Camping in Andrew Molera State Park - Big Sur, California

These are some pictures of a recent camping trip to Andrew Molera State Park in Big Sur, California. We Spent 4 days here hiking, laying on the beach, and relaxing in general. It was about a 4 hour drive from my apartment in Folsom, CA, and well worth the drive.

ocean3.gifAny drive down Hwy 1 is absolutely incredible. There are hills, there are great homes, there are cliffs, expansive meadows, sea lions, crashing surf, driftwood, cool breezes and great beaches like this just north of Santa Cruz to stop and have lunch. Watch out for the wind always seems to be blowing about 20-30 mph (this makes lunch with napkins and other assorted paper products an adventure in itself!) And if you're crazy and want to swim...bring a wetsuit!

An ocean viewJust south of Santa Cruz are the towns of Monterey and Carmel. Monterey, of course was made famous by John Steinbeck with his tales of Cannery Row. Great place to visit, with fabulous meals on Fisherman's Wharf (serenaded by the sounds of Sea Lions below the Wharf). And if you're tastes run to expensive (yet incredible) golfing, Pebble Beach is just down the Coast...just make sure you bring you're wallet! Carmel is now (probably) most famous for it's Mayor...Clint Eastwood, although (so say the locals), he is seen rarely. This is a shot of the coastline just to the south of Carmel. Architecture buffs take note: bring your camera. Fabulous houses perched on the most impossible locations dot the coastline as you make your way down Hwy 1. It's scary to think that you could win the lottery and still not be able to afford some of the houses on the coast.

Our campsiteTwenty odd miles south of Carmel finds you here: Andrew Molera State Park where for $3 a night you can camp less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean in a breezy (and I do mean breezy) meadow. This is a terrific primitive campground (water, pit toilets, no showers) where you can forget all about whatever it is you would like to forget about. About the only thing to worry about here is getting your marshmallows stolen by raccoons (don't even ask). Let's just say that the rangers recommend that you don't even store it in you're may have unwelcome visitors in the middle of the night! Nocturnal denizens aside, this place is almost perfect (sometimes you wish that the wind wouldn't be quite as strong). Try to stay here during the week to avoid lots of kids (and adults) on the weekend.

Another Ocean ViewLess than a mile from the picture above is this little slice of heaven (as viewed from the bluffs above the beach). There are some swells worth surfing here (or so the surfers said) and if I had my telephoto lens with me, you would be able to make out the dude catching the 4 foot right hander right in the middle of the picture. Up and down the beach there are piles of driftwood that cunning souls have fashioned into driftwood "cabanas" to keep out the blowing sand (remember the wind). Great place to spend the day and get a tan. Remember though..this is on the Pacific Coast, and gets pretty chilly, even in the summer with the sun shining (at least for a Floridian who refuses to swim in any water unless it's at least 88 degrees...but I digress).

view.gifWhat a great place for hiking. After mis-reading the brochure (which seemed to indicate only about 3 mile of trails), we started up this beauty (and I do mean up). The scenery was definitely well worth the effort. About the only thing bad about this hike was the 6 foot Rattlesnake waiting for us at the intersection of two trails. It made some noise and we moved on, figuring that if we didn't bother him, he wouldn't bother us. This did not stop my heart from hitting the 200 bpm range, though. This was on the "Hidden Trail" that takes you up (rather steeply) the backside of the mountain and intersects with the Ridge Trail that runs across the hills to the south end of the park.

view2.gifUp on the Ridge Trail, you encounter many differing types of wilderness, from grassy prairie, to lush redwood forest. The elevation here is about 1000 feet (but sure feels a lot higher, especially after the steepness of the the Hidden Trail). At the end of this trail, it intersects with the Panorama Trail that takes you down to the bluffs on the ocean. This is the highest part of the park (in the area south of Hwy 1 - there are additional trails on the other side of the highway, but they just don't have the same view as the ridge top trails near the ocean), and it is with much relief that you collapse on the bench that sits on the top of the hill, and it is panic that sets in when you realize that it's almost 5:00 and you still have abou 6 or 7 miles of hiking to do to get back to camp. But hey, it can't be that's all downhill! How hard could THAT be?

ocean5.gifThe big moment reach the summit (without realizing that you still have half the hike left to go! But what the heck, the view is great, the breeze refreshing and the satisfaction high (no pun intended) And then it's time to start down. When you reach the coastal bluffs, and look ahead you begin to realize the enormity of your task..."you mean I have to go all the way down there!?..." You then start to walk through some low dense brush (all the time remembering that rattlesnake you saw at the top of the ridge - the constant scampering noises in the brush do little to ease your mind about this). There are some great canyons here that cut the wind for a while (just long enough for you to get hot again) and then its back up onto the bluffs and that fabulous Pacific Ocean breeze.

night.gifAs the sun starts to sink into the Pacific like a marble being swallowed by some great yawning maw, you are almost home. Back to the campfire and steaks (believe me you'll need it after this hike - this is still the best steak that I have ever eaten in my experience), and perhaps a great big campfire with smores (that is, if the raccoons have not pilfered the marshmallows while you were killing yourself for the pleasure of some great scenery!). Even with the sore feet, sweat and dirt covered faces and bone-weary exhausting, you can't help but anitcipate the next time you can make it up here to leave the cares of the world behind.

I've since been back to this area and explored Julia Pfieffer State park a few miles south of Andrew Molera. It's a great spot for camping and day hikes too, especially with the river/creek that runs through the park. It's very heavily shaded and is a great retreat from the blistering heat of Sacramento. Just be sure to fill up the gas tank before heading down this way. After Julia Pfieffer State Park, there isn't one gas station until you hit Hearst Castle in San Simeon, about 90 miles down the coast. Oh yeah...If you break down, you can forget about your cell phone (don't take it anyway - this is supposed to be a vacation, after all) because it won't work here either...and that's just the way it should be.

Other Destinations

Big Sur, California Lisbon, Portugal Paris, France Madrid, Spain
São Paulo, Brazil Caracas, Venezuela Amsterdam, Netherlands Arnhem, Netherlands
Nassau, Bahamas London, England Curaçao, Netherland Antilles Santiago, Chile
Edinburgh, Scotland Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Hyderabad, India Rome & Florence, Italy

© 2003 - Todd L. Holsopple
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