A year and a half ago I went on a road trip that changed my life and the way I think. Thirty Three days on the road going up and down the California coast taught me so many lessons about myself. I felt I needed to share them with whomever would listen and create a place where those thoughts, memories and places would become permanent and perhaps help someone else. A couple months ago, I decided to start this blog to share these stories and anecdotes. Writing these posts has not only allowed me to re-visit and re-live them but to also realize the beauty I witnessed on a daily basis while I was out there. Below, I offer a year-end ranking of the places I visited on that road trip. My top 7. Each section also has the accompanying blog posts attached in case you want to go back and obtain a full picture of each spot. Just click the titles under each heading to read my previous posts and enjoy the pictures and write-up.
7. MacKerricher State Park
Why? Black sand beaches was a site I set as a goal to see at the beginning of my trip and MacKerricher did not disappoint. Not only did I get to see my black sand, I got to wake up to it on two seperate mornings. The beach is amazing, the campsites are secluded and clean and everyone there seemed to be nice and happy. I did some of my best thinking at MacKerricher and I like to think it’s because the environment was so friendly and it contained so many of my favorite things in one place.
6. Henry Cowell State Park
Why? Incredibly peaceful and somewhat off the beaten path, Henry Cowell offered the most relaxing hikes and unique terrain. So many trails branch off inside Henry Cowell that you can’t possibly do them all in one trip. Each of them offers a unique experience but Cable Car Beach (1st pic above) was my favorite of the two I did this trip. The campsites were clean and decently sized but they are packed pretty close together. Ultimately, I had such a good time here that I decided to stay an extra night which more than warrants it’s spot at #6.
5. Montana De Oro State Park
Why? From the top of Valencia Peak to the beach down below, Montana De Oro is one of the most unique places on the coast of California. The Valencia Peak hike brought me hundreds of feet in the air, full of mountainous terrain. But as you descend towards the beach, the plant life and environment slowly changes around you. All of a sudden you go from looking at dirt and rocks to plants and flowers of every color and shade. As you continue to descend down towards the beach, you see the impossible cliff faces and secluded beaches as you get closer and closer to the water’s edge. There was not a single place on this trip that offered the variety that Montana De Oro did.
4. El Capitan State Beach
Why? Something about that first night in this place sparks my memory more than anywhere else. I still remember how it felt that first morning I woke up and walked to the beach to write in my journal (2nd picture above). I can still feel that first sunset on my first night while I sat looking at the ocean contemplating my route (1st pic). And I absolutely remember and feel every moment of that last sunset on my last night of the road trip as I began to realize the amount of ground I had covered. The campgrounds are huge but as long as you take your time, you will find the perfect spot. The beach was my favorite aspect of this place as you could literally find your own private beach. If I walked far enough, I could have my own little stretch of beach with rocks to sit and climb on. El Capitan holds a special place in my heart.
3. Patrick’s Point State Park
Why? The most harsh environment I stayed in. The combination of cold beach weather and the forest that hanging above the layer of fog made this area strikingly beautiful yet incredibly unforgiving. I remember being bundled up while scavenging for precious stones on the beach or taking a cliff side walk along the water. The feeling of icy cold as I started my car in the morning, warming it up preparing to drive to Portland. Having to wear my ninja mask for the first time and zipping my sleeping bag all the way up to chin. Despite how awful and cold all of that sounds, I remember it fondly. I remember sitting there in the icy air looking out over the ocean, thinking how peaceful it looked. The giant, cold rocks, sitting in the water, letting the waves crash over them. The dusty trail all the way along the edge of the State Park offering views of the ocean that are both frightening and beautiful. The campgrounds are well kept, each site is secluded…but you gotta be prepared for the cold.
2. Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Why? If you’ve ever seen the movie Without a Paddle, this is the kinda scene you always dreamed of camping in with your friends: a river, running fast but not too hard; trees, preferably redwoods, dotting the edges of said river; and most importantly, fresh air. This was the quintessential camping spot for me and it’s the place I want to take all my friends to see. It offers the perfect mixture of forest/hiking trails along with beach/river entertainment. I hiked for a couple hours, gazing up at redwoods then I had grabbed my lunch and my towel and laid down by the edge of the water with my feet submerged in the soft river current. This place also housed my favorite campsite of all time. I pulled in on a bed of green, yellow and orange leaves covering every inch of my campsite. After I parked, I looked up and realized I was smack dab in the middle of an entire grove of redwood trees. It was one of the most peaceful night’s sleep of the entire trip.
1. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Why? You can’t really put Big Sur into words, you kinda have to see it. You don’t understand the scope and how devastating nature can be there until you traverse that winding highway 1 and land at the State Park. Once you are down near the river, you begin to see what kind of fantasy world you stepped into. An almost too perfect river that’s warm enough to not only swim, but float around in. A hike that ascends hundreds of feet up and looks out towards the ocean and the valley beneath it. And finally, campsites packed tightly yet strategically placed to allow privacy. Everything about Pfeiffer was top notch and it left me with the greatest sense of awe out of any of the sites I stayed at.
Author’s Note: To those of you who have made it through every single road trip post, I appreciate you and I thank you. This portion of my writing is over but I plan to continue to talk about places I camp, travel and hike to. I hope my words and pictures have inspired you to seek out your own form understanding within yourself and I hope you will continue this journey with me in 2019. Just be you.