A Spontaneous Excursion Up Pacific Coast Highway - Part 4: From Big Sur To Barbeque

I woke up this morning a bit ragged. Today it was much harder to open the eyes, due in no small part to the fact that I was planning on making the drive back from Big Sur to Los Angeles. As I was unzipping my tent and cursing under my breath that I couldn't at least indulge in a cup of coffee on my final morning here due to the fire ban, there comes my aunt, as if on cue, straight out of the bushes at the other end of the campground, holding bright sunny fresh to-go cups of coffee! Boom!

She had made her way into town to come back and make our day! I took it as a sign.

There was no way I was leaving today.

So once again, with coffee in hand, I marched my gotcha back to the Andrew Molera State Beach iron ranger at the entrance and paid for another night, the same way I have the last two days. Silly me thinking there was ever a chance I was leaving.

Today’s plan was to hit up Pfeiffer Beach (not to be confused with Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park or the infinitely more popular Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park, home of popular McWay Falls. “Yeah, there are a lot of Pfeiffers” the ranger told us as he tried to clear up our confusion). We winded our our way down Sycamore Canyon Road, parked in the lot, and meandered through the shady sandy Cyprus Grove to the stomping grounds of the famous Keyhole Rock.

While the scenery was as spectacular as I ever remembered it, it wasn’t exactly kid friendly at the moment. The surf was quite aggressive and the little ones had their hearts set on the tide pools at Point Lobos, which they hadn’t really stopped talking about since we left there the day before. So after about an hour or so, we decided to pack it up and head on up. I’d been here on many occasions before, and oddly enough, while I thought I’d personally take it a bit harder that we were leaving Pfeiffer Beach, I was surprised to find myself completely ok with it. New frontiers. New memories. However, what I couldn’t bring myself to do was take off without spending at least a few moments alone with a camera and Keyhole Rock. So they let me indulge for a bit, and then off we went.

Since everyone was pretty hungry, and Nepenthe was soooo close…we had to do it!! If you haven’t been to Nepenthe in Big Sur, it consists of two open-air restaurants and the Phoenix gift shop, all of which have some of the most breath-taking birds-eye views of the Big Sur coastline. At the very least, stop for a drink. And if you can’t get a table at the top level restaurant, do NOT hesitate to walk one level below to Cafe Kevah. The views are even arguably better, less obstructed, and the food just as good (and cheaper…).

After lunch, it was time to head back north on Pacific Coast Highway, back to Point Lobos State Reserve. There was a whole cliffside we had yet to explore, so while the kids found their way back to the familiar tide pools with the aunt and cousin, myself and Stephen Chiang decided to explore the path along bluff and we were exposed to a slice of this park and coastline we weren’t privy to the first time we were here a few days ago. And thank GOD we did. This could easily be one of the top 3 highlights of the trip.

Towards the southernmost reaches of the park, along the coast, lies China Cove, apparently, as we found out quickly, a very popular attraction, for as we walked up the steps and turned the corner to reveal it, there stood 3 artists, each in front of their respective easels, each quietly offering their interpretation of the gorgeous scene that stood in front of them.

It was mesmerizing.

I couldn’t help myself but to sit and watch and, of course, eventually ask them if I could photograph them while they worked. Karin Leonard, Kenneth Cadwallader, and Michele de Braganca. After a little while, we decided to continue on a bit further, and after exploring the final reaches of the trail, turned back, and found our way back to China Cove. While the other two painters had packed up and left, one, Karin Leonard, remained. And we remained with her. As one of my cousin’s children was an artist, Stephen brought her back, where she sat with her sketchpad on the bench behind Karin, each of them offering their respective perceptions in tandem. A beautiful moment.

Life making art watching art.

As the sun set, and we bid our farewells, it was time, yet again, to stuff our faces.

We were within miles of Carmel-By-The-Sea (the small cobblestone seaside hamlet that Clint Eastwood once acted mayor to), and even though we were stinky and smelly and beachy and 3-days-of-camping-y, and Carmel is quite a ‘high-flootin’ town as my cousin so aptly put it, we said screw it, why not! We’re gonna make it ours tonight. So we did. We marched our flip-floppin’ sandy feet on in to Les St. Tropez, authoritatively commanddeered the center seating arrangement, and treated ourselves to some French cuisine, pasta, and arugula garnished pizzas before sleepily heading on back to camp for our final evening (this time for real…).

We. Crashed. Immediately.

The next morning, we woke up, packed up, and, aching to squeeze as many minutes as possible out of the trip, stopped for a final view at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, where the McWay Falls trickled down the California coastal hillside, making it’s way from the furthest reaches of the Redwoods in the inland forests and finding respite in the great Pacific.

It was time to get back into the cars and head on back down for not only did we have a lot of ground to cover, but we wanted to go full circle and make one more stop back where this all started.

Morro Bay State Park.

One last look at the rock.

One last frolic along the bay.

One last stroll on the wooden footpath alongside the estuary.

We reluctantly hit the road, and as the sun began to set, found ourselves at Los Alamos, California, a sleepy western town about 5 hours down the coast. It was to be our last supper together, and we decided to do it in style. BARBEQUE!! We laughed, we joked, we indulged, we broke bread, we gorged on Charlie’s Place delicious special-secret-homemade barbecue sauce and milk shakes. Yup, milk shakes.

And, finally, we declared this trip a complete success.

Thanks so much for following along our journey. Truly hope you enjoyed it. And if you haven't already, wholeheartedly hope you get to make it yourself one day.

Below are the images from this, the final part of the trip, all of which were taken on Samsung NX3000 and NX30 mirrorless cameras. And in case you missed the first three parts of the story:

Part 1: Morro BayPart 2: Big SurPart 3: More Big Sur

And to purchase a print, or the original painting, of "Misty Afternoon China Cove," the stunning final product of Karin Leonard's efforts that day, click here to check it out.

For more of my madness, including additional images and edits from this very trip: Instagram: @wasimofnazareth Twitter: @wasimofnazareth Google+: www.Google.com/+WasimMuklashy Facebook: www.Facebook.com/WasimOfNazareth

And last but certainly not least, be sure to find and follow Stephen Chiang at Instagram.com/stephenrx7. I'm telling you, his shots are great and the kids are insanely adorable.