Even on limited sleep, Big Sur proved to be too beautiful not to explore fully. In fact, it’s probably a good thing that we got up with the sun. We needed the early start to fit everything we wanted to see into just one day.
Our first stop was Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. We arrived almost a full hour before the park officially opens at 8am, parked along the shoulder, and walked down a short trail that can be accessed right from the road. A five-minute walk brought us to an overlook from which we could admire McWay Falls — a slender 80-foot waterfall that drops the eponymous river right onto a small crescent of cliff-enclosed beach. At high tide, the waterfall plunges straight into the ocean.
The sun rose above the hills behind us, illuminating the bay, but unfortunately the waterfall itself remained shrouded in shadow. When it became clear that we’d need to wait several hours for more favorable lighting we snapped one last picture and headed to Deetjen’s for breakfast. Rustic, with a ton of history, warm fireplaces, and delicious homemade food, Deetjen’s came highly recommended by multiple friends as THE place to eat in Big Sur. The food more than lived up to the hype, and the unlimited refills on our caffeinated beverages likely helped get us through the rest of the day.
It took us the better part of the rest of the day to work our way north through the rest of Big Sur, up through the Cambria highlands, and on to Monterrey. In addition to innumerable photo op stops we visited two more state parks. In Andrew Molera, we took a one-mile-long trail through bird-filled grasslands and a small strand of forest to a windswept beach.
We spent considerably more time at Point Lobos, so named because of the sea lions that pass their time sunning themselves in the rocky coves of this park. We walked out to Sea Lion Point and, after scrambling among the rocks, drove further into the park to visit the scenic Gibson and China Beaches. The latter reportedly served as the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
Ignoring S’s pleas for lunch — it was past 3pm before we left — D insisted on one last stop in Point Lobos. Just past China Beach lies Bird Island — a rocky outcrop that is the nesting place for hundreds of colorful Brandt’s cormorants in addition to gulls and several other bird species. About the only thing missing from our visit to Point Lobos were the sea otters. There are approximately 50 sea otters that call Point Lobos home, but the park has way too many coves and caverns to allow visitors to pinpoint their location. We strained our eyes scanning the waters but did not see any.
Much like us, our rental car was also running on empty by the time we pulled into Monterrey. Not only was the fuel indicator light on, indicating that we were driving on fumes, but also the air pressure light — the tire we had apparently punctured on the way from Death Valley to Sequoia needed attention.