Although I'd heard the name numerous times I never really took the time to stop and see what "Big Sur" was all about, that was until I was actually planning a trip to California. About a week before I was set to take off the show Arial America did a special on coastal California and that's when I realized I had to fit in a visit to Big Sur during my trip. The ideal way to do it is a rent a car and drive Highway 1, but being a solo (budget) traveler I knew that wasn't going to happen. Instead I did my research and discovered the bus that would take me there, unfortunately, it only runs on the weekend after Labor day but lucky me that's precisely when I planned to be there.
The bus only runs twice a day so if you want to spend any time actually at Big Sur you have to be sure to catch the first bus, which leaves at 10:45. I almost missed it after walking to the wrong stop but luckily for me, the bus was running late. There are a few stops along the way providing multiple options for hiking, sightseeing, and camping; you can go as far as Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park or as close as Point Lobos. I didn't want to sit on the bus for a full hour so I chose a midway point and hopped off at Andrew Molera State Park to explore.
Like most of my trip through California I didn't have any plans for the day, just to get outside, enjoy the weather, do some hiking and hopefully be taken away by the beautiful views. One catch with taking the public bus (as opposed to driving) is that you better be sure you know what time the second bus of the day is (aka your only ride home) and be in time to catch it. This was part of the reason I chose Andrew Molera over the other parks further into Big Sur, cutting down on the driving time gave me more time at the park for hiking.
At the car park there's a super obvious trail which eventually leads out to the beach and since I wanted to see the water this is the direction I chose. Along with a handful of other visitors I walked for about a half hour along the Creamery Meadows trail before arriving at the beach area and a nice view of Molera Point. From here I decided to take the Bluffs trail which follows the coast for nearly 2 miles before heading inland and turning into the Panorama trail.
It was nearly 1pm by the time I began on the Bluffs trail so I figured I'd go as far as I could in the next hour and a half before turning around to make it back to the entrance in time to catch the bus back. The views along the bluff trail were exactly what I was hoping for when I decided to visit Big Sur. Sparkling blue water, sandstone cliffs, crashing waves and on top of all that, perfect weather. The skies were blue and sun was shinning bright which after my last few days of clouds was a much welcome change.
I took a few breaks at various lookout points along the way and every time said to myself (and a few times out loud) "It's so beautiful!" This is definitely one of those pictures don't do it justice type of locations, but even at that, the pictures are pretty damn beautiful. To my surprise there weren't many other hikers along the trail that day, a few passed me in the opposite direction but aside from that, the trail was mine.
Although I only had rough plans for the day everything was turning out just fine, I continued on the trail until I decided it was probably time to head back for my bus ride home. I stopped again at the small beach to watch some surfers before finishing the rest of the trail. I recognized one other girl from my bus in the morning but the family that got off with us seemed to have disappeared. The bus came shortly after four and was filled with some familiar faces from the morning ride. I got to talking with a Korean woman who's currently teaching at DLI in Monterey and a guy, Darrell, who happened to be a student there. Darrell was planning to get off in Carmel to explore and grab dinner which is precisely what I was going to do so we decided to explore together. Carmel is a high-class little neighborhood filled with busy restaurants, art galleries, and cute shops; we both felt a bit out of place in our dusty hiking attire but tried to play the part anyway. The night ended with a delicious veggie risotto, good conversation, the last bits of a sunset and an overall positive ending on a great day.
I grew up hearing "California, you don't want to live there" but after finally visiting, it's the one place in the US I could actually envision myself 'settling down'