Sunday, January 12, 2014

Big Sur: Limekiln & McWay Falls

     After a full day of hiking on Santa Cruz Island, a morning boat ride, and escaping LA traffic, there is nothing more desirable and relaxing than cruising the California Coast.  

     Big Sur seems more like a state of mind than an actual place.  Between the Monterrey Peninsula and the city of San Luis Obispo there are about 100 miles of sparsely populated, perfect coastline.  

     The Santa Lucia Mountains line the edge of the Western world, plunging thousands of feet down into the Pacific Ocean.  Highway 1, arguably one of the most difficult roads ever built, weaves its way precariously between what sometimes are only inches of land and the dazzling ocean below.  

     Big Sur is made up of private residences, though most of these are tucked quietly away and out of sight from the road, a smattering of quaint tourist towns, parks filled with waterfalls and redwoods, and vast stretches of California wilderness.

     There are certain roads that take you even higher into the mountains, giving you astonishing views of what appears to be the edge of the world.  There will often be fog blanketing the top of the ocean, swirling and mingling with the mountainside.

     Here is a view just after sunrise as we were coming down the side of Nacimiento-Fergusson Road.  We’d stayed in Ponderosa Campground the night before.  This road makes Highway One seem demure, and people were camping all over the side of it at every turn.

Limekiln Falls

     Limekiln Falls is a unique double waterfall that is tucked against a mossy cliffside in Limekiln State Park.  The hike itself makes the trip worth it as you cross a clear rushing creek several times and encounter ancient redwoods that tower above you.

     Limekiln gets really interesting if you climb up right next to it.  You might get a little dirty as you scramble over rocks and massive tree roots, but it is worth it to stand right next to the pristine falling water.  Each side creates a clear green pool at the bottom of it.

     We arrived early in the morning in hopes of having the falls to ourselves.  We walked quietly through the park’s campground, past every sealed up tent.  After the invigorating mile and a half hike, we got our wish.  The falls was all ours.

McWay Falls
     Getting this waterfall to yourself will be no easy task, as it is one of the most popular roadside attractions on the entire California Coast.  

     McWay Falls is stunning.  The waterfall is relatively tame, a simple strip of spring water that plummets 80 feet from a rock spout hidden by dense vegetation.  It is the location that makes this waterfall one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.  The water falls into a pristine cove that is protected by the state of California.  No one is allowed down onto the beach in order to preserve the delicate habitat that surrounds the waterfall.

     The fog refused to lift this day, but I liked the way it seemed to enhance the deep greenish-blue color of the ocean.  Here is the walkway that leads you around the side of the mountain, giving you infinite views of the falls and the cliffsides.

     McWay Falls is located inside Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park.  The park was once a private residence, whose owners donated it to the state under the condition that the land would be preserved for future generations.  You can still see the remains of their stone house that long ago crumpled into ruin.

     This would have been their view:

     Many beautiful trees grow alongside the old property, framing McWay Falls.

     McWay Falls is a famed spot for watching the sunset as the warm last light of day will shine directly onto the waterfall.  When it’s not foggy, that is.  

     It’s a spectacular site no matter what the weather is up to.

     Big Sur is the ultimate destination for those seeking to experience the California Coast.  Whether you’re basking in the sun or enjoying the peaceful fog, winding through Highway One or hiking under redwoods, it promises to be one of the most beautiful places you have ever encountered.

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