hot springs are only open to the public from 1 am – 3 am, and during the off-season, you can only make same-day reservations. They also only accept about 20 people per night. Needless to say, we were extremely lucky to have snagged reservations.

After a short nap at the campsite, we woke up at midnight to sleepily make our way down the coast to the Institute. I won’t say too much about the springs except that the entire experience was magical. Seriously, if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity, you should have an experience at Esalen. Our tub was located right on the cliff side, so looking over the edge of the rocky basin, we could see and hear waves crashing onto the rocky coastline. It was surreal and magical to be in submerged the sulfuric water in the middle of the night under the clouds and on the coast with some of my closest friends. The experience was amazing and one that I will not soon forget.

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On our way home on Sunday we stopped in front of Bixby Bridge, which is one of the tallest, single-span, concrete bridges in the world and the most photographed on the Pacific Coast (thanks, Wiki).

And with that, I complete the long overdue, two-part Big Sur update. Happy holidays!

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One thought on “Big Sur Camping, Part Two: The One Where We Camped, Hiked, and Hot Spring’ed ‘Till 3 AM

  1. Pingback: Big Sur Camping, Part One: The One With the Ewok | Hikology

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