Big Sur in February

This trip was to celebrate my 27th birthday on February 27th.  It was awesome.

We started the trip on a Friday morning, leaving Anaheim, CA around 6am.  We thought we could try and get past LA County before the traffic really picked up.  We were wrong.  After two hours of stop-and-go traffic, we made it past LA and into Ventura County, where we were able to pick up speed.  Excitement quickly set in as I knew there was nothing but open road ahead to one of my favorite places in the world, Big Sur.  The first stop was San Luis Obispo, where we refueled, grabbed some refreshments, and loaded up on ice, beer, whiskey, and firewood.  You know, the essentials. 

A few hours later, we were driving through the beautiful winding coastal roads of central California.  The views here are just breathtaking.  Having the ocean just off the road while winding up the cliffside definitely makes the drive not suck.  I loved seeing and hearing my friend's reactions having seen this area for the first time.  It's quite spectacular.

Behold, the California coast...

The first real stop in Big Sur was Nepenthe.  I've now been here all three times I've been to Big Sur.  It's the perfect lunch spot, and offers great food with spectacular views.  The perfect place to relax and have a drink and some food after a long (though beautiful) drive.  This place offers a fairly small, but delicious menu.  I ordered my usual shrimp BLT.  The perfect little sandwich with jumbo shrimp, crispy thick bacon, and a tomato jam.  So damn good.  After we fueled up our bodies here with food and bloody Mary's, we headed back up Highway 1 to find our campground. 

Lunch with the dudes at Nepenthe.

Just a short way up the road, we arrived at the Ventana Campgrounds, our home for the next two days.  After putting way too much thought and effort into finding the right campground, I settled on this place based off of the location and fact that it's in the middle of a redwood forest.  Would I stay here again?  For the price, maybe.  It was definitely the most expensive campground I've ever stayed at (our site was about $70 per night).  Nonetheless, once we got settled in, I was glad I had spent the extra money to stay here.  We set up underneath the shade of beautiful redwood trees, and the atmosphere was relaxing.  Oh, and we also got incredible cell service here (something I'm not used to, nor do I care for while camping, but it was nice to have when I wanted it).

Kicking my feet up after setting up camp.

After a long day, and not much sunlight left, we decided to "stay in" for the night.  So what do five grown men do while sitting around a campsite?  The obvious answer is drink.  So obviously, we drank.  Being as it was my birthday the next day, and my friends being who they are, we drank quite a bit.  For most of the night, we had a blast.  It's always a good time having good company and just being able to talk about weird/fun/crazy/stupid/silly shit.  Eventually, we made our way into the whiskey.  It sounded so brilliant at the time, and for most of the night, was such a great decision.  We decided to play a game that me and Gil play at work, called "No Skips."  The concept is each person takes a drink out of a bottle and keeps passing it around until the bottle is finished.  Typically this game is played with beer, which is the safe bet.  We played with Templeton Rye Whiskey.  Now, we didn't particularly finish the entire bottle in one non-stop motion of no-skips, but we definitely did a few passes in between breaks, and about 45 minutes later, the bottle was dry.  Needless to say, one of us ended up getting sick by the end of the night, and violently vomited out of their tent most of the night.  For their own personal sake I won't mention who it was, but I will say that it was definitely me. 

Cheers to 27.

I won't talk about my hangover the next day, but I'll just say it was bad.  Anyways, on to the activities.  Since this was our only real full day, I wanted to make the best of it, and show the guys what Big Sur is all about.  One day is definitely not enough time to do this, but we still made it fun.  After a quick breakfast and lots of coffee, we packed up our gear and headed down the road toward Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.  After a quick pit stop at McWay Falls (a must), we headed across the street and into the park itself.  We decided to do the main hiking trail here, the Ewoldsen Trail, as I've done it before and knew it was great, so I wanted to show the guys.  Plus, it isn't a super challenging hike, nor does it take an extreme amount of time (probably took us about 2 hours).  

Behold, Chase.

The hike starts at ground level, and you quickly emerge into the forest underneath giant redwoods.  After a quick switchback near the beginning, we began to gain elevation rather quickly.  There are several streams you cross over, and lots of beautiful fallen trees to get yourself around.  We were hiking at a decent pace, though we were really in no hurry, and why should we be when we are in such a beautiful environment.  After a few quick breaks, we eventually made our way near the top of the trail, where elevation gain slows, and we had breathtaking views of the ocean at our side.  It was pretty hot near the top, with little shade once you get out of the redwoods, but the view was too spectacular to complain.  

LG feeling like a King.

After walking along the coastal side, the trail heads back into the forest from elevation, and you get great views of the valleys that form from the park.  We stopped just off the trail underneath some trees for about a half hour to rest and munch down some Cliff bars.  After the quick rest we headed back down the trail, and began to descend back into the forest and the shaded trees.  We took our time the rest of the way down, as it was extremely relaxing being underneath the trees and walking over creeks.  The guys seemed to really enjoy where they were at.  After ascending out of the forest, we decided to head back to camp for some sandwiches and a beer or three.  Here, we decided to head to Bixby Bridge to watch the sunset.

The classic Big Sur landmark. Bixby Bridge. 

We made our way out of camp and up Highway 1, through the winding roads, taking in the beautiful coast along the way.  The sun was getting lower in the sky and the atmosphere was amazing.  We lucked out and had pretty clear skies.  We decided we weren't going to try and cram anything else in for the day, so just relaxed on the cliffside and watched the sun go down.  The parking area on the North side of the bridge is definitely overcrowded with tourists, but it worked fine for our group.  I definitely want to seek out a new spot for Bixby Bridge the next time I head up in the area.  Even with plenty of extra on-lookers, there was a wonderful sense of happiness that washed over me as I watched the sun slowly fade below the horizon.  Being in my favorite place, with some of my favorite people on my birthday was just incredible.  It's truly moments like these that I live for, and am grateful for the friends I have and the fortunate life I have.  I can say that 27 is off to a good start. 

Walking on sunshine.