Monday, May 25, 2015

Salad and Pinnacles

We moved a whole 21 miles to the Elks in Salinas - $20 dry camping.  The beautiful and fertile Salinas River Valley has earned the nickname 'Salad Bowl of the World' with its vast harvests of vegetables and fruits.

It's a wonderful thing to see all the productive fields stretching from the Santa Lucia Mountains to the west to the Diablo Range to the east.

As we climbed into the hills on our way to Pinnacles National Park, rolling vineyards replaced the flat vegetable fields.

We decided to check out the west side of Pinnacles since it was closer to our home base.  Much of the road in was one lane which struck me as unusual for a national park.

After a stop at the visitors center, we decided to try the Juniper Canyon Trail.  It's only 1.2 miles, one way, with the first half following the canyon floor and gradual elevation change.  The wildflowers were lovely.

The pink ones were Elegant Clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata) and the blue ones I couldn't identify in the visitors center.  Might be Larkspur.  Anybody?

These Butterfly Mariposa Lilies (Colochortus venustus) all had bugs in them.  I don't know if they were trapped or just intoxicated by the pollen.

After our easy stroll up the canyon, the trail climbed quickly into the scenic rocks.

It reminded me of Chiricahua NP in southeast Arizona.

Ron is pointing out a little tree/bush growing where it seems nothing could grow.

A little farther on I zoomed in on it.  That Lone Cypress has nothing on this guy.

You can barely see the parking lot - the light area on the left side.

I have a thing about rocks.  I know not everybody loves them like I do.  After all the switchbacks, we decided to go a little farther.

It was cool looking down on the rocks that had been towering over us.

Soon we headed back down the canyon for an estimated total of 3 miles, but a good workout with the climb.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

17 Miles?

Or is it?  We decided to pony up the $10 fee to explore 17-mile Drive in swanky Pebble Beach.  First we asked the lady at the visitors center if it was really 17 miles.  She said it's just the name of the road, like First Street.  So I was determined to find the answer to this burning question and had Ron set the trip odometer.

For our $10 contribution, we received a nice map with points of interest marked.  Here are just a few.

Bird Rock - not just for birds

There were plenty of sea lions hanging out at the lower levels.  Maybe they're trying to avoid all that bird poop.

But some over-achievers worked their way up to join their cormorant friends.

This guy is obviously very proud of his accomplishment.

The drive passed by some pricey real estate, but I was drawn to this colorful house.  I bet it's been there for a long time.

Probably the most popular stop on the drive is for The Lone Cypress.  This iconic symbol of the California coast, and specifically Pebble Beach, has been perched on this rock for over 250 years.  According to the signage, Monterey Cypress Trees can live to 300 years old.  Let's do the math.  You better hurry if you want to see it.

Attempting to prevent, or delay, a tragedy, they have added cables and rocked up the base.

If 'Lone' bites the dust, maybe 'Substitute' could take over.

But just look at this - no rock wall, no cables.  It's like nobody cares about poor, ignored 'Substitute.'  Soon he'll just topple right off the cliff.

The next stop was for Ghost Tree.  You probably won't believe me after that 'Substitute' story, but I'm not making this up.  According to the handout, Ghost Tree is a Monterey Cypress that was bleached white by the sun.  Surprisingly, there were several trees at this stop that fit the description, so I picked this one.  It looks pretty creepy.

Ron wanted to see the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Links.  I was surprised they just let us walk into the lodge and out the back where we had a view of the 18th green.

And the 18th fairway.  How could you keep your mind on golf with this view?

We exited 17-Mile Drive at the Carmel gate so we could take a quick drive around Carmel.  It's so precious!

The shops seem to try to outdo each other in cuteness.

Now for the bad news.  At the end of our tour, I forgot to check the trip odometer, so we'll never know how long 17-Mile Drive really is.  ;-(

Friday, May 22, 2015

Wrapping Up

We left our expensive parking lot bright and early to avoid paying another day use fee.  That was tough for this non-morning person.  We had about 25 miles left to finish the Big Sur drive and were confident we could do it in one day.

I have just a few more pictures of the drive.

Of course I made Ron stop at the famous Bixby Creek Bridge (or Bixby Bridge.)  I hurried to take my pictures when we realized he had stopped at a bus stop.  Seriously?  The bus route comes down this treacherous road and stops at this forlorn spot?

Completed in 1932, this artistic, curving bridge is 714 feet long with 320 feet of that over the arch.  It is an icon of the Big Sur drive, requiring every motorist to take a selfie with the bridge.  A bicyclist asked me if I wanted him to take my picture with the bridge and I gave my standard reply, "No thanks, I  know what I look like."

After a very scary drive through a residential area of Monterey, where Ron was sure I was directing him incorrectly, we arrived at the very scenic Elks Lodge.  (I have to admit I was having doubts too.)  They allowed us to dry camp which brought our cost down to $12.50 a day, rather than the $25 they charge for hookups.  We've been in some beautiful Elks lodges this trip, but this one takes the cake.  It has a pool, exercise room, and sauna, (none of which we used,) and a gorgeous view of the bay.

We took a ride around the area.  Here's Fisherman's Wharf.

And Cannery Row.

Lover's Point

And Point Pinos Lighthouse.
Point Pinos Lighthouse is the oldest, continuously-operating lighthouse on the West Coast.  It was first lit in 1855.

Right across from the lighthouse is a golf course with an unusual grounds keeper.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

At Last

After three nights at our crowded, but entertaining, campground, we left for Big Sur, the town, not the 90-mile coastline. One interesting sight along the way was this cool tunnel. We hypothesized that this must be an especially bad spot for landslides.

We arrived at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park on Sunday, thinking that people would be checking out and sites would be available.  This is the southern end of the Coast Redwood range and the entrance road into the park was a bit of a challenge.

We were told only two sites would be available and neither was large enough for us.  Hum, now what?  Well, never fear.  This park has what they call 'en route' camping.  For the same $35 we would pay for an actual site, we could park overnight in the day use parking lot.  Great!  We're fine with that.  But here's the catch,  You can't park there until 5 pm and must be out by 9 am.  However, for another $10 you can come in and get set up earlier.  So for a measly $45 we got to stay in a parking lot.  Needless to say, we only stayed one night.

But we made the most of our day.  First we went to a nice brunch at one of the cute restaurants in Big Sur.  It had these cool flowers all around.

And the most unique restrooms. First the fancy entrance.

And the ladies room.  The men had one just like it.  I think it's the only outhouse I ever saw with a flush toilet.

I wanted to go to the famous Nepenthe Restaurant where the tables overlook the picturesque coastal cliffs. We arrived just as they opened and were seated immediately.  Seemingly, the fates were with us.  But then we realized that we were were freezing!  Although we had scored a table inside with a lovely view out the window, it was still really cold since they seemed to think it was a good idea to leave the doors open.  So we had to give up on that idea and go elsewhere.  I should have at least taken a picture!

After brunch, we headed for Andrew Molera State Park which had been recommended by the nice lady in the visitors center.  She said the Highlands Trail was her favorite.

We stopped at the Cooper cabin, which was built in 1861 and is the oldest surviving building on the Big Sur coast.

The trail loosely follows the Big Sur River where we enjoyed yellow lupine bushes - maybe not the official name.

True to its name, the Highlands Trail climbed up to some lovely viewpoints.  On the left is the Big Sur River which has to navigate around the small sand dune to reach the ocean.

Funny thing here.  I took the same picture of the bay with my camera and my phone.  After looking at both on the computer, my S4 phone picture was much sharper.  How does it do that with that tiny lens?  I might have to take more pictures with my phone.

Back at our lovely parking lot campsite, we noticed the tree in front of us was named.

The Colonial Tree is a 1100 year old Coast Redwood.  With a circumference of 31 feet, it's the largest in the park, although it was decapitated by lightning strikes.  Hum, I hope we're not expecting any thunderstorms while we're parked here.