When we moved to California a few years ago our first local trip was a five day drive up Big Sur - a sparsely populated coastal region of central California. The decision was spontaneous and we left with a full tank of gas and no plans except that we wanted to camp. Still driving at 3:00 am the first day with no place to camp in site made us wonder if we'd been a little foolish. Justin was sound asleep next to me, so I made the executive decision to pull off and find a parking lot to sleep in. It wasn't long before I found a Walmart and we settled in for the night. Except that I had to pee - bad. I thought it was a 24 hr Walmart, but not so. It was locked up tight as were all the other stores, fast food restaurants ect, and the only gas station was miles away back down the freeway. And that's how I found myself peeing behind a hedge in a Walmart parking lot at 3:30 in the morning in a strange town. I wish I could say that story is a vague memory from a night of partying instead of a lucid decision! Anyways, we finally got some cramped and restless sleep and woke up in a better mood. With nothing else on our agenda, we decided to explore the town we'd ended up in, which led to us spending the afternoon at a beautiful library reading books. Hey now, no judging - we know we're nerdy. That evening the road finally began to follow the coastline with those iconic expansive sea views that Big Sur is famous for.
The next four days were spent in aimless bliss. Veering off the road to explore isolated beaches, stopping to gander at a huge colony of sea lions, a visit to a strange bookstore in a New Age community that mostly contained material on nudes and nudity, and a stop at McWay Falls. McWay Falls was definitely a highlight for us. Located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, it is one of only the only waterfalls in the region that is close enough to the ocean to be considered a "tidefall", meaning that it empties directly into the sea at high tide. Sadly, you aren't allowed onto the beach. I think it would be absolutely magical to take a swim in the sea and then wade onshore to wash off in the falls. While we stood drinking in the view we noticed a couple people wandering around on the beach. Apparently they had managed to climb down and were either oblivious to the rules or choosing to ignore them. After awhile we spied a ranger on the ridge above them sneaking down with her gun drawn, which seemed a bit of an overkill! We were tempted to wait and watch the drama unfold, but it looked like it was going to take a pretty long time for Ranger Lady to make her way down to the beach, so we headed out.
Fortunately we managed to find openings in campgrounds the rest of the way (no more parking lot debacles), and many of them were quite beautiful. Most of the time a short walk from our tent led to fantastic views of the ocean from some bluff or even a little trail to a tiny private beach. The campground in Andrew Molera State Park had a particularly nice network of trails through the hills and along several beaches. The one we chose spit us out onto a tiny beach from which we watched a few brave souls in wetsuits heading out for an evening surf session. On one of our days we drove past an incredible campground in the Los Padres National Forest called Kirk Creek. It was spread out on a grassy knoll directly above the ocean with totally sweet views in every direction. We really wanted to spend the night there, but the campground was pretty small and for obvious reasons was completely full. At any rate, if you ever drive up Big Sur, you should definitely check that campground out! After five days on the road we weren't quite ready to head back to society, but our unbathed bodies (and probably the people around us) were begging us to, so we relented.