Big Sur and Santa Cruz:  we did nothing.  Which is exactly what we were supposed to do.

After our great time in Pinnacles, we headed back to the beaches, this time Big Sur and Santa Cruz. 

I read in the welcome paper for Big Sur that we were supposed to basically do nothing…and so, that’s what we did.  Actually, we did go to several beaches, including Pfeiffer with their keyhole rock and purple sand, and Andrew Molera State Park.  We visited Pfeiffer on a warm Sunday, and there were quite a few tourists, but not enough to feel too crowded.  There were a few kids learning to surf in the cove that was surrounded by steep cliffs, and almost all the kids on the beach (including ours) spent time climbing the giant dune/hill in the back of the cove.  Maya loved the purple sand…although it isn’t a deep or bright purple, it definitely stands out on the otherwise tan beach.  Kind of like the blue tint to the grass in Kentucky, I guess….

We ventured down to Andrew Molera on a Monday and nearly had the whole mile stretch of the beach to ourselves.  Accessing the beach at this park requires a mile walk down a flat, pretty trail…after you take off your shoes and wade across a freezing cold river, that is.  But the beach is a mile wide and very deep, and best of all for Maya, had driftwood structures built up about every 25 feet.  We picked one out as our base for the day and she had a great time exploring the others and adding on to some of them.  Wyatt played football, naturally.

We ate out at a few of the local places, but other than that, it’s about all we did in Big Sur…and it seems about right.  It’s a really chill vibe, with a lot of rustic “lodges” and cabins along the main road, some having food or little gift shops, but nothing too big, and nothing crammed too close together.  The area runs along the coast with nice forests all along the road and the high terrain hills as a backdrop inland.  The beaches pop into view here and there as you drive along the PCH with their famous cliffs and winding roads.  We got to drive over the iconic Bixby Bridge on the way in and out of the area.  Luckily, the PCH was not nearly as bad on this stretch, compared to our experience north of Bodega Bay, at any rate.  

On the way up to Santa Cruz, we drove through another part of the Salinas Valley that was covered with farms and giant fields of fruits and vegetables.  We came up on a roadside fruit market and decided to stock up.  Well, this market was a terrific one and we got fresh brusselsprouts, pomegranates, mangos, avocados, bell peppers, plums, some amazing strawberries, cashews and almonds, delicious avocado salsa, some spices and more.  It was all crazy fresh and ripe and so good.  It was an impressive display of all the local produce, and really made me envious.  I would LOVE to be able to stop in there twice a week and load up on all the goods.  

Once in Santa Cruz, we did a lot of “household chores”…laundry, grocery store, drugstore, more schoolwork, etc, etc. and had a general regrouping day which isn’t very sexy, but is a day we all actually enjoy because we get everything all caught up.  The next day we headed to the harbor for lunch, where we were entertained by their colony of seals and sea lions who were playing in the water and making all kinds of noise.  We also had a tourist-trap lunch at one of the restaurants way out on the pier.  Not terrible, but nothing we will remember other than the view.  It did inspire us, though, to call and see about taking a sailing trip.

Sailing has one important ingredient. Without it, you just don’t really sail:  wind.  Somehow we chose a day and time that just did not have wind.  Our captain, Duane, tried his best to catch some breezes and we did get a tiny bit of time under sail, but for the most part we floated or motored around in the harbor.  It was a good few hours, but we didn’t get any of that sailing where you are tilted over halfway zipping across the ocean.  We did get to see some seals and sea lions up close, including what turned out to be hundreds under the pier.  And, we found some adorable otters in the kelp including a mother and baby pair.  One amazing thing we learned about the otters is that when they are young they pick up a rock that will be their tool for breaking into the shells of shellfish, and they keep that tool their whole life tucked into a pocket of their skin.  

Wyatt and Maya were also excited to hear that Santa Cruz has a strong BMX and mountain biking culture.  We looked up a few bike parks for them to ride on, and after the first one being closed for construction, the second one being so small they were bored after 5 minutes, we finally got lucky on our third attempt.  It was a well groomed pump track and there were some kids there who were really skilled and gave them some tips.  They both agreed it was a good park, but not quite as good as what they rode in Tahoe.

Santa Cruz is a cute little town with a wharf and a nice downtown, but the traffic along the 101 is so bad because of the proximity to San Jose and all the other growth north that I just couldn’t get a great feeling about the place.  We had a nice time there, but it won’t stand out as one of our “favorites.”