Exotic Gardens

Exotic Gardens

Week 21. July 27, 2013. At the end of our July day in Big Sur, we hit up a beach at the northern most point in Cambria.


Above: the path to the beach.

Exotic Gardens

Flying kites with turkey vultures

When we got down to the beach there were about 20 turkey vultures circling above (there was a dead harbor seal on the beach). I thought Steve’s kite would scare them off, but they are tougher than that. (The plovers not so much; this is why there is no kite flying on Morro Strand and so many other beaches.).

Exotic Gardens - looking out to sea

Exotics could be confused with Moonstone Beach. It’s on Moonstone Beach Drive and it’s across the highway from the old Moonstone Gardens restaurant. But Moonstone is to the south and has a boardwalk that runs along it. Exotics is like some kind of forgotten beach with fewer (if any) people. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Looking north towards San Simeon

Out to see -- dark sky, calm ocean

Flying the kite

Lone pelican, dark sky


At the south end of the beach was a hearty tide pool teaming with sea anemones. When I say teaming I mean swarming. Hundreds of anemones. This is just one pool with some big anemones… there were other areas with tens and tens of little baby anemones so small and prolific that you might not even know what you were seeing at first. Anemone City.


For a while there was a little wind; not enough really to fly a kite, but Steve gave it a good effort.

There wasn't a lot of wind

Moonstone Beach and the drive are named for the white rocks you can find. I don’t really know what a moonstone looks like. Maybe this is one?

Maybe it's a moonstone


Week 21

Little stops: coves, coffee and condors

Surfers heading down to the beach

The day was overcast — the sky heavy with a low-lying fog supported by a stubborn and relentless marine layer.

The visible marine layer

We headed up the coast with absolutely no agenda. It was strange to head north not knowing what we really wanted to do. Would we hike? Hit up a beach? New places? Old favorites? We just didn’t know.

There were, however, a few spots we had missed before. Not “activity” spots (e.g., not some great hike or beach or café), but random signs or overlooks or gates — those spots that always catch your eye as you speed by before you realize “damn we should have pulled over.”

With no agenda in mind, we realized it could be the perfect day to try to remember where those spots were, pull over and snap a photo or two. That became our mission.

The hidden bench

One of our first stops was just to take a picture of the beautiful horizon that seemed to meld into the marine layer — glowing shades of silvers and blues. Steve almost immediately noticed a hidden bench, tucked behind two boulders. You can read about this (and see the video of my fear) in the post The Hidden Bench that Scared Marya.

this is the hidden bench you can kind of see it's not safe here this is my scared face

Partington Cove

Partington Cove was definitely one of the spots Steve had noticed before. He wanted to know where all the people were hiking down to. It turns out there are two hikes: one on the ocean side (Partington Cove) and one on the inland side (Tan Bark Trail & Tin House). We chose ocean, but we’ll be doing the other hike very soon. Check out the blog post Partington Cove to read more about it and to see all the photos.

Woman with the pink hat The tunnel to Partington Cove Coastal redwoods

Coffee at the Henry Miller Library

We love the Henry Miller Library. We stopped for coffee.

hanging out with steve Statue at the Henry Miller Library, close up books hanging from the rafters

Hawthorne Gallery

The Hawthorne Gallery is one beautiful building with one beautiful garden. It’s worth the stop for the artwork alone, but it’s doubly worth the stop if you love architecture or landscaping. I wrote more on the blog post The Hawthorne Gallery.

Statue in the garden Blown glass jellyfish two different statues in the garden

Lunch at the Big Sur River Inn

Sitting at the Big Sur River

We usually sit right in the river (the chairs are in the river)… but today we just sat at the edge.

Eating burritos

The River Inn was closed for a wedding, so we grabbed burritos at the place next door. Pro tip: add the avo and cilantro; go for the hot sauce; the kombucha there isn’t our favorite.).

The condor sighting

Steve spotted the condor while we were driving south, heading home. It was high in the sky and not really easy to see. I did not care. I wanted to see a condor in the wild. We pulled over and watched the (very slow gliding) bird circle above. It seemed to be searching for the sunlight and was soon out of site, above the fog and in the sun.



Steve looking at the condor

Heading home

Big Sur (like so many coastal parts of California) is a series of microclimates. We got some bursts of warmth and sun in parts, in bits, in spurts, but for the most part it was overcast with low-lying clouds or fog. While not the typical beautiful summer day, still gorgeous in its own right. It was also thick with tourists, many stopped at any pull-out they could manage. I called it the Roadside Attraction.

the kiss theroadsideattraction_2 the view from the road

Low clouds; tons of kelp visible from the surface of the ocean

No trespassing sign, view of the ocean

You can see all the photos in my Big Sur July 2013 flickr set.

Big Sur Month 5

Hanging out at the Henry Miller Library

Statue at the Henry Miller Library, close up

Henry Miller Library isn’t necessarily a “library” tho his books and typewriter are there. It’s not really just a bookstore, though you can buy books. It’s more than just a venue, tho amazing bands play there. I don’t really know how to classify it, or if anyone would need to.

There is art. There’s a gardenish-lawn area. There’s a stage. There are tall tall tall massively huge coastal redwoods. There is the library, which is also a bookstore that features his books and other great books and postcards and posters and memorabilia. Sometimes there are events — from concerts to dinners to talent shows to film festivals. Tourists show up. Locals mill about. I love it.

Statue at the Henry Miller Library

me inside

books hanging from the rafters

2011 line up poster

There are concerts. Amazing, intimate concerts featuring amazing performers. From Cat Power to John Doe. From MGMT to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Patty Smith, Bat for Lashes, Steve Earle. (What a range!) I’ve never gone but oh my god I want to.

Below you can see the little stage and lawn for seating.

stage and grass -- where the performances happen

Our main focus, though, was to just chill out with a cup of coffee.

hanging out with steve (stage to the right)

Karmapa dream flag above the entrance to the library

I’d never noticed the Dream Flag before, though it’s probably been there for a long time. I got a little excited. I bought a Dream Flag sticker from Karme Choling when I took my refuge vows and it “flies” proudly from my car’s back window.

drinking coffee on the deck

hanging out with steve

Partington Cove

Woman with the pink hat

Week 19. Partington Cove used to be a working landing (or at least a loading point; let’s say that as I’m not quite sure what the difference is between a landing and a loading point) at the turn of the century for a business man who sold tanning bark. I have no idea what that is, but I learned about it on this Hiking in Big Sur – Partington Cove web page.

Trail down to Partington Cove

It’s a semi-steep walk down — but not difficult or tricky as it is a wide and well-maintained road; if you are fit it will be no problem. If you tire easily, bring a walking stick and some water. The trail forks. Right fork takes you to a rocky beach; left fork takes you to the cove. We took both, but went right first.

Trees along Partington Cove trail

The trail features coastal redwoods and monterey cyprus as well as many other trees. It’s a green dream. Beautiful.

Sign about what's under the sea -- kelp, fish, etc

Read the sign for more information about everything going on under the water. We saw fisherman catching rock cod on both the rocky beach side and the cove side. I also thought I saw sea otters, but I think it was just very buoyant and huge kelp.

Steve taking photos next to big trees

The redwoods here aren’t massive like you’ll find in other parts of the Sur, but they are still tall and impressive.

Coastal redwoods

And maybe a little massive.

The rocky beach; woman in a pink blanket

We went to the rocky beach first. The woman wrapped in a pink blanket caught my attention immediately. Her husband was out in a kayak fishing for rock cod.

The stream that comes down to the cove (with a very small waterfall)

I’m not sure you can call this a waterfall proper, but it’s definitely a rapidly moving stream coming down to the ocean.

Hearty plants grow in the rock walls

Loved the plants growing in the cracks of the rock cliffs, but also couldn’t help but realize they were helping the cracks grow wider. Some day this wall will crumble (though perhaps not in our lifetime). Erosion happens in even the best circumstances.

blooming yellow flowers looking up towards the top of the trail

The bottom of the trail was flanked by great stands of yellow flowers, so thick that you can’t even see the trail that is switching back amongst them.

me on the trail, tho it looks like i'm in the flowers

Photo above so you can see how the trail is within the flowers.

The tunnel to Partington Cove

After exploring the cove, we headed back up the trail to the fork to check out the tunnel.

When we started the hike we didn’t even know its name, much less what to expect. We saw something on the east side of the road and pulled over to stop. It was only then that we realized that there was a trail on the oceanside. When we saw the tunnel I don’t think either of us had any expectations beyond getting to go into a tunnel (that alone would have been enough for us.).

The light at the end of the tunnel

Workers used the tunnel in the late 1800s to get through 100 feet of rock to the cove. Where the ocean meets the cove seems dangerous to me; I can’t imagine pulling my boat into this cove, but I am obviously not made of seafaring fortitude. (Note: we were there on one of the calmest days I’ve ever seen at the Big Sur coast. The ocean was glass. It usually isn’t. I can imagine the waves here get ferocious.)

Trail to the end of the cove

The trail is nicely maintained and I loved how the fencing included an angled top plank so you could lean over it. Whoever made that decision: good work! I did a lot of leaning while there. Very comfy.

at the end of the trail

There were four fisherman at the cove and one was actively manning his fishing pole, sure that he had hooked a rock cod. (The man above is not the actively manning guy. Actively manning guy had pole in hand and was reeling in and letting back out his line, repositioning his pole, pulling back against the tug of the fish, etc.)

Above you can see a person taking a couple’s photograph. Steve took their photo on the rocky beach side. I love how they wanted their pic taken on both sides. Obviously, a happy couple (which made me happy).

Looking back, steve on the trail with the top of the area visible

The cove itself is capital R Rugged. There is a small cave/natural bridge formation and the waves BOOM! when they go through it. You can see Steve above (red jacket) taking a sound recording of the booming waves. The cave is below him and not shown in the photo. Way up above you see the peak; there’s a house built there.

We both give Partington Cove the thumbs up. It’s rugged and beautiful (in that ruggedly beautiful way).

Of note: the poison oak, we noticed, was tricky here. You will see it blatantly growing along the side of the path with vigor and health. But it’s in other places, too. There was a pretty bank of wild oxalis going toward the tunnel. How pretty, we said. But when we looked closer we realized that the oak was hiding in with the oxalis. It’s like it has an evil agenda of getting you whenever it can. Evil oak, you don’t fool us.

Peak a Week 19!

The Hidden Bench That Scared Marya

this is the hidden bench

I’m not afraid of heights. I love rooftops. I love edges. Or I thought I did, However, I may be full of it because yesterday we sat on a pretty safe bench that wasn’t necessarily that dangerous and it scared the stuffing out of me.

you can kind of see it's not safe here

The bench is just 10 steps off the road on Highway One in Big Sur (it’s just to the north of the new bridge being built near Limekiln). I don’t remember what enticed us to stop… the foggy sky plus glassy ocean, I’m guessing. We stopped. Grabbed our cameras. Got out of the car and were quite happy to see this little bench on the cliff side hidden by a couple boulders.

Steve went right to it and as he sat down the bench immediately rocked forward and made a loud creaking sound. “Come join me,” he said. “No way,” I said.

But I did.

In the next photo you can see the view when looking directly down while sitting on the bench.

this is the way down

Here’s Steve’s short video showing us, the view, and illustrating the loud creak-creak of the bench as it lurches forward while you sit on it.

This is my (lousy) video of the view. I’m shaking in my boots while taking this (regardless of the fact that I’m wearing sandals).

From the secret bench on Highway 1 in Big Sur from emdot on Vimeo.

This would be my scared-as-hell-but-trying-to-hide-it face.

this is my scared face

Below: looking to our right, to the north.

Looking right, to the north

Below: looking straight ahead, to the west.

Looking straight ahead, west

Below: looking left, to the south.

Looking left, to the south

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Week 20. Morro Bay Dog Beach is just north of Morro Strand. Morro Strand is home to the adorable Snowy Plover, a bird that, while adorable, is so dumb that it builds its nest and then lays its eggs in the sand. This would be why dogs are not allowed on Morro Strand and why there is a special beach just for dogs.

And look, I’m a fan of the adorable Snowy Plover. I’m pro Snowy Plover. But the sand? They put their nest in the sand? This is not Survival of the Fittest behavior.

Seagulls however, these are birds that will survive a zombie-riddled, sharknado-storming, smallpox-spreading apocalypse. They are also birds that enjoy a nice Pacific Sunset.

Morro Bay Dog Beach

We saw dolphins. I was pretty excited about this. First we just saw one.

Morro Bay Dog Beach

And then we saw more. They swam one way and then they turned around and swam back.

Morro Bay Dog Beach

And this being a dog beach, this dog was just as excited about the dolphins as I was. And, then the dolphins were just as excited about this specific dog. The dolphins swam backwards and forwards to stay near the dog. Just after I snapped the photo below, the owners put the dog on a leash… but no matter… the dolphins hovered nearby for minutes.

Morro Bay Dog Beach

We were in the water, too. It was just one of those evenings. The water was so glassy, the waves so perfect, an amazing non-storming storm cloud and a sunset. At one point I was in almost to my hips. Top of the thighs. Taking photos, marveling at dolphins and beaches and gulls and everything.

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Steve made this (very short, seven-seconds) video of me on the beach. For me, this sums up the very essence of my Beach a Week endeavor.

How much do I love Beach a Week? To seaweed infinity, that’s how much.

Infinity, broken


Bishop Peak

Towards the base of Bishop Peak.

Week 18. July 21, 2013. Shane texted on the 20th. Paraphrased: “Let’s go to brunch tomorrow! And then we’ll hike!” That plan turned into let’s hike and then have lunch. Either way, a win. Companions: Shane, Dan, Steve, and me.

Steve made a little movie of the very beginning of our hike. We look tired even then. :)

Two people on the Felsman Loop.

It was a warm day and the trail was buzzing with people either doing the main Bishops trail or the Felsman loop like the people above.

Dan led most of the hike like a billy goat on a mission and that mission was to achieve a cardio vascular workout (much to the chagrin of me, Steve and Shane).

Dan on the trail

The next three photos are to show how San Luis changes through the seasons. I guess we have three seasons of brown (summer, fall, most of winter) and then a lovely green spring if we are lucky. Since my Peak-a-Week challenge started in the spring, some of you may have the impression that San Luis is a luscious green paradise. I am here to show you that no, no it is not. Paradise? Maybe. Green? Bwah ha ha.

The photo below is looking due east over most of the town of San Luis.

From Bishop's towards downtown.

This is looking southwest towards the towns of Avila Beach and Pismo Beach, though all you can really see is Laguna Lake and some Madonna family farmland. That’s Cerro San Luis peaking out.

From Bishop's looking toward Laguna Lake.

And then looking west over Los Osos Valley Road. (Compare: LOVR one past April.)

From Bishop's looking toward the valley road.

Bishop used to boast many little squeezy bits of trail — where you had to go in between two pieces of rock or two narrow fence poles. We all noticed that those squeezy bits have been slowly removed (the trail becoming broader and easier), but this one (below) still remains. We love the squeezy bits.

A narrow passage way.

A new sign. And I didn’t show it but behind this sign are two smaller signs covered in graffiti, which I think is a political statement against this sign.

New signage. No no no no.

The hiking crew, making our way up. You can see a person ahead of us on the trail, coming back down. This was a woman in her 70s hiking on her own with a trusty walking stick. I want to be just like you, nice lady, when I am your age.

Going up. Steve, Shane, Dan.

The trail was packed. Dan didn’t seem to think it was as busy as I did; he thought of this as normal. I think my memory is stuck on Olden Days when not that many other people were always out hiking. I have selective recollection.

The trail was packed. I thought.

In May, my mom and I hiked Valencia Peak in Los Osos (about 8 miles or so from this spot) and I was really taken with the blooming wild buckwheat. Two months later, the buckwheat is past its prime, but still looks lovely on the path.

Buckwheat after the bloom

What is it with people’s need to mark up any flat surface they can. Yea for love Dean and Liz, but we don’t need your PDA covering our Bishop Peak. Related: I might be in the first stages of becoming a grumpy person. Knock it off, kids, you with your love and your marking rocks. And your rocket ships.

Why does everyone feel the need to mark up every blank face? It's a drag.

Finally we made it to the top. Well, I made it to the top where the bench is and parked it. Dan, Shane and Steve made it to the tip-top top of the tip-top rock. I go up there sometimes, but not often. Several people have died, slipping and falling to their deaths. I have great faith in my friends’ balance, but my own, not so much. So I usually park it on the bench and make friends with other hikers.

Steve waves hello from  the very top

Steve in front of the same rock that Dan posed in front of at the beginning of this post.

Bishop Peak rock to valley

There is a nice little oak forest towards the base of this hike. It is so nice to hit the canopy after hiking all the way up the hill in the dry heat. Always welcomed, always pretty.

Canopy near the base of Bishop Peak

Canopy near the base of Bishop Peak

It was great hiking with Dan, Shane and Steve. Afterwards Corinna and Niels joined all of us for lunch at Bliss Cafe. The hike really took it out of me (perhaps it was the sun) and the rest of the day was resting and kicking back.

Peak a Week 18


Cayucos, CA

Week 19. July 14, 2013. I know this spot as Abalones, but it’s seemed to have been renamed Estero Bluffs (It’s a mile or so south from the Estero Bluffs trip we did a couple weeks ago.). Perhaps it is Estero Bluffs South. I like Abalones better.

Cayucos, CA

Regardless of name, it was lovely. Almost deserted. And, unlike what it looks like here, a bit remote to get to. The parking spot is tricky and you have to climb down a small metal, store-bought ladder to get to the beach.

It was incredibly peaceful. The kind of peace that fills your lungs as you breathe in and pumps through your veins with your heart beats and makes you feel quiet and right with the world.

Because of the way the cliffs sit, the whole beach was in shade, despite the fact that we could see beaches to the south still sundrenched. I think this added to the peacefulness.

Looking out into the ocean

I forgot to check the tide to find out if it was low tide or extremely low tide. I’m (unscientifically) guessing the latter as the tide pools sported what looked like a lawn of still very attached and still very green seaweed and many sea anemones were just in the sand — not even attached to rocks. It was a very delicate and fragile area. I was mindful of my presence and each step I took.

Sea anemone in the sand

I’ve never seen so many turban snails and/or hermit crabs. A colony. Several colonies. It was a densely populated, high-rise apartment city of turban snails with a healthy dose of sea anemone neighborhoods thrown in. Of course, none of my turban photos turned out.

Sea anemones in the water

The colors on the beach were exquisite. They would have inspired any painter or fashion designer. I loved the red of this seaweed.

the red seaweed

The beach was awash with rocks and shells and seaweed and rocks and shells and more seaweed.


Rocks with ocean view

But, as I said, the beach was shaded and as the sun sunk lower, the temps went down with it. We decided to hit up one more beach with the last rays of light. We went to 24th Street in Cayucos.

24th street, south view

Only a couple miles south of Abalones, the beach couldn’t have been more different: white sand, exposed beach, people still hanging out.

quintessential sand experience

Perhaps it is seaweed season.

seaweed and me

It was a lovely evening and a nice way to wind down the day.


sun set


sun set