land of dreams - part three BIG SUR and the wild coast

bright morning, we headed up the california coast to the most enchanted of wild lands: Big Sur. dreamplace of henry miller's rhapsodies and jack kerouac's oceanic trampings. a stretch of coastal lands that deeply haunts our hearts in every season. 
we usually travel north to south; this time we came up from the south so we stopped first to watch the elephant seals of Piedras Blancas have a few arguments, chortle in glee, and then snuggle back in together. 

at Plaskett Creek we found the most cushiony green beautiful camping spot in all the world. 

headed across the bluffs to watch the sunset,

and sighed with joy to know that this is the sound we'd be sleeping to all night.

meanwhile, behind us, the full moon rose over the Santa Lucia Mountains.

back at our camp we put on all our layers and made dinner in the dark and built a fire, the coziest feeling.

next morning we wanted to go out to coffee. little did we know that, coming up from the south end, there is nothing ahead of you but wild ragged coastline until the tiny town of big sur about 30 miles ahead. there was also a new bridge being built and roadwork, so we got used to the long leisurely stops to wait for our turn for the detour. got pretty friendly with the workers there. one guy was feeding bits of a pastry to an eager chipmunk. at least if you're going to be stuck waiting for roadwork, be stuck in the most beautiful place in the world, overlooking the vast sparkling turquoise morning Pacific, with cypress trees and coastal redwoods and chaparral down to the sea.

finally made it up to the big sur bakery for the most perfect espresso ever.

plus the gardens and flora and sunlight made our morning venture well worth it.                                                 

but now we had to head back down the coast (longest coffee run ever) to return to our campsite, pack up our stuff, and go to the beach!

Sand Dollar Beach is right across from Plaskett Creek. the thing about big sur is, there are really not very many beaches, like the lounging-about-in-soft-sand-and-sun variety. it is mostly craggy cliffs and wide vistas of the sea, or creeks and mountainous hikes to breathtaking views. but we have found a couple beaches that are as inviting as a secret caribbean hideaway.

we practically had the entire sweep of beach to ourselves!

wandered the little tidepools, splashed out into the waves a bit, the water was cold but not too cold and the warm sun sparkled down on everything. 

we made friends with this gorgeous fella:

and these little suction cups, so squiggly and shy when you touch them:

it was a day for dancing, twirling and frolicking. i had energy from the sun and water pouring through my bones.

late afternoon, we decided to make our last night on the road the coziest one.
got a room at one of my very favorite places on earth, where we stayed for our second wedding anniversary, Fernwood.

the reason i love fernwood so much is how it is such a far cry from the parts of big sur that are fancy and expensive and pretentious and bourgeois. fernwood is homey and cozy and down-to-earth. this is the real big sur to me, bohemian and friendly, an enchanted little world away.

we got the tiniest room, Room M. it was a little nest built just for two, with a heater and the softest bedding and a nice hot shower. 

more of what i love about fernwood: plants in pots everywhere you look. abundance, greenery, love.

the coziest saloon in history. every bar should be made of all wood and have tiny lights strung up and offer good local brews.

and please: a stone fireplace, soft lamps, comfy couches, and free wifi would be nice!

best of all are the redwood garden pathways all throughout fernwood, from the campsites to the tent cabins to the deli-store and tavern. every path lined with ferns and succulents and blooming flowers.

this is the staircase up from the tent cabins, where we stayed last time.

painted rocks, goddess sculptures, an outdoor fireplace and rustic picnic tables. a little wooden stage for summer shows. can we get together and build a place like this?

next morning, one more trip to the beach before heading home. this time we found Pfeiffer state beach, just a mile or so down the road from fernwood, you turn down a secret winding foresty road that goes on down to the sea.

another perfectly glorious california coastal day in november!

this is the happiness i want to glow with all the time, back at home, at the bookstore, in my belly, in my bones:

i take it from the places i go, the air i breathe, the ocean and the desert, the cities and the wild. 
and then i bring it home, to my own bed, my friends and snugglers:

thank you big sur!
what a way to ring in our birthdays!
and thank you sweet readers for going on this journey with me.


i have never been to Big Sur. which breaks my little heart, because i spent most of my life living way closer to it than i do now. someday i will go. beautiful pictures. i thought you were dancing topless on the beach in those pictures at first. i was like "go heather! go heather! it's your birthday" and then i was like, oh wait. i'm just totally blind. i love darin's sweater. so warm. i'm freezing my ass off right now, so i could use a warm sweater.
Celynne said…
You silly goose, you DO always glow with happiness. So much of it in fact, it seems to have imbued itself into the clothes you sent me. I've started thinking of them all as my "happy items" and it feels a little like wearing a garment made of love whenever I have any of them on :) (particularly that crazy rainbow skirt, how can you NOT be happy wearing that!)

Fernwood looks so fantastic, what a wonderful place. The idea of mountains and the ocean is so crazy for me, so far away. I really need to travel. Until then, I get to do so vicariously through you.
Nicky said…
That looks like SUCH an ideal get away trip- I have yet to go to Big Sur! One day soon....

Rad that it was just you and your man out hittin' the road too. You look seriously radiant jumping around in waves and setting up tent spots! :D Happy Monday!!!!
Lucy said…
I have really loved reading your road trip posts, as it reminded me of our wonderful long trip across the States last year. Your writings have brought more than a happy tear to my eye – furthermore, you gave me a wonderful reminder of Fernwood! We have actually stayed there twice (the first was several years back on a shorter trip) and they somehow ended up magically checking us into exactly the same room the second time – definitely fate! They have excellent live music there at the weekends as well, just to make it an even more perfect place to surrender to that haven beneath the Redwoods. We love Pfeiffer Beach, but never found the other one...and that campsite looks simply wonderful! You brightened my evening in rainy ole' England! Much love xxx
Anonymous said…
i like celynne's silly goose comment. it's true!

thank YOU for sharing your private joy and magic with us. to get a chance to wander and explore, following the natural rhythm of a day, is so nice to experience vicariously through you. i love how synchronicity rules the game when we can flow through our days like that. fernwood seems so cozy and magical, it reminds me of the secret spots i love in humboldt. i'll make you a deal. you bet i want to create a place like that, and i bet you do too. when i finally do, you will be the first person i invite and vice versa, ok? now there's a goal to strive towards! love to you heather. xo
Amy Beatty said…
ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh big sur PLEASE!! i want to be there now basking in the sun and wind, dancing in the sand and forest!! unbeatable!! I don't think one could ever visit it enough. What a dreamy trip. I might have to plan one of my own xoxo
anne said…

i LOVE big sur. a truly magical place! my parents went there on their honeymoon and we've camped there. need to get back!

happy birthday to you! may this next year be filled with many blessings!
whit said…
Looks like soo much fun and extremely beautiful. What a fun adventure!
Elisheva said…
Oh such a beautiful place, all that coast and then red woods forests too, and cozyness ad vastness and great sparkleyness( which has to be a new word) Great birthdays indeed. I love the pictures of you dancing on the beach charging up with all that amazing ocean energy. I believe you do carry that, in your work and your life and it spills into here, where you so kindly share your happy days online. x
two birds said…
this post made me so envious! i really want to be there now! what beautiful pictures, and such a cozy little spot!
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