Day 3 – From Scotts Valley we drove via Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel-By-The-Sea to the Big Sur coastline. According to Wikipedia…

Big Sur is one of the most beautiful coastlines anywhere in the world. The coast is frequently praised for its rugged coastline and mountain views. As the longest and most scenic stretch of undeveloped coastline in the United States, it is generally considered to include the 76 miles (122 km) segment of California State Route 1 from the Carmel River near the City of Carmel south to San Carpóforo Creek near San Simeon and the entire Santa Lucia range between the rivers.

Originally we would have needed a whole day to drive this famous stretch of Highway 1 known as Big Sur, but back in May 2017, California had a lot of rain especially along the coast, which softened the ground so much that a large part of the mountain broke away and slid down into the Pacific ocean. The rock covered a third of a mile of Highway 1. It added 13 acres of additional coastline and put Highway 1 under 40 feet of dirt and rock.  California Highways closed the road at various points, which was a major disaster for us, as this stretch of Highway 1 was a bucket list item and on our route.

Landslide on Highway 1

There was noticeably very little traffic on this stretch of road, which was great for us. It was also good that we drove on the right side of the road, which offered amazing views of the Pacific ocean. The road weaved through tall trees hanging off cliffs on one side of the road and steep cliffs dropping into the sea on the other side of the road. There were many large jagged rocks and mini islands frothing with white foam, surrounded by large black & green seaweed. We ended up stopping a lot to take in the scenery.

At Carmel Highlands we stopped at a quaint ex-Ferrari garage that had two red English telephone booths outside, a small forecourt of pumping stations and a garage that had been converted into a shop. Inside it stocked everything from food, coffee, wine and clothes. We had a delicious cup of coffee there.

Panorama of Big Sur

Despite it being very hot, along the coast the mist and fog was rolling in off the sea making everything damp and cold. There were sections of the coastal road where we could stop and walk down to the cliff’s edge or the beach. One place was Garrapata, which was part of the California State Park. There was a path that started next to the road and ran through the somewhat battered vegetation to the cliffs edge. The view of the sea and pounding waves was quite special. There were some mighty big waves smashing into the beach. We managed to find a path down to the beach and soaked up the mist and breathtaking sea views.

Around each corner of the winding road was something new. One such corner showed off Bixby Bridge. A large open-spandrel arch bridge. Below it was a valley of steep cliffs and vegetation, where the land met the ocean. It was quite spectacular. We parked up and managed to get quite a few photographs of the bridge and surrounding cliffs and sea. It was quite misty though, which was a shame because it covered the great view. Our featured image at the top of the page is what the Bixby Creek Bridge and surrounding Big Sur area looks like on a clear day. Sadly this was not my photo. 

I figured this was the perfect location to fly my drone, so I got it out and headed up a dusty road to get a better position of the bridge and valley below. It was quite difficult keeping an eye on the drone because it blended into the vegetation. The mist didn’t help either and at times I was completely blind. It was not ideal flying conditions and thus I was in the air for a few frustrating minutes. After I landed and walked back to the car, I noticed three other guys flying their drones in the same area, which shocked me given how small the area was between the Bixby Creek valley, bridge and sea. Worst case scenario I could have had a mid-air collision and lost my drone.

Back in the car we drove over the Bixby bridge and headed inland for a bit where the scenery started to change. Gone were the ragged cliffs along the water’s edge, instead there were a lot more rolling hills, flat areas, and dead straight road with farms of cows on one side and awesome sea views on the other side. Then all of a sudden the great Redwood trees and forest appeared.

Unfortunately there was also a sign telling us the road was closed a mile ahead, which explained why there were so few cars on the road. We drove as far as the road allowed us and felt robbed that we were not going to experience the drive through the redwood forest and rising mountain peaks. Heading back down the road we spotted the Big Sur River Inn, which offered food and drink on a large deck overlooking a slow flowing forest river. We had lunch and a walk along the river. There were deck chairs in the water, which was great because it was so warm. What a way to relax?

We drove back to Carmel-By-The-Sea and watched another amazing sunset over the bay, then it was back to Scotts Valley for the last time. Day 4 will see us heading south along the Highway 101 via Salinas, King City, San Miguel, then west to the coastal towns of Cambria, San Simeon, Ragged Point and Cayucos. That will be our next post.