Spring Breakaway

Glorious beach scenery complete with contrasting purple sands, orange cliffs, blue skies, and turquoise waters at Pfeiffer BeachGlorious beach scenery complete with contrasting purple sands, orange cliffs, blue skies, and turquoise waters at Pfeiffer Beach


2-April 2015 to 4-April 2015: Anyways, the road seemed busier than I would have expected for a weekday, and when we noticed that there were a ton of cars parked at a vista point, we were wondering what all the fuss was about.

Seeing that it was well past 1:30pm at this point, I kept on going. But when I glimpsed some of the coastline, I couldn't help but notice the rocky beaches along the coast were full of sea lions! When Julie heard me commenting about why that vista point was so full, she urged me to make a U-turn and go into that crowd of cars to let Tahia check them out. Even Tahia got in on the act trying to get me to turn around even though we were well past the vista point on the two-lane highway and we were already behind in terms of what we tried to accomplish today while also trying to get all the way to Monterey, where we were staying for the next two nights...






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Day 1: PICKING AND CHOOSING
It was about 6:30am when Julie and I awoke, but given that it was unlikely that we would be able to avoid rush hour traffic even if we would have somehow miraculously left before 7am. So Julie decided to make some brekkie while allowing Tahia some time for her to come around and wake up on her own.

When all was said and done, it was about 8:05am when we finally left home. Again, it was later than my liking, but at least we thought that we would avoid the peak of the bell curve of commuters, and we figured that we'd be going in the opposite direction as well.

As we were taking off, we could see that the schools were getting horrendous drop-off traffic, and we wondered if that was going to be us when Tahia gets old enough to start attending these. Seems like whenever you have to deal with kids, it's all about joining the bell curve. Clearly the freedoms and flexibilities that we managed to get away with in the past were slipping away the older Tahia would get.

In any case, we thought that doing Tahia's Spring Break trip to Big Sur might be thinking out of the box, but little would we realize that other people were also on Spring Break at the same time, and that this peak-of-the-bell-curve theme would be recurring throughout this trip. Yep, we weren't the only ones spring breaking out of what we thought was the norm.

Anyways, the drive along the 105 and 405 freeways was sluggish at times, but for the most part, not that bad. But when we got on the 101, it seemed like most of the slowdown was there until we started to get past Thousand Oaks. At that point, the drive was pretty much smooth sailing, even as we were passing through the busy Santa Barbara part.

There was some road construction going on near Gaviota as we were headed inland towards Solvang and Buellton, but other than that, we were doing fairly well on time until it was getting close to noon, and Julie and Tahia were getting hungry. Suddenly, Julie spotted a Panera Bread from the highway as we were entering Arroyo Grande and getting even closer to San Luis Obispo, and we ultimately decided to eat in there instead of taking it to go.

I thought we weren't that far from where we needed to go so I thought spending about an hour for a hot lunch here wouldn't be too bad in terms of time.

So we made our stop at 11:50am, and it wasn't until about 12:35pm when we were back in the car. At that point, we then proceeded further north though I almost missed the turnoff where there was an exit from the 101 for the Hwy 1 towards San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay.

As we were proceeding to drive further north of San Luis Obispo (reminiscing with Julie how things were the first time we actually stopped by this area back in 2001), we then were following a caravan of slower cars in front of us refusing to use the pullouts.

The neighboring coastal hills had an eerie brownish look to them as the greens were giving way to them. Considering we were only at the start of Spring, this didn't bode well for the Summer situation as that season appeared to have already begun months ago. It was going to be a long and difficult Summer, I reckoned. And just like the Australia situation, I knew that this was definitely Global Warming related, and I felt real bad that this was the world that Tahia was inheriting.

Anyways, the road seemed busier than I would have expected for a weekday, and when we noticed that there were a ton of cars parked at a vista point, we were wondering what all the fuss was about.

Seeing that it was well past 1:30pm at this point, I kept on going. But when I glimpsed some of the coastline, I couldn't help but notice the rocky beaches along the coast were full of sea lions! When Julie heard me commenting about why that vista point was so full, she urged me to make a U-turn and go into that crowd of cars to let Tahia check them out. Even Tahia got in on the act trying to get me to turn around even though we were well past the vista point on the two-lane highway and we were already behind in terms of what we tried to accomplish today while also trying to get all the way to Monterey, where we were staying for the next two nights.

Tahia was bummed when it was apparent that I wasn't going to turn around (as I was thinking that perhaps on the way home, we should be able to see them), but we still had a long ways to go. We even entertained going to Hearst Castle on the day we go home as well. Julie had told me that Climate Change and the warming ocean off the California Coast had caused these sea lions to go hungry as their food sources went further out to sea. And so the sea lions went to the beaches and rocky coastlines of the California Coast in search of food.

So I figured that we shouldn't have a problem seeing these sea lions on Saturday morning on the way home though Julie kept telling me to "Carpe Diem" over and over again.

After passing the familiar Ragged Point Inn (where Julie and I stayed at back in 2001), we couldn't help but notice how much more developed and crowded this place was. At that point, it totally dawned on us that perhaps our thinking that taking advantage of Tahia's Spring Break to go out to Big Sur without crowds was misguided. Clearly other people were also on Spring Break, and I guess we'll just have to deal with traffic and crowds (contrary to our thinking going at the beginning of this trip).

When we passed by the familiar hairpin turn over Salmon Creek, Julie took a look at the waterfall noting how it wasn't flowing very well. I wasn't able to see it in any of the rear-view mirrors, but I took a mental note that we should probably skip this waterfall on the way home if we come down this way (I had previously thought that we could make a quick stop here on Saturday morning as well).

Finally at 2:30pm, we made it down to the familiar Limekiln State Park. It would turn out to be our first time back at this reserve in nearly 12 years! In last visit to Big Sur back in 2010, Limekiln State Park was closed due to fire damage. And now this time around, it seemed like the park was not only busy, but it now costed us $10 to park here (I recalled it was something like $7 the last time we were here).

Back at the familiar car park for Limekiln State Park Tahia and Julie getting started on the walk to Limekiln Falls Looking back at one of the campsites adjacent to a flowing stream

Tahia was really eager to check out the beach that was here, but first, we had to do the waterfall hike as a family. After all, it was only a half-mile hike in each direction, and I had heard that they managed to improve the trail. I guess we'll see how much of an improvement was made over the years.

Walking through a very busy campground towered over by some coastal redwoods Approaching one of the improved footbridges on the main trail Looking along the creek from one of the footbridges One of the stream crossings once we branched onto the Falls Trail

First, we walked through a very busy camping area where the campsite was crowded with lots of car campers under the shade of majestic coastal redwood trees. They weren't as thick and imposing as the sequoias in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, but the trees here were impressively tall. Clearly, the coastal redwoods were something we didn't really appreciate the first time here (since I never took any trail or tree photos from the past trips), but on this go around, it seemed like Julie and I have learned to smell the roses so-to-speak on our excursions. And so we took our time.

Julie and Tahia staying on the Kiln and Falls Trail and ditching the Hare Creek Trail Julie pointing out poison oak to Tahia The trail was quite surrounded by poison oak

After passing through the first bridge, we then followed the signs for the waterfall and kiln trail (ignoring the Hare Creek Trail on the first junction). After another bridge crossing, we then reached another junction, where the falls trail branched to our right while the kiln trail kept going straight. And immediately upon getting onto the Falls Trail, we could see that it immediately descended towards an unbridged creek crossing.

Julie and Tahia continuing on the main trail Julie and Tahia continuing on the main trail Julie and Tahia approaching another one of the footbridges

I guess the trail improvements didn't apply to the falls trail.

Nonetheless, there were thoughtfully placed logs and wooden planks to make the creek crossings easier. Julie made sure that Tahia was able to get across them without too much difficulty while at the same time trying to let her figure out how to get across without getting her feet wet.

Julie and Tahia going across the first unbridged stream crossing Julie and Tahia going across the next unbridged stream crossing The trail was a little narrower at this point

This was the first stream crossing. I think I counted at least another two or three more. Some parts of the trail were a bit narrow, but they weren't anything we hadn't seen before. In fact, it seemed like a pretty family-friendly hike as evidenced by other parties on the trail with kids. This was the case despite the minor hazards along the way.

Julie and Tahia on another unbridged crossing Broad view of Limekiln Falls Looking across the base of Limekiln Falls

Sure enough, we made it to the familiar Limekiln Falls, but it definitely looked different than the last time we were here when the falls had a lot more water draping over the 75-100ft limestone wall. Now, the falls was split and draped on the opposite ends of the limestone wall exposing the mossy green wall in the middle. It had sort of a Burgess Falls quality to it. Still, the falls was impressive, though to get up to the very base of the falls, there was some steep climbing across a fallen log to do (kind of like before).

First look up at the impressive Limekiln Falls even in low flow Closer look at the main part of Limekiln Falls Direct look at one of the two split drops of Limekiln Falls Sharing the base of Limekiln Falls with a large group

There were a lot of shadows covering the lower parts of the falls so it wasn't the best of photo conditions, but at least the deep blue cloudless skies contrasted the uppermost reaches of the falls.

Looking up at the other column of Limekiln Falls Julie and Tahia didn't chill out for too long at the falls since they couldn't do the climb up to the very base of the main falls. They left that to me to document the falls the way that we've been doing for the past few years (but didn't do on the first go around). Meanwhile, they would be headed back to the car and then the Limekiln State Park Beach beneath the Hwy 1. I figured since I'd be spending time here, and then hiking towards the Lime Kilns further up the Kiln Trail, that'd give them ample time to enjoy the beach before I catch up and rejoin them.

At the trail junction where I then went up the Kiln Trail as I left the Falls Trail Weaving between coastal redwoods as I left Limekiln Falls So after chilling out for the next 15-20 minutes at the falls (sharing it with a large family that was here enjoying themselves), I then hike back down to the Kiln Trail, where I then continued going further into the valley surrounded by more coastal redwoods with a few memorial signs interspersed amongst them.

I wasn't sure how much further I was supposed to walk to get up to the kilns, but it was nice to be alone on the trail for most of the hike. It contrasted mightily to the much busier waterfall trail. And after what seemed like another 10-15 minutes or so, the trail then narrowed before opening up again right in front of four kilns, which were really four tin cylinders with concrete-brick-like bases. There were some scraps that had already fallen from the kilns, and there were warning signs indicating that the kilns were unstable and that we shouldn't get too close to them (i.e. beyond the rope barricades).

Approaching a narrowing part of the Kiln Trail Finally made it to the lime kilns Looking across a couple of the kilns

I could see that some of the kilns were blackened possibly from a fire that had passed through here. In any case, I recalled reading previously before this trip that these kilns were supposed to process mined or quarried limestone (since they were readily available considering the featured falls here flowed over a limestone wall). The processed limestone would then become fodder for roads or buildings serving whatever settlements were along this rugged coast at the time.

One of the lime kilns Another one of the lime kilns When I had my fill of the kilns, I then quickly made my way back to the car park as it was now encroaching on 3:45pm or so. When I finally made it back to the car park, I was shocked when I caught up with Julie and Tahia waiting to use the bathroom and that they said they didn't even get to the beach yet! I couldn't believe it considering I was taking my time on my extra excursions while they were supposed to make a beeline for the falls.

Passing through a grove of coastal redwoods as I made my way back to the car park So with Tahia still wanting to play at the beach like we promised, we then headed over to the beach beneath the highway, but now we were running out of daylight. The inefficient use of time meant we probably weren't going to check out Pfeiffer Beach at sunset like I was hoping. Plus, we probably weren't going to have dinner nor check into Monterey until much later in the evening that we were hoping as well.

Julie and Tahia approaching the beach at Limekiln State Park Anyways, the waves were a bit rough at this dark-sanded beach. It wouldn't surprise me if there were rip currents here, and it seemed like the swells were funneled into this cove.

Julie and Tahia passing underneath Hwy 1 as they near the beach at Limekiln State Park On the way to the beach, I noticed there were a few campsites a short distance upstream from this beach. We never knew that you could camp at these spots, and I wondered if it might be a good idea to camp here to save on accommodation expenses next time.

At 4:20pm, we were back at the car. Tahia didn't want to leave as she was well into playing in the sand futilely building sand castles without being able to wet the sand. Since we weren't going to let her get near the water, I think she eventually capitulated and let us take her back to the car so we could at least fit in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park visit before gunning it to Monterey.

Beach at Limekiln State Park Beach at Limekiln State Park Tahia happily playing with the sand at Limekiln Beach

It only took us another 25 minutes to get to the busy Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (arriving at 4:45pm), and we weren't able to find parking in any of the designated parking spots near the payment kiosk. We showed up just as the park employee was leaving so I guess we wouldn't be paying the $10 fee with a live person (though I wondered if our $10 fee from Limekiln State Park would've also covered this spot).

Looking back towards the campground and car park as we started to leave the beach at Limekiln State Park Passing through a campground for the beach at Limekiln State Park At the car park for Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

So we parallel parked where some other cars were parked right across from the payment kiosk. Julie and Tahia then stayed in the car waiting for me to do a quick out-and-back hike out to Canyon Falls (knowing that this was another one of those places we hadn't visited in 12 years due to fire damage from our 2010 visit that denied us that opportunity).

Starting the hike to Canyon Falls On the trail to Canyon Falls Passing through a small picnic area on the way to Canyon Falls

As I was hiking past the sign at the interior of the car park, then past a small picnic area, I then followed an initially obvious trail, but then it started to get a little confusing around a creek crossing and some makeshift rope barricades. The further I went upstream, the more I realized that they indeed re-routed the trail from last time (apparently braching off the Ewoldsen Trail along the way).

A small creek crossing around the part where the Canyon Falls Trail started to get re-routed and a little confusing Continuing on the re-routed part of the Canyon Falls Trail Distant look at Canyon Falls A couple of kids approaching the base of Canyon Falls

But it didn't take long before I found myself alone with the Canyon Falls, which was not easy to photograph given the shadows cast on it. But I did notice that there were some hidden upper tiers to the falls while also having a surprisingly decent flow despite the drought.

At the base of Canyon Falls Closer direct look at Canyon Falls I had a feeling that ocean-bound creeks and waterfalls probably benefitted from being at the bottoms of drainages before rejoining the ocean so perhaps that was the reason for its resilience to the multi-year drought in which we were in the midst of our fourth straight year of it.

A father and two kids eventually showed up while I was busy taking photos and movies of Canyon Falls. They provided subjects on some of my photos to show how small this waterfall was. But while they were chilling out at the falls, I was making my return back to the car park. And by 5:25pm, I rejoined Julie and Tahia so we could get out of the car and check out McWay Falls together.

Heading back through the forest from Canyon Falls This sign hinted at why the trail to Canyon Falls was a little confusing given the re-routing that was done in an attempt to avoid the fire-damaged parts Back at the somewhat confusing part of the trail to Canyon Falls

Julie and Tahia were busy avoiding the poison oak that was flanking parts of this trail (just like they were all over the Limekiln Falls Trail), and they headed straight to the overlook of both the falls and beautiful cove. Meanwhile, I took a slight detour to finally check out the Pelton Wheel since I always skipped it in years past.

Back at the kiosk at the entrance to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Julie and Tahia headed down towards McWay Falls At this junction, I decided to take a quick detour to check out the Pelton Wheel for the first time

Apparently, the Pelton Wheel was a little hydroelectric waterwheel that was in use in the 1940s to provide electricity probably to the Waterfall House, which was just beyond the overlook of McWay Falls. The signs here indicated that McWay Creek didn't have high volume, but it did have high velocity from the topography here as well as a steady stream.

Julie and Tahia continuing on towards McWay Falls Approaching the Pelton Wheel Inside one of the rooms comprising the small hydroelectric facility powered by the Pelton Wheel

Anyways, I then rejoined Julie and Tahia again along with heaps of other people all checking out the beautiful view of McWay Falls that never disappoints as far as we were concerned. This time, it seemed like the color in the water was a beautiful hue of blue, and we even noticed some sea otters or sea lions doing backstrokes in the McWay Cove.

The familiar walkway leading to McWay Falls The familiar view of McWay Falls in the late afternoon Looking back at the cliff-hugging walkway between Hwy 1 and McWay Falls overlook

We then contined walking beyond the overlooks towards the remains of the Waterfall House. I had recalled back in 2001 when we last went this far, this placed seemed unremarkable and pretty overgrown. At least that was what I thought I remembered though it seemed like we didn't have the photos to prove it.

Continuing on to the remains of the Waterfall House Gorgeous view of McWay Falls and McWay Cove Looking northwards from the ruins of the Waterfall House

However, this time around, it was busy with lots of people taking photos against the wide open overlooks or chilling on the pair of benches or even reading the signs here talking about the massive landslide in 1983 that changed the appearance of McWay Cove while closing Hwy 1 for nearly a year as well as the life of Julia Pfeiffer Burns who made this place her home for a good part of her life.

Looking uphill towards the other remaining terraces of the Waterfall House The view of the ocean from the Waterfall House Looking down at a sea otter or sea lion doing a backstroke in McWay Cove

Julie and Tahia leaving the Waterfall House terrace One last look at McWay Falls before we headed out Returning to the car park at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

In any case, the feeling here was definitely different than all the other times Julie and I have been here in years past. It was just way busier than I had ever seen this place, and it further affirmed our suspicions that Spring Break was in effect at the same time as Tahia's. Nonetheless, Tahia enjoyed the experience, and we were back at the car at 6:20pm.

As much as I wanted to squeeze in a visit to Pfeiffer Beach (which according to the signs at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park said it was 11 miles to the north), we ultimately decided to just gun it for Monterey and go for a late dinner. It was a shame because I knew that Pfeiffer Beach would be the best for photographs at sunset, but I guess we'd have to come back to it tomorrow, meaning that tomorrow's planned excursions wouldn't just be the Monterey Aquarium at a relaxed pace.

Walking through a garden where it was easy to get zenned out as we climbed the steps up to Nepenthe So while we were thinking about dinner, we thought maybe we should strive for early dinner around the Big Sur area. When we saw that Deetjens was crowded (given the lack of parking there), we then thought about heading for the Nepenthe Restaurant. When we pulled up to that restaurant at 6:35pm, then walked past its zen-like garden on the way up to the main restaurant, we were then told that we had to wait an hour before dinnertime.

Waiting there for that long and forcing us to drive Hwy 1 in the dark didn't seem palatable. So we headed back into the car 10 minutes later, then continued straight north to Monterey. Along the way, we could've stopped and pulled over and waited for the sunset, but we just pushed on. Eventually at 7:35pm, we finally made it to the Holiday Inn Express, which we managed to score two free nights using rewards points.

We actually stayed by some lake at the town of Seaside, which wasn't near the Cannery Row location deeper in Monterey, but for the extra 10,000 points per night, Julie thought it wasn't worth doing that just for that location, especially since it turned out that we weren't that far away anyways.

Once we checked in and got settled, we then quickly drive a mere four miles to this place called the Monterey Fish House, where again we had to wait an hour before getting our long awaited dinner, but in the end, at least we were fed, we weren't desperate enough to have to eat at the Chili's by our accommodation, and we got some crab cake, a lobster pasta, and some seared ahi tuna. The food wasn't extraordinary and we were a bit lighter on the wallet, but it wasn't bad either.

After the dinner, we left the restaurant at around 9:45pm (they closed at 9:30pm and we weren't seated until about 8:45pm), and we then went to a nearby Safeway to pick up water and some munchos. While we were checking out, Tahia commented, "Daddy! Look! Is that a tattoo?" as she was pointing to a young lady's thigh, which was marked up with a tattoo.

That was the ice breaker, and that engaged her and her friend in a conversation with her. I guess kids can be so honest sometimes. And it's all part of the fun when we go traveling with her.

With the pleasantries over, we returned to the accommodation at 10:10pm. With our day starting at 8am and not ending until now, it indeed had been a very long day out. All of us were beat, and we were looking forward to having a more laid back day at the Monterey Aquarium then at Pfeiffer Beach tomorrow...



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Day 2: TAHIA'S BEACH FIX
It was about 7:30am when we awoke. The morning was pretty lacksadaisical as we took our time getting up, getting ready, and then having the included breakfast. Since the Monterey Aquarium wasn't open until 9:30am today, we weren't in a rush. Plus, we intended to spend the afternoon visiting Pfeiffer Beach, which was something that Julie and I had never done in all the times that we have come to Big Sur over the years.

Looking out towards some lake directly from the Holiday Inn Express The brekkie room was crowded as apparently there were plenty of other families whose kids were on Spring Break. I just knew from the chaos of the morning that the Aquarium was probably going to be a zoo. In any case, we left the Holiday Inn Express at Seaside at about 9:10am, but not before taking a few photos of the adjacent lake, which had favorable morning light.

Another look at the lake by the Holiday Inn Express in Seaside It only took us until about 9:20am to get to the Monterey Aquarium, and this was even with driving a loop in search of the nearest metered street parking (seeing that we probably wouldn't be spending the entire day in just this one place). But even as we were doing this, we could see that it was already pretty busy. There was even a line piling up to buy tickets to get in!

The parking costed us on the order of $1.50 per hour, and we put in enough money to stay the maximum four hours ($6 total). That was still cheaper than paying the $10 flat rate at some of the further parking structures.

When we walked into the Aquarium, we then queued up to buy the tickets at the window wondering if we had been better off buying these things online before showing up. Julie actually made an attempt to do that while we were queued up, but something went wrong and apparently we were better off just buying the tix in person and not make things overly complicated over a few minutes.

Tahia checking out a graceful octopus Tahia checking out another tank full of fish at the Monterey Aquarium Julie and Tahia checking out one of the larger tanks showcasing sharks and other big fish

Once inside the aquarium, we then meandered around on the first floor. The first thing that caught our fancy was a couple of tanks containing some big and graceful purple octupuses. Of course Tahia was paying attention as she stared at the sea creature while Julie and I were busy trying to capture the moment.

Shortly after the octupuses, we then looked at other tanks as well as a large tank where large sharks were sharing the waters with some other big fish. I got the feeling that Julie and I got more of a rush checking out the large fish while Tahia got bored pretty quick.

Entering a pretty neat part of the deep ocean exhibit at the Monterey Aquarium Tahia mesmerized by the impressive array of jellyfish in this tank at the Monterey Aquarium Tahia checking out the moon jellyfish

Next, we went towards the impressive jellyfish display where Tahia was having a blast looking at the graceful and abundant creatures with their interesting shapes and colors. Again, Julie and I were trying to capture the moment while Tahia kept inquiring about what she was seeing.

Another large tank with sharks and other big fish, but this time there were two stories of viewing decks We then went to another big tank full of sharks and other big fish with viewing from both the ground and upper floor. Then, we went towards an area where Tahia got to touch some of the docile sea life like certain crabs, kelp, starfish, sea urchins, and others. Tahia was timid, but the employee there was being gently encouraging to her.

Tahia finally getting her Nemo fix After that, we then went upstairs towards the coral reef area as Tahia got impatient and was insisting that we go see Nemo (i.e. the clownfish). So we took her there, and let her get her fix. Then, she noticed there were tunnels and playgrounds and that was pretty much it as far as our aquarium visit as she refused to do anything else except play with the stamps, the toys, and the slides.

Tahia checking out some more reef life Just watching Tahia being a kid was exhausting work even though neither Julie and I were exerting ourselves much on this visit. But it was almost like the feeling I would get when Julie used to take me shopping (before she realized how brutal that was for me and would leave me home).

By around 11:30am, we left the Monterey Aquarium (which at $105 total for all three of us spending two hours here wasn't like we were getting much bang for the buck). And we then headed into Cannery Row, which was a historical area that was pretty much turned into a made-for-tourist block.

Entering Cannery Row just as we left the Monterey Aquarium Looking back at the Monterey Aquarium Walking deeper into Cannery Row

There was an attractive area with a fountain and some statues as well as some blooming flowers as well as a view of a small golden sand beach as well as the Fish Hopper Restaurant jutting out over the blue waters under beautiful skies.

Beautiful day to be enjoying this part of Cannery Row Beautiful day to be enjoying this part of Cannery Row Beautiful day to be enjoying this part of Cannery Row

We ultimately decided to eat at the Fish Hopper, which was expensive, but I guess that helped us to control our portions. The food was decent though the price was probably a bit on the high side for the quality of food.

Beautiful day to be enjoying this part of Cannery Row The Fish Hopper was where we decided to have lunch though it was quite expensive After lunch, we passed through Cannery Row and back to our street-parked car

Anyways, after the lunch, we then got back to the car at 1:10pm. We pretty much exhausted our four hours of street parking, and now it was time to head on to Pfeiffer Beach. Tahia was really looking forward to it, and she wouldn't stop asking us (more like demanding) that we go to the beach.

We had built up her expectations for Pfeiffer Beach and hopefully it would deliver - especially considering that we would have to drive nearly 90 minutes to the south to even get there.

The drive was beautiful but slow thanks to slow drivers who refused to use pullouts. I guess that was something to deal with on a day as busy as today (Spring Break and apparently Good Friday as well!). And so it wouldn't be until we found the easy-to-miss Sycamore Canyon Road, which was a sharp turn (as we were headed south) right off the Hwy 1 not far from the Pfeiffer State Park.

Just as we turned onto the road, we had to wait behind a couple of cars as someone was there doing traffic control. Clearly, the parking situation was full, but it turned out that we wouldn't have to wait too long since they had let us through after barely five minutes. We were about to claim one of three spots that had just freed up.

The drive was on a narrow 1.5-lane road that was pretty bumpy but still mostly paved. It was nothing compared to the even narrower roads that we were used to dealing with in Europe. But since we were driving our own car (instead of renting one this time around), I was a little less aggressive with the turns and the margins as well as being generous in letting cars going in the other direction pass by before proceeding.

Finally at around 2:30pm, we would make it to the closest car park for Pfeiffer Beach where we claimed one of two spots. There was an employee directing traffic there so it seemed like they had the parking situation and traffic situation under control despite how busy it was apparently.

Julie and Tahia walking towards Pfeiffer Beach The cost to park was $10 which was pretty pricey. But I guess since we had a four-year-old in tow eager to play on the beach, we didn't want to spend more time than necessary on walking the Sycamore Canyon Road. That said, we did notice quite a few people who didn't wish to pay the $10 and park on some large pullouts on Hwy 1 before walking all the way to the beach.

Julie and Tahia getting even closer to Pfeiffer Beach It was only a couple of minutes walk through a shaded riparian habitat and grove of wind-bent trees before finally showing up on the fine sand. It was quite bright and it was also a little bit windy. Still, Tahia wasted no time finding a spot by the freshwater stream, which allowed her to make her attempt at building sand castles or play with the sand toys that we had brought.

Julie and Tahia on Pfeiffer Beach Julie stayed with Tahia while I was busy exploring Pfeiffer Beach.

Julie and Tahia playing at Pfeiffer Beach Immediately as I looked towards the ocean, I could see there was a large sea rock with what looked like a pair of small arches. There was enough of a high tide so that it would require some degree of climbing to get up to the arches, and I could see immediately on the other side of them that the waves were crashing and splashing. Since I was looking almost directly against the high mid-afternoon sun, the photos were suffering from sun glare as well as high contrast.

Looking towards a pair of small sea arches at Pfeiffer Beach There were also people standing on top of that rock, which actually didn't look like a very trivial climb. I didn't bother with it.

Basking in the unspoiled beauty of Pfeiffer Beach As I walked further along the beach, I started to get stung by sands kicked up by the sporadic gusts of wind. It didn't take long before I started to notice an even more impressive sea arch on another sea rock. This time, the arch had more of a rectangular shape and there was no way the tides would let me get close to the arch. In fact, sometimes the waves were high enough to essentially fill up the span of the arch with whitewater.

Impressive sea arch on a large rock at Pfeiffer Beach And again, the lighting conditions didn't do me any favors in terms of taking that nice shot of the scene, and I could see why photo buffs would want to wait until near sunset to take their shots (especially in those rare times of the year when the rays from the setting sun would shine through the arch).

Continuing into the windy parts of Pfeiffer Beach Beyond the arch, I kept going along the sandy beach just to see what else was there. And the further I went, the more I was getting stung by high velocity sands kicked up and hitting my arms and neck. My hat also had a tendency of blowing off my head with the strap wrapping around me neck so the hat wouldn't completely fly away.

Looking back towards the calmer side of Pfeiffer Beach At some point, I started to see a dark purple patch of sand. So this was the purple sand that people were talking about!

Colorful scene of purple sand fronting orange cliffs and blue skies all contrasting each other at Pfeiffer Beach It was pretty impressive. Even as I looked back towards the rocks and the reddish cliffs contrasting the cloudless blue skies, the purple sand complemented all those colors and made for decent photos.

Another glorious look across purple sands at Pfeiffer Beach The wind was really blowing out here (and so were the stinging high-velocity sand grains), so I endured what I could while taking what photos I could while trying to keep my camera from getting sandblasted. Indeed, this was a similar kind of force to what gets used to remove graffiti from walls that probably couldn't be painted over.

Heading back towards where most of the people were chilling out at Pfeiffer Beach Eventually, I made it back to Tahia and Julie. Tahia was totally happily playing in the sand and Julie was playing along with her. It was nice to have the freshwater stream adjacent to the sand so we wouldn't have to get close to the rip currents and crashing waves of the Pacific for the water to help with the sand castles.

Last look at a large concentration of purple sand at Pfeiffer Beach Indeed, this spot was somewhat protected more so than where the purple sand was. But there were some sporadic gusts here and there that conspired to life our mat and our belongings out.

Tahia playing in the sand next to a freshwater stream at Pfeiffer Beach In fact, Tahia was having so much fun that we eventually found out that she had peed in her pants without telling us. I guess in her mind, she'd rather stomach the consequences as long as she got her beach fix in. But little did she realize that we could've let her play an hour more or so, but as punishment for soiling her clothes, play time was over.

Julie leading us back towards the larger sea arch at Pfeiffer Beach, but Tahia was struggling with the winds Julie spent time getting Tahia to the bathroom by the car park, which turned out to be quite gross. Julie also didn't have a backup pair of pants for Tahia. So she just had to deal with it.

Back at the car park for Pfeiffer Beach We spent the remaining minutes of our time at Pfeiffer Beach checking out the squarish arch. That was about as far as we would go because Tahia wasn't enjoying getting blasted by the sand in the high winds. So by 4pm, we were back at the car. Even though it was getting late in the afternoon, this beach was still quite the popular spot as the car park remained mostly full. I wondered if we would've had a better experience yesterday afternoon at this beach when it was less windier and we were getting closer to sunset.

Oh well. Hindsight's 20/20.

We followed another very slow caravan of slow-moving vehicles along the Hwy 1 (this time there were a pair of RVs refusing to use the pullouts and caused probably a mile's length of vehicles following them with us being the fifth or sixth in line).

So the drive was excruciatingly slow, but when we got closer to Monterey and Seaside, we ultimately decided to just forget going back to the Holiday Inn Express to change Tahia's clothes and just gun it for Cannery Row again, where there was this French Restaurant called Moulin that Julie wanted to try.

We'd eventually get there at 5:25pm where we once again found street parking that was metered (though we realized after the fact that the restaurant had their own parking apparently). Oops. Anyways, we put in for 3 hours figuring that would give us plenty of time to enjoy the French cuisine.

The food was pretty good as it started with escargots in the Burgundy style (always something we like). And then we had the mains though Julie regretted getting the quail over the duck (though the foie gras on the quail was what sold us). She also had osso bucco and Tahia ate what we ate. Then, we topped it all off with tiramisu dessert.

Back at Cannery Row, but this time in the twilight hours When we left the restaurant, we still had nearly an hour left so we decided to walk back to Cannery Row just to see what it was like there at twilight. I had thought the block would be dead at this time of day, but it turned out to be a bit busier than I had imagined.

As it was cooling down, people were still enjoying this scene at Cannery Row We ultimately went back to the pretty little spot with the fountains and statues to take some photos before settling in at the Ghiradelli place on the far opposite end of Cannery Row (relative to the Aquarium). We ended up indulging in an expensive hot fudge sundae ($10 though the vanilla ice cream left much to be desired for such a pricey dessert). I'm sure we'll be paying for it with our bulging guts or lactose intolerance tonight or tomorrow.

Looking back towards the Fish Hopper Restaurant after the sun had set Fully sated and indulged, we then returned to the car at 7:55pm. And by 8:05pm, we were back at the accommodation at Seaside so wind down this day. At least we wouldn't have to have a late dinner like last night, and so we eventually slept at a more reasonable hour as well.

Last look at Cannery Row before we returned to the car Tomorrow, we were going to drive home, but somewhere along the line, Julie decided to ditch Hearst Castle and the Sea Lion watching tomorrow and just head straight for home. I guess given the traffic experience and how busy it was on this day, it sounded like a reasonable idea. But at the same time, so much for carpe diem.

Oh well, at least we'd be home in time to watch the Final Four (something I thought I would have to miss), and then Julie would get to catch up with one of her friends who actually came down to So Cal from No Cal for this Easter Weekend.



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Day 3: THE DECISION TO BEAT TRAFFIC
It was about 6:30am when we awoke. We didn't need an alarm though Julie had hers set anyways. And after another drill of getting ready for the day, wrapping up our packing of our belongings, and then brave the crowded breakfast room, we checked out and then headed out at 7:45am.

After a brief difficulty trying to figure out the best route to get home from Monterey, we eventually decided to take the 101 after going a fair bit on some local roads. Then, it was pretty smooth sailing as we headed south towards Paso Robles, then cutting across to Lost Hills before getting onto the familiar I-5 heading south towards Bakersfield and then the Grapevine.

Eventually at 12:05pm, we stopped for another Panera Bread lunch at Tahia's request, but this time we were near Magic Mountain in Valencia. We were trying to encourage Tahia not to be overly picky about eating real foods by telling her that if she grew another 50% taller, she might be able to ride the big roller coasters of Magic Mountain. Of course, she's way too petite for that now as she can't even go on most of the Disneyland rides.

Anyways, it would finally be about 1:55pm when we got back home. We had intended to beat traffic by leaving on this day instead of Easter Sunday tomorrow, but there was still traffic on the I-5. I guess that can't be avoided. Anyways, that left us with an afternoon to recuperate as well as Easter Sunday of doing nothing tomorrow. And do all this before rejoining the dreaded rat race when this Spring Break was over...




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