by Carrie Nusbaum
This is our second Big Sur post, and there will probably be several more to come (we're going back in August, so). It's so beautiful and so close that our repeated visits are inevitable, and really, why would we deny ourselves the joy? Our friend Jen was in town from NYC a few weeks ago, and she had never been, and we were driving right by it on our way up to the bay, and so of course we stopped. We decided to camp for a few days, but didn't exercise enough foresight to reserve a campsite, which was pretty risky in retrospect since Big Sur is a popular place.
Some people are just charmed, and Jen is one of them. These kinds of people make great friends, and great travel pals, perhaps for obvious reasons. We got to Big Sur in the evening, just before dark, and every roadside campground sign we passed proclaimed it was full. We briefly considered sleeping in the car alongside the dark freeway, but instead took a chance and drove into Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park despite its apparent lack of vacancies. We creeped around the winding campground roads, hoping for a free site until we came upon the camp host, this older man driving around in a golf cart very slowly. We got his attention and sheepishly asked if he might know of somewhere we could sleep for the night...he thought about it for a moment, then waved for us to follow him, guided us to the most beautiful camp site we have ever seen, and expressed that it was ours for the night. Apparently some of these grounds save a "buffer" site in case they mess up a reservation, or if a couple of sad and tired girls come along. I wouldn't ever advise anyone to count on this kind of thing, but in a pinch it's definitely worth a shot.
We woke up early the next morning and moved ourselves to Andrew Molera State Park, which is a first-come first-served campground. It has a different vibe since it's in an open meadow, not tucked back in the redwoods, and it's closer to the beach (there's a very chill mile-long hike from the campground parking lot to the beach). It's about a quarter-mile hike from the parking lot to the camp sites, so you'll want to pack lightly, if possible. We preferred the crowd of this campground--it seemed to be mostly younger people (since you have to hike to the sites, there are no RVs/trailers nor the noisy families that often accompany them), and everyone was exceptionally nice. When we first got in, our "neighbors" offered us some unused lighter fluid and kindling. On our way out, our faith in humanity was briefly restored when one of our bags broke unexpectedly, spilling camp-things all over the footpath, and a few nearby campers scrounged around to find a bag of theirs that we could use to carry our stuff out. As much as camping is sometimes about solitude, it's also about remembering how people (strangers, even), are pretty alright sometimes.
Sunset beach pics are from our favorite: Pfeiffer beach. This time we brought winter coats and tamales and beer from the Big Sur Deli, and we were easily the warmest (and smuggest) people out there for that particular sunset. We also checked out the Big Sur Taphouse on this trip (next to the deli), and were very pleasantly surprised by their local tap selections and big/excellent outdoor patio area.