Saucy & Salty: A Big Sur Day Trip

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“Well, this was ambitious of us.” An hour had passed and we were deep into a windy back road, laden with potholes, and showered in debris that had fallen from the sheer California cliffs. Ambitious? Yes, a Big Sur day trip definitely was (especially when main roads are humdrum and tourist traps mean there are sparser areas to wander, find peace, get fingernails dirty and tires muddy), but as I maneuvered the tires around a deep rut, I never questioned turning the truck around, nor did Mitch expect me to. Two days in the hills of Big Sur would have been ideal; though we didn’t have two days, we had one. Hence, with ambition (and maybe a hint of arrogance) held high, we set out from the northern end of San Luis Obispo County first thing in the morning.


Ok, to be honest, it wasn’t “first thing”. It was after the first things, and then after the next yummy things like breakfast and good water pressure. See, that’s the thing about day trips- you don’t smell like the bottom of your backpack on day four, and you don’t have the inner conversation about whether to give up and let your head dread out or fight with the stubborn knots. On that note, Mitch went into get a haircut while on a road trip a few months back and the stylist asked him what product was in his hair. Mitch’s reply was, “Um, grease?” Needless to say, we don’t really give a damn while we’re camping, but I will take a steamy, hot bath any day it’s within reach.

Route could be considered less important with regards to a day trip, though our determined, sponge-like need to soak up as many experiences as possible had us choosing the infamous “scenic route”. In all honesty, if you veer off of the highway in any area on the Central Coast of California, you are likely to find something surprising, something breathtaking, and something unforgettable. It’s all pretty damn scenic. Our course led us winding through the hills of Highway 46, which is always a treat. As we crested the highest point of the pass, Morro Rock came into focus just in time for the rest of the Pacific to appear, winding north, and Highway 1 wavering against it.


After feasting the delicious sites of Highway 1, our hungry bellies eventually caught up- and just in time for the best sandwiches on the coast. Mmmmm Sebastian’s. This lunch joint is located in San Simeon, which is just south of Big Sur. You know you are getting close when you see hoards of people on the left watching elephant seals, and on the right, sneaking a peek at Hearst Ranch’s elusive zebras. A word of advice: while taking in the view from your automobile, be cognizant of unaware sightseers backing into the highway from either side with cameras in hand. Defensive-tourist driving saves both lives and selfie-sticks.

Armed with four toasties (don’t forget about dinner and lazy-morning-planning), we ate by the pier, stretched our legs, and took in the deep ocean hues.  As far as our initial overly ambitious and borderline aggressive plans go, we had loosely shaped the day to include lunch, a quick hike, and an upcountry cruise of which we had never ventured. Sandwiches in hand, it was far beyond noon and we were still sitting pretty (minus the sauce all over my fingers and face) at stage one. Last light lingered only a few hours away. After rinsing our hands, we scrapped every other plan and decided to ditch the tourists and hustle to our favorite spot in the hills. Fast forward to falling debris, potholes, and the odd transition into 4wd to muscle the heavy truck to our favorite ridge.

As we climbed into the mountains, we reminisced a bit about our first trip to Big Sur two years prior. I asked Mitch why he took me camping during the first month we had started dating. Hanging halfway out of the truck window and snapping photos as the ocean came and went, he replied, “I wanted to see if you liked the same things I liked.” He refocused his lens and took a shot of Riley, my golden retriever, poking his head out of the truck to soak up the salty air.

In all honesty, we may have forgotten how long it takes to get to the spot that plateaus over the Pacific Ocean, the spot where we can watch the tides gather toward shore in simple lines that seem to travel forever, and the spot where we can turn our backs to the water and see the magnificence of the interior, with Cone Peak towering in the distance, attracting fog and then sending it away in a classic coastal dance. Though as we took in the view, the lengthy drive ceased to matter. Stiffness in the hips subsided and thoughts of navigating the wild road waned. We wandered the area on foot for some time, marveling at crooked trees and how fast Riley can still run for his 45 “people years”.

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After scoping out future campsites and tucked away trails begging to be explored, we vacated the ridge. Last light graced us as we traversed inland. Instead of dropping into the water, the sun melted into a drier terrain of grassland studded with massive oaks. From the side of the road we sat in the back of the truck, munched on sandwich number two, and watched soft pinks and purples fill the valley, eventually morphing into a dramatic orange, before fading to black. Riley, who was previously so eager to watch the passing landscape, curled up in the truck cab and went to sleep. We wiped Sebastian’s sauce from our hands (and then my face, pants, and shoes), loaded up, and headed home.

As our headlights flew down the highway, we laughed about our exuberance and overzealous plans for the day. We also joked about the few mishaps we had, including having to duct-tape our taillight in place, Mitch remembering his camera thirty minutes post-leaving the house that morning, and bumping into two hunters with questionable permits and rifles in hand. Ambitious? Maybe. But biting off more than we can chew is our common ground, in addition to good company, great stories, and epic views. So the short answer to the original question is yes. Yes, I guess we do like the same things after all.

(photo credit: Mitchell Taylor)


RoamKacey Janeen