June 30, 2013. Month 4. The trip started strong: we were out the door early in the morning, which may be how we got lucky enough to see the zebra.
The zebra are holdover/leftovers from the Hearst Castle private zoo from back in the 20s or 30s. When the zoo closed they left the zebra (and elk and some kind of big-horned sheep) free to graze the thousands of acres of Hearst property. The property butts up to Highway 1, though you never see elk or sheep, but sometimes you will see zebra. Far away zebra. Far away stripey horsey looking animals, if you squint.
We always look for them and they’re not always around, so when we do see them, even when they are far-away, stripey-horsey looking, we get excited and shout “zebra!” to each other as we point out the window.
On this morning we saw two zebra and they were only 40 or so feet from the fence which was 40 or so feet from Highway 1. “Zebra!!” Pointing! Slowly coming to a stop on the side of the road (when we really wanted to slam on the brakes. We are careful even in the face of close-to-us-wild-zebra-sitings.).
The two turned into seven as five others walked over to view us humans (“People!” I imagined they silently whinnied and stamped at the ground because they cannot point.)
What I learned: young zebra stripes are brown, not black. Who knew? I mean who besides David Attenborough and those that watch his shows? (Hi Rachel!)
They were beautiful. So beautiful. It was a great moment (that stretched into 15 minutes). We stayed as long as they did. They ate the dry grass. They scratched themselves on a nearby pole. They watched us. And then they mosied on.
In the photo above you can see Hearst Castle in the distance, high on the hill.
San Simeon is at the northern tip of our county and not really Big Sur (and surely not Big Sur proper), yet my Big Sur trip would have been a success if this was all we got.
We left San Luis early because we had a pointed goal: get baked goods from the Big Sur Bakery. I’ve tried three other times in the last year and have walked away empty handed and the people working behind the counter seem pretty blasé about my disappointment. Whatever, get here earlier, is the jist. “How early?” I’ve asked. “Well, we start selling bread at 9 so you could get here then.”
I think we go there at 10:30 and the case was already decimated, but we did get a lemon muffin and a berry scone. We sat out on the deck with silly smiles on our faces. The weather was perfect. The light was gorgeous. Crazy stellar jays were crazily squawking and hopping around. And we had baked goods from the Big Sur Bakery. Second success.
The Big Sur Bakery is more than just that. There is a gas station and a gift shop. There are a couple of gardens. The front garden is full of protea, cactus and succulents and the back garden is full of strange-looking willow-branch nest-like hanging sculptures that I find fascinating.
The only problem with Big Sur is the lack of cell signals and wifi spots. We love the Henry Miller Library but couldn’t go in because it had a private event this day. We sat in its parking lot to see if we could use their wifi to upload photos and video. Unsuccessful. (The event, by the way, was a day-long improv workshop that culminated with dinner and a performance and that sounds like a great way to spend the day to me. It was under a hundred bucks.)
Because of my beach-and-peak weekly committments, we also needed to go for a hike and hit up a beach. Yet, even when we got to Big Sur proper, I hadn’t really picked which hike or which beach. We stopped at one of the Pfeiffers where a park ranger selected a book called Hiking and Backpacking Big Sur by Analise Elliot. Great recommendation. And now I highly recommend it too. Tons of hikes, detailed information, and even a chapter dedicated to flora and fauna.
We decided on two adjacent hikes (both were short and shared part of a path): Pfeiffer Falls and the Valley View Trail in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground. Somehow no pictures from the hikes made it into this post even though it was so lovely and so great and I’d go back there in a heartbeat. You can see photos in my Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View Trails blog post.
For the beach we decided to hit up a different Pfeiffer, just a couple of miles down the road from our hikes. (The beach is run by the Los Padres National Forest; the campground is a State Park. Because of this you’ll need to pay $10 for the hike parking and $5 for the beach parking, but both are worth it, so don’t feel bad.)
It’s a bit tricky getting to Pfeiffer Beach. First, the turn off is not well marked from the highway; then, you meander down several miles of road that seems like it might lead you to a park or it might lead you to some stranger’s house. You can’t quite be sure. The road is narrow, too, and everyone else who travels it is also a visitor and unfamiliar to it and may come barreling towards you in the opposite direction exactly when the road narrows to one lane. That happened to us about five times. We took the road slowly with a lot of caution. That’s my advice to you, too.
Pro tip: Even if it’s a nice day in other parts of Big Sur, grab your sweatshirt before you lock your car to get to the beach. You may not need it or you may REALLY need it. On this day “really” was the adverb in play.
In my blog post about the beach trip I mentioned the wind. It was so windy that I feel the need to mention it again. And the waves were large and ferocious and there seemed to be 100 different rip currents at work. The beach is lovely and beautiful and scenic and gorgeous. Enjoy that and stay the hell out of the water.
We saw waves hit this one beach from three different directions. Three. Directions. Waves. Big. Pounding.
Do not let this calm fool you. This ocean, it wants to eat you.
The extra awesome bonus of this beach is the purple sand. I didn’t know about the purple sand before we went, and truthfully, I was so focused on keeping sand out of my camera that I didn’t even notice the purple sand until we were practically off the beach. “Wait,” I said, “is the sand purple?” In places, yes, but I (really) couldn’t believe my eyes. They were probably fatigued from all the squinting I’d had to do to protect my eyeballs from being sand blasted. Purple? What was I thinking?
But it is purple in parts and some people on Flickr have the photos to prove it.
Pfeiffer is famous for a couple huge looming wonderful rock formations. I didn’t get any good pictures of the beautiful light that streams through the natural bridge or the crashing waves that burst through the holes. But these guys climbed to the top and hung out for quite a long time.
All in all it was a great trip. I’m ready to go again. I think leaving early in the morning was key. Usually when I go to Big Sur I get there in the afternoon. Or, if I’ve been camping, I leave in the afternoon. So the whole driving-early-in-the-morning thing was new to me and I think it made the whole trip better.
Tips for next trip? Maybe leave even earlier and bring a couple carrots for the zebra. Not really. I hear they bite. But still. Zebra.