Day 20: The Pacific Coast
Sequoia National Park—Pacific Coast Highway—Big Sur, California
Today we were going to see the rest of the park then head for the coast. We had saltines and peanut butter for breakfast today, what a way to start the day. Ventured further into the Giant Forest, driving up the narrow side that goes to Moro Rock. Passed by the Auto Log, a fallen tree that you can drive on top of, drove through the Tunnel Log, a fallen tree that has a tunnel dug through it, and parked at Moro Rock. This is a dome shaped granite monolith with a quarter mile trail up to its top. The elevation is 300 feet from the parking area or 6,725 feet. From Moro Rock, the high snow-capped Sierras can be seen to the east while the smog-filled San Joaquin Valley is below us to the west. The trail is very narrow making its way up the rock but once on top there is a large open viewing area. This is the highest view for miles around.
Next we went to the Crescent Meadow, a crescent-shaped meadow surrounded by forest and a nice trail. This trail looks out upon the thin meadow filled with flowers of all colors and the yellow-green grass blanketing the ground. No one is allowed to go in the meadow since it would ruin the grass and chase off the animals that live in it. The trail led us through the surrounding forest which was covered with ferns and soft, mulchy soil. Along the trail were Lodgepole Pines and the occasional Sequoia grove, each having a name. Many of the sequoias had burn scars and some were just charred towers, no longer alive. We followed the trail to Tharp's Log. This is a fallen tree that Hale Tharp, a cattle rancher in nearby Three Rivers, CA, built a house in. He was the first white man to see the giant forest in 1869 and spent his summers in this carved out shelter. He did this until his death in 1912. We eventually made our way back to the car and were on our way around noon.
We exited the park on the road we spied from Moro Rock earlier. It was very steep and curvy. This was CA 198 and it takes us out of the park and once again into the yellow-brown grassy foothills. The first town is Three Rivers and is on the Kaweah River and Lake. Now we were back in the agricultural parts of the valley. Went through Vasilia, CA and Hanford, CA, two large towns and our elevation was back to normal, 300 feet. After Lemoore, we turned southwest on CA 41. The farms began to disappear as we approached the Sierra Madre coastal range. It was sort of desert-like out here except for the fact that everything was covered with this yellow-brown grass. At Cholame we turned on to CA 46 which took us west to Paso Robles and back to CA 41. The hills were becoming higher now as we continued west. We hit US 101 and went south for a few exits to follow CA 41 to Morro Bay. We traveled over a steep ridge, part of the Los Padres National Forest.
Soon we were in the town of Morro Bay, a seaside community. We drove around the town trying to find a beach. Driving up this seemingly deserted road took us to the wide beach and the Pacific Ocean. Down the beach a ways was Morro Rock, a huge stone mountain sitting on the beach. There was a lot of fog in the area and on top of the rock was a small cloud just sitting in place over the top of this huge stone mountain. We came to this town to find a grocery store. After searching and almost giving up hope, we found Vons. This store guarantees that everything is overpriced, we spent 70 bucks in this place! Once we got our food we traveled up the Pacific Coast Highway, CA 1.
Both Andy and I were not in the best of moods today and I think we were quite sick of one another. This was a shame since the scenery along the coast was so beautiful. We were quickly running out of gas and the gas stations were very few and extremely far between. The prices were so high that I convinced myself that I'll never come back to this part of the state again. We paid $1.99 for the cheap octane gas and this harmonica-playin', hermit pumped our gas for us. The higher grade was $2.19! This certainly took my breath away! It is especially aggravating that there are no roads connecting this highway with civilization for a 150 miles. So we were stuck. We put a couple gallons in and took off.
The coast is mountainous and filled with flowers and grass. It was unfortunate that Andy and I were so mad at each other today but we would make up by the day's end. The Sun was on its way down and I could not keep it out of my eyes. It was at such a level that the damn visor didn't help so this became annoying real quick. Looking for a place to sleep tonight, we stopped in San Simeon State Park, but it was too RV-ish for us. The Hearst Castle is here but we didn't stop to see it. Kept going north into another part of the Los Padres National Forest. Stopped in the Lucia Campground, which was perfect. It looked right out on the Pacific and was really beautiful. Unfortunately, it was full. We were not in a position to be discussing options with one another. We were holding on to our grudges tightly.
It was getting later and later and we both were getting anxious to find a place and settle in. Everything was full up to Big Sur, CA. Big Sur is a touristy area and the prices reflected that. We did find a place to stay here and we decided to settle with it even though it cost $21 to stay a night, over twice the price of other campgrounds where we've stayed (of course, we got a free hefty bag here). This whole area was a rip-off and I was getting tired of it. The people running this place looked like bikers and were not that friendly. It was dark by the time we pulled in. There were a lot of kids running around too. Where do these people come from and why do they bring their kids? This campground was deep in the woods and our neighbors were two bikers, I figure this place is known in biker groups, they must advertise to that market. I took a shower before going to bed. Andy and I decided that there wouldn't be another day on this trip that we would be mad at each other, we've come to far to let a thing like this detract from our trip.