The weekend in which a convertible was always the answer, 1 liter of water definitely wasn’t enough and back sweat inspired musical genius.
This past Valentine’s weekend, S and I traveled to California to hike Big Sur and visit friends in San Francisco. We’re starting to pique our hiking curiosity and this trip seemed perfect. Getting to cruise down Hwy 1 with gorgeous ocean vistas on one side and great hiking on the other was a dream.
We stayed in Monterey, CA which is proximate to Big Sur with easy access to Hwy 1 and drove south.
The day dawned bright and sunny (is there any other kind of weather in Cali?) and before heading off on our big hike, we stopped to eat breakfast at Crepes of Brittany! located right on the water at Fisherman’s Wharf. I ordered a Nutella banana crepe (can’t say no to chocolate for breakfast) and S got a breakfast crepe with eggs, cheese and spinach. They were both SO good! The exterior was super crispy and the inside fluffy soft.
After being properly fueled, we packed up and hopped into our BRIGHT. YELLOW. CONVERTIBLE. Yes. We basically rented Bumblebee to transport us down the coast. It was totally worth it. In fact, even when the sun set and the wind picked up and the chill set in and we had to don our jackets and my hair was whipping me in the face so hard it hurt, it was STILL worth it. We understood that a convertible, top down and cruising, is always the answer when traversing the California coastline.
We drove, oohing and ahhing at the magnificent sweeping coastal vistas and feeling ridiculously envious of all the houses with that view in their backyard. Our destination was the Tanbark Trail which was about 40 miles south. The hiking trail we chose is about a 6-mile loop through the redwood forest which lifts up 1,600ft with gorgeous views of the Pacific. It’s unbelievably hilly and to be honest, not particularly well-marked. Apparently, it was closed for a long time because of the 2008 fire and while it has been reopened, I’d definitely consider it a strenuous hike.
We wanted to hike up to the Tin House (which I’ll get into in a minute) and then loop back down the fire road to hwy 1. We ran into more than a few people on the way who had attempted this very plan but abandoned it to return back down the same path because they couldn’t find the tin house/were unsure of how to continue the loop. The path itself is obvious but by mile 2.5, with hardly a sign in sight, we did have our doubts. It’s an intense workout with most of the path heading uphill, but well worth the trek if you’re ready for it. The forest is enchanting with gigantic redwoods and sunlight filtering through the green canopy onto the mossy ground below.
We really enjoyed walking through the forest and eventually, as we made our way higher and higher through the trees, we had views clear across the valley out to the ocean. We crisscrossed back and forth into the sunlight breathing in the piney air around us.
This hike isn’t for the faint of heart. To distract ourselves from our burning leg muscles, we invented songs, nay, odes to our sweaty backs using tunes from pop hits of the 90s, 00s and today! (Yeah…we’re weird and disgusting. But it totally worked!) We made it to where the trail ended and it was incredible to see the Pacific Ocean from the hilltop.
At the top of the trail is this random tin house (literally) which was apparently built in 1944 by a former congressman from New York. The story has it that his family stayed one night in the Tin House before realizing that tin makes a ton of noise when the metal shrinks and expands with the temperature changes. They never stayed there again. Now graffitied and crumbling, you can still explore this bizarre home, complete with a cozy fireplace and peeling blue paint still somewhat visible on the walls.
We found the fire road to take us back down to the highway and made it down the steep incline (sorry toes!) to our bumblebee. We were windblown, sweaty messes by the time we made it back but we couldn’t stop grinning (either from the euphoria of completing the hike or finally making our way back to civilization, doesn’t matter). Total, the hike took about 4hrs to complete. After that, we drove back up north on the highway to stop for lunch at Nepenthe. According to their menu, the name is Greek, for “isle of no care”or “a place to find surcease from sorrow” which was the perfect way to describe the laid back ease of the area. The restaurant is set into the side of a cliff overlooking the ocean so it’s well worth the wait to get seats facing the sea if you can snag ’em.
We ate our fill of goat cheese and pita, spread with whole roasted garlic and thick sesame-bunned sandwiches before riding back to catch the sunset. We decided to stop at the iconic Bixby Bridge and capture some amazing views as the day came to a close.
Bixby Creek Bridge is an arched, concrete bridge opened during the 1930s to allow residents of Big Sur access to the rest of the world when the only roadway at the time would become impassable in the winter months. It’s one of the most photographed spots on the West Coast and is a Big Sur icon. It’s frequently used in car commercials and it’s awesomeness and amazingness (real words) make it a Pacific regional landmark.
It was stunning on the cliffs by the bridge, watching the day fade away and the sun sink gracefully behind the horizon.
Sunset on the Pacific was the perfect way to end our first day exploring the wild and rugged California coast. Day 1 taught us a few things:
- Hiking uphill is hard. No matter how much you use a stairmaster at your local gym to prepare for it.
- Making up stupid songs about how sweaty you are is a useful way to pass the time while hiking said uphill battles.
- Drinking almost half your water supply in the car on the way to the hike is not a good idea. Thinking 1L of water will get you through six miles of sunshiney hiking…also not a good idea. Always bring extra water. You will be glad you did.
- Staying in Monterey leads to some yummy crepes and can be much easier/more affordable than trying to find a hotel in Big Sur itself. Plus, the drive is amahzing!
- If you have the option to rent a practical, compact car or a convertible, convertible is always the answer. Especially with the views on this road.
More to come on Big Sur…in pt.2 we explore another uphill hike, celebrate Valentine’s Day eating all of the avocado toast (yum!), and being photobombed by happy puppies on purple sand beaches.