Serene Scenes, Big Sur

Rushing River. Gentle Giants.

Right after New Year’s, I started a series of posts called Serene Scenes with the intention of “keeping the fresh air and wonder of nature’s beauty inside me.” I hope to find many more places to slow down, take deep breaths, and concentrate on my thoughts and wishes. I’ll share them when I do.


Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Hubby and I were hoping to see redwoods, but where? “On the western slope of the Santa Lucia Mountains, the peaks of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park tower high above the Big Sur River Gorge, where the Big Sur River enters this popular park. Walk along the banks of the river and among the redwoods, conifers, oaks, sycamores, cottonwoods, maples, alders and willows.” CA.Gov

The Big Sur River “is a relatively small river added to the federal system by Congress in 1992, as part of the Los Padres Condor Range and Rivers Act, which protected 84 miles of wild and scenic rivers and more than 400,000 acres of wilderness in California’s iconic central coast region.” https://www.calwild.org/portfolio/fact-sheet-big-sur-wild-scenic-river/

Hiking through the park, we marveled at “Colonial Tree,” which has a circumference of 31 feet and is estimated to be between 1,100 and 1,200 years old. Many more of these astoundingly tall trees tower up and out of the forest canopy.

I loved the redwoods and felt the gentle giants had stories to tell. Before we walked down a path at the end of our hike, we came across a stand of redwoods set up on a hill. Thick undergrowth covered the ground, so I climbed on top of stones and stumps until I stood high up in the middle of the trees. I touched their warm, bumpy ridges and listened. It felt like they were listening to me, too, even though I hadn’t spoke a word.

For all the panoramas, beaches, cliffs, parks, Big Sur is inseparable from the majesty of the Redwoods. Beyond their might and height, the Redwoods are a spiritual presence. Often they grow in circles as if a family, and form a center that seems to drain all sound of man and forest. You stand in the center of a grove and the stillness is almost mystical. If you have never experienced what we describe, make sure to never pass a grove on a hike, go inside it, sit on a log, close your eyes. It will change you. 

Outspoken Traveler

Hon, have you seen redwoods? What did you think?

Serene Scenes, Santa Cruz Wharf

Hannah and Morgan on the Santa Cruz Wharf

The Barking Was Not From Dogs!

If it hadn’t been rainy and chilly, I’m sure the Santa Cruz Wharf in California would have been teeming with people. Since it was practically deserted, we got great views of the beach, amusement park, and Monterey Bay. Hannah heard barking and guess what, hon? Sea lions were resting under the wharf. Cool!

Extending a half mile into the Monterey Bay, situated between the colorful Santa Cruz Boardwalk and the surfer-filled waves of Steamer Lane, the Santa Cruz Wharf offers some of most thrilling views along the California coast. At 2,745 feet, it’s the longest wooden pier in the United States, resting on over 4,400 Douglas-fir pilings. Built in 1914, the timber centenarian continues to offer a timeless Santa Cruz experience. Stroll its wooden walkways-ideally with a cup of clam chowder in hand-and discover fresh-seafood eateries, local gift shops, nature and history displays, fun seasonal events, and of course, those famous barking sea lions.

Santacruz.org

Have you been to Santa Cruz? What did you do you there?

Santa Cruz Wharf, Image source: City of Santa Cruz

Looking back at the beach.

Sea lions under the wharf.

Image source: Santa Cruz Sentinel

Serene Scenes, Sunset in Santa Cruz

Snowy Egrets in Natural Bridges State Park.

Sun Sets in the West

Rainy and chilly weather didn’t stop us from visiting Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz, CA. The sun broke through ombre grey clouds and lit up the sand where Snowy Egrets foraged for end-of-day snacks. Shore birds, most likely Double-Crested Cormorants and definitely Brown Pelicans, rested on top of an arched rock, one of the “natural bridges” the park is named for.

Natural Bridges State Park is also known for its’ tidepools, coastal grasslands, wildflowers, and Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve, where monarchs overwinter from about October to January because of “the area’s mild seaside climate and eucalyptus grove.” (CA Dpt of Parks & Recreation)Though Hubby and I visited the Preserve, we didn’t see any monarchs. We’re wondering if the chilly, rainy weather drove the butterflies further south.

Santa Cruz, which is Spanish for “Holy Cross” and is 70 miles south of San Francisco and 35 miles north of Monterey, has an interesting history.

In 1769 the Spanish explorer Don Gaspar de Portola discovered the land area which is now known as the City of Santa Cruz. When he came upon the beautiful flowing river, he named it San Lorenzo in honor of Saint Lawrence. He called the rolling hills above the river Santa Cruz, which means holy cross. 

Twenty-two years later, in 1791, Father Fermin de Lasuen established a mission at Santa Cruz, the twelfth mission to be founded in California. Across the San Lorenzo River, in what is now known as East Santa Cruz, Villa de Branciforte was established It was founded by the Spanish as one of three civil settlements or pueblos in California. The other pueblos were San Jose and Los Angeles. Villa de Branciforte later merged with the Mission Santa Cruz community across the river. 

By the 1820’s Mexico had assumed control of the area and within the next twenty years, Americans began to arrive in great numbers. California became a state in 1850 and Santa Cruz County was created as one of the twenty-seven original counties. 

By the turn of the century logging, lime processing, agriculture, and commercial fishing industries prospered in the area. Due to its mild climate and scenic beauty Santa Cruz also became a prominent resort community.

City of Santa Cruz

Serene Scenes, Pacific Coast Highway

Ocean, land and sky meet for miles on the West Coast.

Iconic Roadway. Gorgeous Vistas.

Happy New Year! I’m starting this year’s posts with views from my recent trip to California. The ribbon of highway that’s Route 1 hugs the mountains while topping dramatic cliffs that drop down to the Pacific Ocean. We of the East Coast (Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York Connecticut) aren’t used to seeing undeveloped coastline. The drive is breathtaking.

I’m hoping to keep the fresh air and wonder of nature’s beauty inside of me, to breathe deeply and visualize whenever I need to slow my heartbeat and find some moments of inner peace.

Wishing you the same, hon.

California’s coast-hugging Highway 1 is what dream drives are made of. The iconic roadway—which extends for more than 650 miles from Dana Point north to Leggett—offers endless vistas overlooking the Pacific, with plenty of redwood trees and wildlife sightings along the way. The most well-known (and photographed) stretch runs along California’s Central Coast from Santa Barbara to Monterey, passing by the unspoiled coastline of Big Sur.

VisitCalifornia.com

The Top Ten Coolest Things I Saw In California

Wedding decor handcrafted by the bride.
Wedding decor handcrafted by the bride.

California Dreaming

 I went to California for the weekend.  Hubby and I were guests at our dear friends’ son’s wedding.  It was outdoors.  It was beautiful.  I danced my dessert off.

Before this trip, I had only been to Los Angeles and San Francisco. The wedding was in San Luis Obispo, which is about halfway between LA and SF.  We drove up the coast to Carmel-by-the-Sea. Hon, I’m already (California) dreaming of a trip back to the West Coast.

Here are the Top Ten Coolest Things I saw In California this weekend.  

Driving up the coast with mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.
Driving up the coast with mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.

Do you see the tiny line in the mountain? That's the road we drove on. Yikes!
The tiny line carved out of the mountain is the road we drove on.  Yikes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 1. I’m combining these two photos to make up #1. Driving on the edge of mountains–cliffs, really–is a bit harrowing, but pretty cool. Hubby rented a convertible (picture me in an Audrey Hepburn-style scarf) so guess what I did?  Turned around and took pics of the views behind us!

Cows, cows and more cows.
Cows, cows and more cows.

2. Everywhere we drove, cattle were grazing. Cows with calves and steer with horns were wandering over hills, sitting in the shade, and chewing their cud. Moo!

Aoudads on San Simeon
Aoudads on San Simeon

3. These Aoudads, a kind of Barbary sheep, were hanging out on the road to the Hearst Castle. Apparently, William Hearst had a large menagerie back in the day. At one point, he owned 250,000 acres of land and brought all kinds of animals to his ranch.

Woman and cockatiel.
Woman and cockatiel.

 

4. Many marble statues adorn the Hearst Castle. I really liked this one.

Wineries are everywhere.
Tuscany or California?

5. The countryside is dotted with wineries. Vineyards carpet the hills and Mediterranean architecture adds European flavor.  Salute!

West Coast succelents.
West Coast succelents.

6. Hon, you know how I love texture and color?  This garden has both.  I love the contrast between the colors and the grey rocks.  I have no idea what these plants are called, so if you do, would you please let me know and I’ll add the info?

Roman Pool at the Hearst Castle.
Roman Pool at the Hearst Castle.

7. This indoor pool is enchanting. Maybe it was the millions of tiny blue mosaics or the lighting or the smaller pool room, but standing at water’s edge I felt a romance or drama or mystery coming on.

Hummingbird in flight.
Hummingbird in flight.

8. I can’t believe I got this photo. Have you ever tried to photograph a hummingbird? Enough said!

Elephant Seals on Elephant Seal Beach, Big Sur, CA
Elephant Seals on Elephant Seal Beach, Big Sur, CA

9. What could be cooler than watching young, male Elephant Seals swim, snooze, spar, snort and scratch?  I guess they get itchy, too!

Galerie Rue Royale, artist: Devon,
Artist DeVon featured at Galerie Rue Royale, Carmel-by-the-Sea

10. Energy! Powerful! Superhero! Wow!