Going BIG

By TERESA HAMMOND

The breathtaking beauty of California Highway 1 may have been interrupted, but it has not been closed completely.

While coastal access is temporarily on hold for visitors coming from the southern part of the state, 209 area residents may find this the ideal time to take advantage of a less busy Big Sur coast.

In early spring of this year, torrential rains wreaked havoc on the California coastline, causing significant damage to its roadways and bridges. To date, areas south from Mud Creek to Salmon Creek are inaccessible to through traffic inhibiting visits to San Simeon, Hearst Castle and area resorts. Caltrans announced a plan to rebuild the stretch of road affected by massive mudslides in early September. It’s an endeavor which Caltrans officials estimate will take over a year to complete and comes in at a price tag of $40 million.

Despite its recent troubles … it’s hard to beat the beauty of Big Sur.

Be it a hiker, beach bum or one ready to sit on a bench in serenity, Big Sur has a little of everything to offer those looking to get outside and escape.

Situated 150 miles west of the Central Valley, Big Sur offers everything from hiking trails, access beaches, beautiful redwoods, as well as campsites and cabins for those wishing to extend their stay. Customary with coastal temps, one is well advised to bring layers as the weather may vary on any given day.

Big Sur extends through a 90-mile stretch of diverse coastline from south of Carmel to just north of San Simeon. It remains one of the under developed parts of the California coast, making its beauty and natural landscape all the more enjoyable.

For those in a hurry to see and do it all in a fast fashion, Big Sur would not be an ideal stop. Historic Highway 1 stretches the outer most region of California, offering breathtaking views, as well as vantage points overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

While beach access isn’t in abundance as one drives scenic Highway 1, Andrew Molera State Park, Pfeiffer Beach and Sand Dollar Beach make it well worth the effort.

For those taking more pleasure from lush landscape versus sand, the Ventana Wilderness offers over 240,000 acres of unique rugged terrain. Straddling the Santa Lucia Mountains the beautiful hardscape is part of the Los Padres National Forest and is managed by the United States Forest Service.

Favorite noted trails include: McWay Waterfall Trail, Ewoldsen Trail, Pfeiffer Falls/Valley View Trails, Limekiln Trails and Tanbark Trail and Tin House. McWay Waterfall Trail offers the coastal experience with the least amount of distance at just .64 miles round trip. The well maintained trail takes hikers to a viewing area of the falls.

Of the five, Tanbark Trail and Tin House is the longest and perhaps most rugged at 5.6 miles round trip. Beginning in a redwood forest, hikers are advised to take their time on this hike to truly appreciate the landscape and the 1,600 foot climb through the trees. On the descent, breathtaking coastal views may take one’s mind off the distance of the hike.

Campers and the like should make overnight plans well in advance, as the coastal destination is always popular. Among the varying places to stay, The Ripplewood Resort offers quaint cabins, a market to serve basic needs, as well as lawn areas for day time picnics. Indoor and outdoor dining are also an option at an adjacent café.

All this offers visitors a true mountain life experience. Surrounded by large redwoods and a variety of flowers and vegetation, the locale can leave one feeling as if they are a million miles away from their troubles. ■

For additional information on Big Sur hiking, accommodations and special events visit www.bigsurcalifornia.org.

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