Westward in Comfort and Style

There were bad decisions made that fateful night in 2010, right TMO?

The last time Blondie and I went camping, biblical rain showers mixed with a shallow bowl-shaped campsite caused our little haven beneath the trees to become a giant pain in my swamp-ass. That next morning, after a near-mutinous and soggy night, we packed up everything in silence and, upon arrival at our place in the city, we deposited the sodden muddy fabric of our camping kit directly into the dumpster. That, according to Blondie, was the end of that BS – no more sleeping on the ground – that was Summer 2010.

Since then, our many outdoor ventures together have been cabin or lodge based – usually near a bar –  and that seems to suit us both as we like a bit of pampering and a stiff drink after a day of adventuring (who doesn’t?). Our most recent trip to Big Sur was, however, a departure from the norm in that we were going to get back into a tent, but this time a tent with a bed and lights and a sink with fresh running water. Yes, we decided to give glamping a try.  Ech! Personally, I cannot stand the moniker “glamping” as it implies that this old mountain man has gone soft, but in reality it is a cloth cabin with a comfortable bed that is great after a long day of being outdoors. Depending on the campground, you still get to do all the fun campfire stuff, you still need to be vigilant about forest creatures running off with the Doritos (seriously, guard those chips), and, in our case, you still get to be nestled into a mountain niche under a tall stand of coastal redwoods, but you get to do it all with comfort and style and there is absolutely nothing wrong with comfort and style.

Please read on to find out more about our first foray into the luxe-camping life and check out all of the pretty photographs that I made for you…

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If you don’t get the window seat you can’t see cool stuff like this. I am not exactly sure where it is but it would make sense if it were in the Canyonlands National Park area – anyone know for sure?

Our arrival on the west coast was unremarkable – we landed at LAX and spent the evening near the airport, then made our way north early the next morning – picking up our supplies as we made our way along the beaches and up the coast highway. We spent a lot of time on the drive quietly daydreaming about the felonies we would have to commit in order to afford a little place of our own on the coast (preferably on a high ridge, defiantly facing the ocean winds) – then be immediately jolted back into reality by brakelights and near misses with one of the myriad herds of road cyclists who Evel Knievel the PCH on the weekends. Those people are hardcore.

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Ocean – Clouds – Land

Further north the traffic thins and the road narrows – hidden slices of one of the most incredible coastlines on Earth start to come into view. For the next 70+ miles each sweeping turn and switchback give the driver and the now motion-sick passenger something new to gasp at every few minutes. The cold fog of the marine layer hovering just offshore occasionally barrels up the fjords, veiling the brown mountains in a lace of salt mist… See, that’s what Big Sur does to me – it gets me writing all pretty and, as I read it aloud to myself here on the 20th floor in Boston, I get a wistful faraway look in my eye because I friggin’ love Big Sur.

The campsite that we stayed at is part of the Ventana Big Sur resort – 160 acres of coastal redwoods and ridiculous views sitting just east of Highway 1. It is one of the best spots on the coast road and worth your time and money if you have a bit of both.

The tent itself was the sort of classic canvas tent that you’d imagine Hemingway or Teddy Roosevelt sleeping in on an African safari, except ours was set up on a wooden platform and then covered by a huge polyvinyl tarp spread over a rough log frame. Also on the platform was a barrel sink, a propane fireplace, a cooler box, and room enough for two adirondack chairs. Our nearest neighbors were around the corner and over a hill so we had almost complete privacy, which was much appreciated.

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Our home under the cathedral trees.

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Light from the stars, the campfire, and from the little dim green light outside one of the portable toilets down the hill gives this a lovely psychedelic look, eh?

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The Neighbors

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The other neighbors – this one gets the scale of the trees spot on. One branch falls and game over, you’re skewered.

The plan for our visit to Big Sur was simple. After huevos rancheros from Ripplewood or pastries and coffee from the Big Sur Bakery we would choose a nice secluded trail to hike upon until the early afternoon. If we were eating at the campsite that night, we would then grab supplies and retire to our haven to do what people do when presented with a campfire, a full cooler, and some privacy. On the nights we went out we would grab a quick shower then head out for a few drinks and some food, making sure to get back before the stars came out. There are a few pretty good places around Big Sur to eat and grab a drink at. On this trip we had a great time at Fernwood where the bartender Dave made us vodka tonics with whole limes and I played some of my jukebox favorites (Bauhaus isn’t for everyone but Dave seemed into it – I guess that is the risk you run when you put in a jukebox).

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Blondie enjoying her spot in the sun.

Rather than give you a play-by-play of our hikes, which consisted of a lot of sweat, occasional sailor-worthy profanity, and life-affirming panoramas – I will instead just get on with the photos…

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First up is the Manuel Peak Trail at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. At about 8 miles long and 3,000+ feet up, the Manuel Peak trail is very exposed and offers a new set of views around each ridge. Bring all the water if you go, seriously, and wear a hat and bring extra sunscreen.

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Blondie on the march – about 1/3 of the way up Manuel Peak

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A rare bit of shade – Mt Manuel

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Our second big hike was at Andrew Molera State Park where you can hike from the ocean to the clouds in a few hours if you wanted to.

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Blondie is cold and would really like to leave the beach at this point. She is letting me know this from 100 yards away.

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Looking west from the Ridge Trail at Andrew Molera State Park. Nice.

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Pollinators gotta pollinate.

On our third day we decided to let the knees/IT-band have a rest so we loaded up the car with snacks and drove up the coast to Carmel to take in some of the vistas and visit the Safeway as well as the nearest proper liquor store to Big Sur (an important fact for those of us who like a whiskey by the fire).

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Bixby Creek Bridge looks good in the fog, am I right?

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And this time from the back in a moody black and white.

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Great color – can’t be in a crappy mood amongst such beauty. Believe me, I’ve tried.

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I feel like my mom would’ve painted this scene in the mid 1980s had it been presented to her. She probably would’ve painted it on a giant saw blade or maybe on an old barn door as that is what the craftiest of crafters were doing back then.

Our final day of hiking was spent at Andrew Molera State Park once again but this time on the East side of Hwy 1 on the aptly named East Molera Trail – a steep bastard of a trail with loose footing at first but it eventually opens up onto rolling ridges and 360 degree views of the ocean to the west and Pico Blanco to the East.

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This photo is an example what happens when you listen to Bongripper during the editing process. Andrew Molera East Trail.

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Blondie putting in a solid day on the mountain – she’s a fast walker and despite rarely being on Instagram she has a preternatural talent for making Insta-stories.

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Pico Blanco peeking out from the trees.

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Shot way back in 2011, this grainy photo is of a California Condor on the East Molera Trail, just a few yards above my head – the tags on the wings signify that this big guy was raised in captivity. I figured I would show you since I had the pic and it was from this trail but on a much cooler November day.

After our time in Big Sur we rambled on down to Santa Barbara to recuperate for a few days by the pool at The Goodland before finally jetting back to reality on the East Coast. Discussions have already begun in earnest about where we would like to stay the next time we wish to, as John Muir said, get the mountain’s good tidings. After this great trip, I can say with all honesty that we would consider camping again under the right conditions, but I still don’t like the word glamping. Thanks for stopping by and getting all the way to the end – for your pleasure here is a very dark starlapse taken one evening long after Blondie went to bed. Come back soon as we have more adventures coming up and don’t forget to be cool to one another, seriously, stop being jerks.

 

 

© Peter Molgaard and Afield Book, 2012-2018. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of photographs and original content without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided that permission is granted and that full and clear credit is given to Peter Molgaard and Afield with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. If you would like to use any of the imagery displayed you may send your requests to molgaardpmo@gmail.com

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