On our final morning in San Francisco we got all our gear packed and loaded into the car before bidding farewell to Jacob and Jenni. We stocked up on some supplies at Safeway then drove through some of the streets of Pacific Heights, an upmarket neighbourhood near the hostel, to find the house from Mrs. Doubtfire. With this ticked off the list, we headed up, down then up, up and up to Twin Peaks, high above San Francisco. After taking in the panoramic views over the city and the bay, we got back in the car before getting back on Highway 1 and heading south out of town.
After an hour and a half or so of driving, we reached Santa Cruz, further down the coast. We continued through town with the intention of returning in the morning, and the thermometer rose With every mile until we reached New Brighton State Beach a few miles down the road, where we planned to camp for the night. After finding a site with a view of the ocean, we set up the tent then went for a walk down to the beach in the evening sunshine where I had a walk along in the cool Pacific surf before we propped ourselves against a log for a short nap.
Heading back to the campsite, we got a fire going and made some dinner before getting another decent night's sleep.
In the morning after our usual bowl of Raisin Bran, we headed back up the road to Santa Cruz where we got parked before heading to the boardwalk on the beachfront, which was like Codonas times ten, with colourful stalls and rides looking pretty fun in the bright sunshine. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for our wallets) the rides were still shut so we walked along the boardwalk before taking a wander out the pier where we saw big groups of seals bobbing about in the water, barking and splashing about.
Heading back up the pier and back to the car, we drove along the seafront past some really cool houses set on the bluffs above the ocean, before making our way back to the highway and heading south again.
After a quick stop at the town of Aptos, home of one of my favourite mountain bikers, Cam McCaul, where we checked out some famous dirt jumps from biking films outside the town's post office, we continued south around Monterey Bay to the town giving the bay it's name.
In Monterey we stopped for a quick lunch before driving around the town's scenic ocean view road which led to the 17 Mile Drive, a private road which loops round Monterey Peninsula. The road winds along some amazing coastline lined with weather-battered cypress trees and packed with huge gated mansions and amazing one-off houses, the cost of which I can't imagine. The 17 Mile Drive also passes some incredible golf courses including the world famous Pebble Beach where we stopped to check out the 1st tee and 18th green, which I have played numerous times in Tiger Woods computer games but never imagined I would see in real life.
We left the 17 Mile Drive to enter Carmel-by-the-Sea, a gorgeous little town famous as an exclusive artists' enclave and well-known for having Clint Eastwood as a former mayor. The town was the definition of quaint, with leafy streets lined with cute cottage-style buildings housing galleries and boutiques. Everything was a bit fancy and expensive for us, something brought home by the prices in the estate agents window, where huge framed photos displayed houses with prices up to $20,000,000.
After wandering around Carmel for a bit, we jumped back in the car and continued down the coast on Highway 1, into Big Sur. The 90-odd miles of coastline south of Carmel is regarded as one of the most beautiful areas in the world and it didn't take long for us to see why. The road wound along the coast high above the bright blue Pacific, with lush green hills descending from our left to plunge in rocky cliffs into the ocean, often punctuated with rocky coves harbouring a perfect sandy beach. The scenery reminded us of the Kintyre Peninsula in Scotland magnified several times, and it was incredible to drive through.
Eventually we reached Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park where we managed to find a site in the packed campground, and set up for the night, in a grove of our old friends the coastal redwoods. Once we had the camp set up we made an awesome dinner of baked potatoes with chilli and cheese followed by bananas filled with chocolate eggs done in the fire, then retired for the night.
The next day we set out for Pfeiffer Beach, down a winding 2 mile road a bit down the coast from our camp. The drive down and the fee to visit was worth it, as we enjoyed a walk along the beach checking out the waves crashing through the rock formations along the shoreline and the purple patterns in the sand from the manganese garnet in the rocks behind the beach.
Once we had gathered some firewood from the beach and loaded up the car we headed further south to Julia Burns Pfieffer State Park, where we had some lunch before walking up a great trail through the trees alongside a creek. Although it took some persuading to get Lucy across the tiny creek (though no persuasion to get her to walk out on a fallen log about 10 feet above it) it was well worth it as the trail ended at a great little waterfall higher up the valley.
From these falls we walked back to the car park before following the creek, down this time, through a tunnel under the highway which led to an amazing overlook above the McWay Falls. This waterfall drops directly from the creek onto the beach and into the sea. Set in the most gorgeous cove with a golden sandy beach with rocky outcrops at the mouth, we spent ages watching the falls and just admiring the view before heading back to the car and back towards our camp.
On the way we stopped off for one more excursion, down to Partington Cove. Following a winding track down a canyon which reminded me a bit of the path down Mount Keen, we reached a fork in the trail. Following one path, we went across a creek on a bridge, through a tunnel dug through the hillside then out into one rocky cove with stringy kelp floating on the turquoise water and rocky walls on either side providing great echoes. Back through the tunnel we took another path down along the creek to where it ran over the rocks into the actual cove. We sat here for ages on big boulders in the small rocky inlet watching huge waves roll in and build before crashing into the rocks, sending spray high into the air.
Almost overdosing on amazing scenery, we walked back up to the car and headed back to the campground for some hot dogs and a couple of beers, before checking out our maps and guidebooks to plan the next few days. Then it was off to bed where we slept, waking occasionally to the sound of rain pouring down on the tent, which luckily kept us dry all night.