Monterey to Big Sur on Highway 101: The Most Beautiful Road Trip On Earth

Our trip from Monterey to Big Sur can be summarized in five words. It was like a dream.

I had driven from Los Angeles to Monterey through Big Sur back in 2005, almost without stopping. When it was still possible to drive from L.A. In another life, in other terms. I remember the clouds, and the sound of the sea under the clouds. Now that I went back, I realize that appreciating the magic of this road trip requires a few days, preferably a week. We wandered between Monterey and the town where the road 101 currently ends, in Gorda—mudslides have been blocking the road for a while after Gorda down to L.A. We discovered Big Sur with an open, clear mind. We left our cellphones for a few days. There’s no data in Big Sur, and there won’t be for a while.

Monterey

This trip starts in Monterey, at the pier. Monterey is the sweetest, nicest American town. We meet an old man. He comes talk to the sea lions and sea otters everyday. He gives them names. He says he’s originally half-French, half native-American. He’s kind, a bit sad maybe. He “blesses” us and we leave Monterey.




Carmel-by-the-Sea

Then, we continue down to Carmel. We arrive at Pebble Beach shortly before sunset. We go in for free. The air is perfect, the wind is perfect, the temperature is perfect… it’s California in October. During the day, the sun is perfect, the sand is soft, the beach is not crowded. It is the place where you would want to be re-born if you could.


We drive South to Point Lobos State Reserve. It’s Monday, there’s no one there. We find some binoculars. We watch the otters in the wild.

Big Sur

We continue down south. We see the Bixby Bridge. There are so many more tourists here than the first time I saw it.

Then, it starts being Big Sur. The clouds! There’s still here. We’re above the clouds. We spend our first day in Big Sur hiking in Limekiln State Park, a small park that’s really off the radar compared to Julia Pfeiffer SP. It’s really like living inside a book of Thoreau. It’s green, fresh, wild, pure, a bit dark and mysterious too. We get a bit lost. We cross a mountain in the park. We see a man with a big moustache on the trail. The other side of the mountain takes us back to road 101. When we reach the clouds, it’s no longer sunny. Fortunately there’s no one driving road 101 here, because it’s closed a few miles South. We just walk back to our car from the road. We go watch the sunset from the Nacimiento-Fergusson road. If we could stop time and freeze it forever, we would stop time here and now.


We find an amazing free National Forest campsite on the Nacimiento-Fergusson road. We’ll sleep there three nights. We don’t see a soul. We feel lucky. This is our view when we wake up in the morning. At night the air is clean, there are no mosquitoes, we can play cards outside until very late, we’re not cold. It’s the paradise we were looking for.

We find a monastery. They call it the hermitage. A man talks to me with a very soft voice near this bench. He takes pictures of us on the bench.

We go back towards the North on 101. We stop at the Miller Memorial Library. We spend some time checking books… a blind dog gets really scared when we approach him. There are many cats and two nice librarians who apparently live in tents next to the bookstore.We take another hike, closer to Nepenthe, the only restaurant in Big Sur (you got to see it but it’s not a really awesome place). The clouds are gone now. The day after, we see some cars parked on the side of road 101. We park, we discover the secret trail and the secret cove. We continue down to the McWay falls. We had actually been the day before, but the clouds were still here. The clouds are gone, we can see the waterfall kissing the sea. It’s beautiful. We go back to our camp. We play cards outside. We wake up. We say goodbye to Big Sur until next time. We drive back to San Francisco.

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