Big Sur

“I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.”

John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

I first learned about Big Sur around the time I was entering fifth grade. Although, I probably couldn’t have told you anything more about Big Sur other than it was located in California and someone liked the place enough to print it on a graphic tee.

I remember picking out a teal blue t-shirt with a design of Big Sur on the front of it in the midst of some back-to-school shopping. The shirt was from Old Navy and all I can really remember about it is that it was a favorite and it was versatile.

You could dress it up with a pair of Limited Too’s finest plaid Bermuda shorts (yes–a style icon at the ripe old age of 10) or you could dress it down with a pair of sweaty shin guards and soccer cleats.

I don’t remember any specifics about the design on the front and I couldn’t tell you why that shirt caught my eye, but I do remember one adult’s comment on it clear as day.

It could’ve been my soccer coach, it could’ve been a teacher, it even could’ve been a stranger at the grocery store. Who it was I’m still not sure, but I do remember them saying to me, “Big Sur (pause). Beautiful place.”

It’s been 18 odd years since that impressionable encounter and I can tell you one thing, “beautiful” isn’t even the half of it.

I took the drive down the Pacific Coast Highway to Bixby Creek Bridge slow and made a point to stop at a few scenic pullouts along the way to really take in the views. It resembled SoCal’s Crystal Cove State Park on steroids and what I imagined the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland to look like, based on what I’d seen of them on Instagram.

I arrived at the bridge around 10:15AM and although I’d been without cell service since leaving Carmel’s city limits, the bridge was not hard to find as I was not the only one looking for it. I pulled off to a gravel edge across the way and parked my car.

When I got there, I stared for a few minutes before finding a quiet area to the right of where most people were posing for pictures. I sat down on a large rock, put my phone in my pocket, and paused to enjoy a moment of stillness. It was the most incredible stretch of scenery I’d ever seen.

A few tears rolled down my cheek.

When I got back to my car, I started thinking about the other times in my life when I’d had the same kind of spiritual experience.

The first one happened during a 960-foot climb up Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The falls are one of the island’s most cherished treasures and are equally as stimulating as the Jamaican reggae we all know and love.

Dunn’s River is one of the few rivers in the world that flows directly into the Caribbean Sea and all of the falls’ grooves, crevices, and pools of water were created naturally by the flow of the current.

That in and of itself is magic if you ask me.

I’ve gone back and forth with my belief in a higher power, but it’s places like this that make one seem plausible.

The second one happened last year while I was in Mexico. A friend who just so happened to be visiting Quintana Roo the same week I was, kindly invited me to join him and his hostel friends for a day trip to Kin Ha Park. The park is one of the many natural attractions that can be found along the Yucatan Peninsula’s Ruta de Las Cenotes.

The word cenote loosely translates to “sun and sinkholes.” Essentially, they are underground caves that formed naturally after the meteorite crater struck Earth over 60 million years ago. The main cave at this park, Cenote Kin Ha, is considered the entrance door to the Mayan underworld, Xibalba.

After a lot of internal contemplation and a little bit of peer pressure, I decided to take the 4-meter plunge off the lower platform into the swimming hole.

Talk about an adrenaline rush.

And shout out to those friends for not letting me chicken out that day.

The third one took place yesterday.

Somewhere between the tears streaming down my face at Bixby Creek Bridge and the hours I spent wandering through the redwood pines of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, I found myself feeling more peaceful and whole than I ever have in my life.

It was absolutely incredible.

After a quick stop at Andrew Molera State Park, I learned that all but two trails there had been taken out by the storms and would be closed for the foreseeable future. I have the all-too-kind and resourceful park ranger, who advised me to head a few more miles south, to thank for ending up where I did for the rest of the afternoon.

“Try Buzzard’s Roost Trail, you’ll have fun there,” he said.

His recommendation did not disappoint.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park sits on the western slope of the Santa Lucia Mountains and its redwood pines tower high above the Big Sur River Gorge that runs through the park for about 16 miles.

Upon arrival, I checked in with the rangers there who told me to follow the river path and take a left to Buzzard’s Roost.

As I headed to the trailhead, I realized there is nothing more exhilarating for me than wandering through the woods. Nothing compares to that feeling of being in the presence of towering pines and running rivers–just infinite amounts of natural beauty surrounding you on all sides.

I think the main reason why I feel so at home in the forest is because it reminds me of my childhood.

My cousins and I would spend hours on end building forts and communes in the woods behind their house. We drummed up all sorts of fun with whatever rusty old trinkets we could find. We dreamed our days of youth away in those woods and yesterday, I was reminded of the same joy and wonder that filled me up back then.

I promised myself that this would be where I finish writing my book. At the Big Sur Lodge, next to a wood-burning fire, to the sound of the rumbling river, in the middle of a redwood forest.

No distractions, no cell service, just nature and magic.

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun never shines
And we shiver when the cold winds blow.

“Little Ashley, little Tia, where’d you stay last night?”

Auntie Anne

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun never shines
And we shiver when the cold winds blow.

2 thoughts on “Big Sur

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s