Big Sur doesn't care what you want
I know my last post discussed the “just go” aspect of traveling, but I have to be honest, my life has always been made up of plans and visions for the future. My imagination runs rather wild and whenever I have something planned I like to envision what it’s going to be like before it happens. This can be a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because I’m always prepared, it’s a curse because often my expectations are too high. Time and time again when a situation doesn’t go the way I picture it to I find myself disappointed. As I grew older I told myself not to have such rigid expectations. After all, plans change. Nothing is ever one hundred percent guaranteed.
Before embarking on the road trip we took last summer I reminded myself to go with the flow. Even though a lot of initial planning had gone into the trip we fell behind over the rest of the summer because Gustavo and I were both guilty of not putting the effort in to communicate and set things up. We knew the route we would be driving, but not where we would be staying, or what we would be doing in certain places. We had vague ideas, but we weren’t committing to anything. Because of this disorganized way of traveling we skipped, missed, or forgot about a lot of very interesting places along our route that we could have stopped at and seen if we had been a bit more invested in mapping it out.
A prime example of this ends up being the moment this photo was taken. We had been on the road together for about three weeks. At this point, we were only a few days from finishing the Pacific Coast Highway. We had just come from Yosemite National Park. I think we were both a bit disappointed because we had planned to hike Half Dome, but didn’t do enough research beforehand.
When we arrived at the visitor center they informed us that we would need a permit. The permit is lottery based and takes 48 hours to go through when you put a request in and because it is a lottery there are no guarantees that you will be granted a permit to complete the hike. Once we heard this, we realized we would not be hiking because we did not have two days to spare, or so we thought.
Our biggest mistake during this first road trip was trying to stick to a time frame. We felt because we pre-planned the route that we had to schedule and be in particular places by a certain day. By rushing things we missed out on a lot of very cool opportunities, and for what? The sake of being able to say we arrived home when we said we would. So what? From this trip forward Gustavo and I learned how to take our time, how to research the things we want to do and make them definitely happen instead of writing a destination down and saying we’ll get to it, or we’ll go here. But what will we do there? Now, we understand that the “what” really matters, it can actually make or break a trip.
Anyway, after being discouraged by Yosemite we saw no reason to stay inland and we quickly drove ourselves back to the coast. Big Sur, is a rugged stretch of California’s central coast along Highway 1. This portion of the highway is well known for its splendor. With winding turns, seaside cliffs, dramatic views, and iconic state parks it is every road trippers dream stretch of road. I know both of us had been looking forward to Big Sur since the start of this trip. We had heard many stories from friends about how utterly magical this place was and we had to check it out for ourselves. For me, this was the place I was most excited to experience and photograph.
I had imagined what it would be like driving this stretch of coastline in my head. We would have the windows rolled down, the sun would be beating down on us, but the salty sea breeze would give us just the right amount of relief from the heat. We would stop often to take photos, we would hike in the areas’ state parks, seeing Bixby Bridge and McWay falls. I had so many photos I wanted to take as the sun would set over the water. It was going to be quintessential California and I was super excited.
Well,…let me explain to you how this day really went. First, we got stuck in traffic coming from Yosemite meaning we didn’t get back to the coast until 2 p.m. We pulled over on the side of the road so I could make us pasta with red sauce for lunch. While I was opening the can of sauce I spilled it on my white shorts, of course. Then we continued driving and the sunny day turned into a low visibility foggy one. The fog shrouded the bridge, we couldn’t even see it in the distance. I was so frustrated. We waited almost an hour for the fog to lift, we ended up getting five minutes of semi-clear views during which we snapped as many pictures as possible, then the fog rolled back in. I was becoming more and more frustrated as the day wore on. We continued driving south, the fog was too thick for us to even see the views that Big Sur is famous for. We pulled up to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park where we planned to spend the night and hike to the falls only to find out that Big Sur was experiencing dangerous wild fires and all of the state parks along the route were closed with fire damage. We could go for short hikes, but camping was out of the question.
At that point, I remember throwing my hands up in frustration. I was ready to move on and leave this portion of California which had disappointed me so. But, Gustavo convinced me to at least hike to where we would be able to see the waterfall that tumbles onto the empty sand below. And because of the fire danger, we had the park nearly to ourselves. We ended up spending hours exploring, and photographing the misty coastline, and surrounding forests. The weather, although crappy added a moodiness to our experience that made it completely unique. I was able to climb the railing, sit down overlooking the cove, my hair blowing in the wind, as Gustavo snapped a photo using my iPhone. When I look at this picture I immediately recall all of the things that weren’t how I thought they’d be, but then remember the laughs we had, the raw, wild beauty we saw, and the nearly deserted seaside that felt as if it gave us our very own special show.
Our visit rather than being a failed attempt felt distinct and special. Sure, we had wanted sunlight and more options to adventure within the park, but you can never get exactly what you want in life. Things change, we can’t control everything and so the biggest lesson I learned is to roll with the punches. Just because something’s not going your way it certainly does not mean you still can’t have a great time.
Our lives are one big bundle of experiences, it doesn’t really matter what those experiences are, but rather how we learn and become a better version of ourselves from those experiences. I ended up being in love with Big Sur despite the gloom. AndI will always be thankful for the lessons that nature taught me while I was passing through. Besides, now I have one more reason to return someday soon.
A heads up for anyone thinking about heading to Big Sur. Most of this area is currently closed due to the reconstruction of Highway 1 from the damage caused by a landslide in late May 2017. Limited days use is allowed in some areas, but it's a good idea to keep informed and plan ahead. Spontaneity is a beautiful thing, but a lot of the time it leaves you feeling like you’ve missed something you really should have taken the time to see. No travels will ever be completely perfect or without incidents, but it is nice to look back and be able to see how much I have changed as a person and the lessons I have learned to make my next adventures even better.
This will be my last post for a few weeks. I hope everyone will join me again in the Fall for my Halloween inspired posts. There will still be travel mixed in, only it will feature lots of pumpkins, fall foliage, and haunted happenings.