Ocean Spell - part four of our spring trip, Big Sur

Big Sur always feels like you are walking into a magic spell. Driving up the cliffside curves of the Pacific Coast Highway you feel like you are skipping along a very thin boundary between heaven, earth, and sea. You feel like you might just float off into the mist or, if you look long enough at the waves, you might just turn into a dolphin and swim away.

This time, as we made the drive up from Point Mugu, something magical indeed happened.

I pulled over to take some routine photographs. Not surprising for me, and often necessary on a gorgeous day in Big Sur, when the water is turquoise way down below, and there are wildflowers blooming on the hillsides, swirling crashing waves full of whales and sea lions, and perhaps even a sparkling waterfall.

but this time as i wandered just a wee bit up the road, hikers on the trail down below and traveling cars passing by, i noticed a cliffside roost nearby with several massive black birds. Cool, i thought, vultures. darin loves vultures, they are scavengers and vital to nature; i'll get some photos. as i got closer, however, i saw that these majestic creatures were actually California Condors, the largest North American land bird who was nearly extinct toward the latter 20th century. In 1982 there were only 22 of these strange and awesome creatures left on the earth. i found out later that after a recovery program spanning the last two decades there are now 404 condors in the world, 179 of which are in captivity. About 70 live on the California Coast and I was lucky enough to get up close and view maybe ten or twelve of them.

my heart was thumping as i neared the group. i didn't plan to get too close or scare them away, just see their cool features from a slightly better vantage. 

but as i climbed over the rail and looked up, this one handsome bird was resting just a few feet away. we calmly and quietly surveyed each other. his dignity and elegance floored me and my heart seemed to beat in my throat. we met eyes. i could feel the wild in me....ready to take off and soar above the cliff in the most beautiful place on earth.

and then he rose, in a gust of wing larger than my body, in a current of wind and fire, i could feel the rhythms of the ocean in those wings and the span of time in that flight.

breathless, i hurried back to the car and darin and lucy to come with me. there were still many condors swooping and landing and resting right there on that cliff. so darin grabbed his camera too, and we returned to our magical big sur look out, and another grand condor flew right over us! don't ask me how darin had the wherewithal to snap this photo, much less have it in focus, but here you see the bird that shook our very bones as she flew low over our heads as if blessing us.

(this is my first time showing these photos to anyone besides my family. i treasure them, as they not only capture a perfect moment of condor flight in an amazing setting, but they reverberate through my blood the moment that we witnessed these creatures. i know i use the words a lot, but that is what i call magic, my friends.)

afterwards, we were all on a high!

"mom, it was seriously THIS BIG!"

rode and flowed into our favorite big sur lodge, Fernwood. we stayed in a tent cabin this time which is super cozy and you sleep to the sound of the creek. everything feels more alive around you after a pure encounter with nature, and this forest was the perfect place to catch our breath.

we met some kids who live in the campground, daisy and angelina and judy. they were enamored with lucy and wanted to hold her and introduce her to their little dog, who was also named lucy.

one of our favorite places in all the world. next year we are hoping to plan the big beatty camping trip here!

dinner in the restaurant at fernwood. i love how everything is wooden and rustic and cozy, a fire in the fireplace and locally grown veggies on the nachos.

lucy was feeling reckless:

after dinner we had a nice chill evening and darin took some of his famous nighttime self portraits.

mornings in big sur stir up your heart with the possibilities of adventure and the promise of beauty. you are at once calm and jubilant, attentive and untroubled. the days seep into your skin and feel truly like the essence of being alive.

just walking up this enchanted staircase to our morning coffee feels like something. a little moment of perfection, a wooden handrail under your hand, your baby kicking her legs on your hip, cool misty air still clinging to the ferns and cedar trees, woodpeckers and quiet birds welcoming the day.

the toot insists on greeting everyone who comes near. she waits for people to wave at her with hopeful anticipation. and smiles with pure delight when they do.

saying good-bye to our redwood friends.

here is my new dress from topanga canyon. i felt like it had a good healthy big sur vibe. 

on the beach we flew a kite.

daddy had to get it started for us.

lucy could hardly believe her eyes! 

later darin went off exploring to take the following mystical photos while i nursed our babe on the beach and communed with seabirds.

well friends, thanks for coming along on our little road trip. hope you didn't mind, i know my traveling posts get pretty lengthy, but it is good for my soul to relive it all and share it here. 

and a week on the road seemed to have been long enough this time! i came home feeling refreshed just like you're supposed to, and even kind of glad to be back home and love on our cats and have everything we need at the tips of our fingers.

i send you all great hope for nature's magic in your lives.


Penny said…
The fifth season....Halcyon.
lorlore said…
What a wonderful trip, I loved every minute!!! The bird photos are fabulous!!!!!
Amy Beatty said…
AHHHHH heaven indeed! that photo!! perfection! I love that area sooo much. What a wonderful lovely, lively, spring-awaking trip. So good for the soul. The outdoors is truly so magical and healing. Luc with her parents out in the wild. It suits you very well. Love the new dress. Looks perfect for any cool girl to nursing momma. Getting some good combos is important to make sure you can get full use of it. I'm dying for some beach right now. I love all of drains awesome shots. Such a rad artist. I love you sooo MUCH xoxoxo --- ha. my prove I'm not a robot word is scripture! Totally suits me. This was the lords good word to me and indeed totally worthy of scripture.
Amy Beatty said…
btw, i'm always saying how cute lucy is but you and darin are giving this girl a run for her money. you guys are HOT! Thats right HOT!xoxox
Crystal Lee said…
How unbelievable that you spotted the nearly extinct California Condors and were able to capture their majesty above the magical setting of Big Sur. How incredibly exhilarating! Lucy looks so happy & healthy. How lucky she is to have parents who take her camping. I was just in Big Sur recently as well, and felt the same sort of spiritual cleansing.I plan to bond with nature something major this summer.
dolly anna said…
holy. moly.

that condor flying over mckay falls?

that's some nat'l geographic shi* right there!

you stopped and followed your heart and it led you to these wise beings that i have never seen.

you have documented this trip wonderfully. lucy eating that lime is the best, it's so fun to hear about how friendly she is!

ps- those foggy sea photos near the end are sublime.

Matt Beatty said…
Dolly, I said about the same thing to Amy on the ridiculously fantastic pic -- National Geographic! darin needs to submit that one around.

what an experience, those condors. and how utterly gorgeous Big Sur is. as I was reading, in my head, I said aloud "I agree" about our big Beatty trip being here next year--it confused Amy.

sweet road trip. beautiful photos and experiences. mesmerized and invigorated.
Milla said…
You are magic! Magic! Even the earth and its creatures are drawn to you and yours. And yes, Darin needs to send those pics to NG. Love this journey and so badly want to some day experience Big Sur myself. Thanks for taking us with you. Love. Magic.
Jen said…
Oh my goodness those condors are amazing, and that last shot is just completely perfect. Wow, what a magical moment. Thanks for sharing your adventures, it's been awesome to tag along. And I seriously can't believe how cute Lucy is. She looks like a cabbage patch doll! I mean that in the best possible way, of course. :D
I love your blog! the photos! your cozy and precious little family. sweet stuff!
Equine Bovine said…
the condor shots are wicked awesome!
Teeny said…
Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude, those photos of the Condor are so special; I believe that he was speaking to you, I do. I'm glad you get to keep those images and that moment with you forever. Big Sur was a place i wanted to visit but didn't get time too....will have to plan for next time. Heeeee! Your blog was such a motivation for us to visit California, you show it off so well! Happy Mama's day pretty lady; give a kiss to Lucy for me. xo
Rachel said…
Thanks for sharing! You and your family always look so radiant and happy... such good vibes :-) Love the condor photos, what a treasure to encounter! xx
anne said…
wow! these photos are truly glorious!!!! i want to go back to big sur now, it's such a magical place and that shines through in these pictures perfectly.
Sadhbh said…
How amazing to have met the Condors! Incredible pictures. They give me chills far away here in Ireland where there are hardly any creatures on that scale!
The pictures of the misty sea are seriously beautiful too.
What a great trip, thank you for taking us along ;)
Tera said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tera said…
Wow! Great photos!!!!!Seriously got a contact high!!!!!!! Seriously!!! Love these posts!!!!! This post made me tear up a bit too.

I also loved seeing Lucy's lil choppers.
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Sadie said…
That Condor photo over the falls at one of my favourite beaches needs to be available for sale to the public. Amazing!
Jenna E said…
Sooooo much funnnn!!! I showed Jon these pictures and he was in awe. He is obsessed with Condors. In fact we just watched a show on them a couple of weeks ago.

Lucy looks like she is having just the best time! Love these xoxo
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