by Kirby Brooks
“Big Sur is the California that men dreamed of years ago, this is the Pacific that Balboa looked at from the Peak of Darien, this is the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look.” – Henry Miller.
Big Sur had always existed as a mythical place in my mind, it’s wild sea and imposing San Lucia Mountains constructed from Jack Kerouac novels and Mason Jennings songs. So when my boyfriend and I set out on the eight hour drive from San Diego to Big Sur I didn’t know what to expect, but as we snaked our way along Highway 1 I discovered Big Sur to be even more magical than I anticipated.
The scenery in Big Sur cannot be done justice through pictures or words. Although the original settlers of the region—the Esselen, Salinan and Ohlone Native Americans—vanished long ago, it isn’t hard to imagine them living off of the ferocious landscape. Ansel Adams was inspired by the towering redwoods and steep cliffs in Big Sur and Henry Miller provides a narrative of the area in several books; it is easy to see why Big Sur has been a site of inspiration for musicians, writers, photographers and artists and when hiking one of the trails in Los Padres National Forest my own mind became clear of the clutter of looming deadlines and other responsibilities waiting for me at home.
Exploring this region of California’s central coast is worth every penny, but it is pricey even during the off-season, like when Ian and I traveled to Big Sur. If you don’t mind a little rain, embrace the wet weather and take a weekend trip to Big Sur during January or February. Camping wasn’t an option during our early February trip, so we settled on the next best thing by reserving a yurt at Treebones Resort. A yurt is a tent-like circular fabric structure supported by wood lattice frames which is the closest thing to a wigwam I have seen since studying Native American tribes in school. Our yurt, with a beautiful mountain view, was more spacious than I expected and featured a queen sized bed, futon, small table and chairs and vanity with a sink (communal showers and restroom facilities are a short walk along the gravel path that links all of the yurts together). Note: bring a flashlight!
The roads are usually too swathed in fog to drive very far after the sun sets, so we elected to dine at Treebones both nights during our stay. The first night we enjoyed sashimi and sake at the sushi bar—the only sushi bar for 60 miles! The second night we dined at the West Coast Restaurant in the lobby, sampling produce picked from Treebones’ own garden that day in front of a crackling fire.
Breakfast is complimentary and served in the lobby each morning. The homemade granola was the best I have ever had and the make-your-own waffle station was an unexpected treat. Treebones has a pool and spa—which we found to be even more relaxing in the rain—with stunning views of the coastline. The resort gets very little cell phone reception and there are no televisions in the yurts so pack some board games (we brought Scattergories and Dominoes) and prepare to unplug during your stay.
Some places are touristy for a reason, and the views at Nepenthe Restaurant are worth battling potential crowds for the best table. After taking a two hour hike, Ian and I fortified ourselves with some cold beers and french fries when we arrived at Nepenthe. The restaurant is perched on the ocean-side of the San Lucia Mountains and offers indoor and outdoor seating with views of the Pacific Ocean from nearly every vantage point. For lunch, try the Famous Ambrosiaburger or one of the sandwiches, like the Turkey, Avocado and Bacon or the Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwiches. Nepenthe also boasts an impressive wine list with selections from many local vineyards.
Despite being a popular spot for travelers making their way up the California coast from San Diego to San Francisco and beyond, Big Sur remains a rare portion of the vast state unmarred by chain hotels and restaurants. While this results in higher prices and limited availability, the payoff is even sweeter and those that have experienced Big Sur return time and time again.
Kirby Brooks is a full time web content writer and editor who enjoys freelance writing on a variety of topics, ranging from food to fashion. In her free time, she enjoys taking advantage of the southern California weather by spending time outside and likes to explore both the familiar and unfamiliar through travel.