Monday, June 8, 2015

California Coast 2015 - Pfeiffer Big Sur to Monterey, May 10th to 15th.

From San Simeon we continue up the coast on Highway 1. The narrow 2-lane road continually ascends and descends as it carves its way along the steep coastal mountains.

Highway 1
There are plenty of pull offs to stop for ocean views. At one turn out someone commemorated their stop with little rock cairns, a travelers message left in the ocean mist.

Little stone cairns, a travelers message, "I was here".
Pfeiffer Big Sur Sate Park.
Our destination is Pfieffer Big Sur State Park in the Redwoods where we camped for two nights. It's a beautiful park located in Redwoods. There are flush toilets, coin operated showers, an inexpensive laundry, a dump station and water available through out the campground. The cost is $35 per night, $33 for seniors.

Stone restroom buildings constructed by the CCC.
These handsome stone restroom building were built in the 1920's by the CCC.

Paved roads curve through the trees in Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground.
The interior roads of the campground are paved and provide a nice evening walk or easy bike ride through the Redwoods.

Pfeiffer Falls.
The park has many trails. We took a short 1.5 mile hike through the Redwoods to Pfeiffer Falls.

The Redwoods in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
This was our first experience in a Redwood forest and the trees are spectacular and inspiring. It's remarkably peaceful camping among them. We learned that the burls of the Redwoods contain dormant sprouts that will grow if the tree is damaged and dies. A Redwood nursery.

A Redwood burl root along the campground road is a natural work of art.
From the campground we take a 10-mile bike ride to Pfeiffer Beach.

Pfeiffer Beach
Pfeiffer Beach is said to be one of the most beautiful beaches on the coast however it has deadly riptides and swimming is discouraged. The day we were there it was extremely windy with blowing sand. This must happen quite often because a sign at the entry station advises that there will be no refunds due to wind conditions. All the same the beach is beautiful and worth the visit.

Pfeiffer Beach.
Pfeiffer Beach
The pinnacles of rock that are a dynamic feature of the beach have windows that the surf comes surging through with a crashing roar.

We wait for a wave to surge through the window and . . .
Our next stop is Monterey and we camp three nights at Sunset Beach State Park north of Monterey. The park wasn't on the beach and didn't have an ocean view although there was a trail to the beach. It did have tall cypress trees that provide nice shade. It was a very quiet place with only a few campers. There are flush toilets, water taps but no dump station. The staff advised us we could show our receipt at another state park and use the dump. The cost is $35 per night, $33 for seniors. We paid $35 because we made reservations thinking the park would be busy but it wasn't necessary.

Sunset Beach State Park.
From our site at Sunset Beach we can see miles of strawberry fields. One morning as we lingered over breakfast a team of immigrant workers came through the fields picking berries. When they filled their boxes they took them to the truck, got new boxes and trotted back up the rows to begin picking again. They never slowed or took a break as they worked their way down the rows. Mexican music was playing and there was occasional singing and laughter. These are really hard working people bending their backs in the sun all day to bring produce to our grocery stores. I'll remember them when I buy my produce. They deserve a good life.
Strawberry pickers in the fields near Sunset Beach State Park.
This basin north of Monterey has fertile sandy soil and we saw miles of fields of lettuces, artichokes and other vegetables.

The strawberry pickers.
On our first day at Sunset beach we drove to Marina and parked at a Walmart. From there we rode our bikes to Monterey and around the Monterey Peninsula to Pebble Beach on the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. It's a nicely paved bicycling and walking trail that goes along the Monterey Harbor, past Cannery Row and along the beautiful beaches on the peninsula. Our ride was an easy, mostly flat, 47 miles

Riding the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. Monterey is across the bay in the background.
The wharf in Monterey.
Some interesting boats in the Monterey Harbor. This looks like a pirate ship want-to-be. 
And a hippie boat giving out good vibes and full of optimism.
Along the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail as it goes through Monterey.
We were impressed with Monterey. It has a comfortable small town feel. If we were to live in a coastal town it would be this one.

Beautiful Victorian buildings line the streets of the water front.
Shapely cypress in the parks.
There are plenty of beautiful public beaches.
The bike path around the Monterey Peninsula along the coast.
Water recreation is high priority in Monterey.
After our great day of bicycling Monterey we stop by Phil's Fish Market and Eatery at Moss Landing and have an exceptional meal.

Phil's in Moss Landing.
First come the mussels and clams.
Then comes the mail course. Jim has blackened Halibut with crab and mango sauce and I have the Alaskan Sea Bass with ginger sauce. Rice and an assortment of steamed vegetables included. 
Phil is my new best friend and we'll come here again if we ever get back this way.
On our second day we visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium and spent most of the day there. They have tours and auditorium and feeding events throughout the day. The Aquarium is housed in 2 remodeled historic canneries that have been combined into one building. The exterior keeps some of the original architecture.

The Aquarium entry with life size Okras playing overhead. 
The interior of the building has pipes through which sea water flows and is warmed to the desired temperature for the exhibits by the body heat generated from all the people in the building.

Life size humpback whales swim in the air over our heads.
The building is divided into exhibits of the many environments of the sea from the shore and tide pools to the ocean depths. You can take photos as long as you don't use a flash. The lighting in the exhibits allowed me to get some good photos. I can't tell you what all these creatures are but they are examples of the wonderful life you'll see at this remarkable Aquarium. 

We watched the Penguins and Sea Otter feedings. You can't help but fall in love with them.

Penguin feeding time. The crowd gathers. 
Sea Otter.
The staff play games with the Otters during feeding to keep them happy and active.

The Otters play games and do tricks during feeding time.
The birds in the shore bird exhibit are orphaned or injured birds that couldn't survive in the wild. They have a home here. The staff hides their food in their environment so they have to forge as they would in the wild.

The shore bird exhibit. I get the feeling we're being watched.
After a day at the Aquarium we stroll through Cannery Row which John Steinbeck made famous in his novel.

Cannery Row
A statue commemorates John Steinbeck's literary work.

A tribute to John Steinbeck.
Along with the miles of fields come the produce stands. We by a half flat of strawberries fresh from the fields for $5. They're the biggest, sweetest berries we've ever had. All the more reason to visit Monterey.

If only I could get this at home.
We've really enjoyed or visit to Monterey and it's time to head down the road for our next big destination, San Francisco. See you down the road.



  1. Isn't it interesting how those perceived as havung the least seem to makee the most out of it and enjoy life when they can. You don't find many brokers or lawyers singing while they work!

    One of my favorite harbor-side activities is checking out the unusual boats, often the ones tucked into the out of the way corners are the most imaginative

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