Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pacific Valley – Sand Dollar Beach

Big Sur Coast
3-4 miles
Hiking time: hard to say – spent awhile at the beach
Jo, Teresa, Julie

On our girls camping trip to Big Sur we decided to do a hike on Saturday. I looked through the books trying to find a hike that wasn’t too far from Kirk Creek campground and that we hadn’t done before. We finally decided on Pacific Valley. It’s a stretch of Big Sur that always moves me when I come around that bend of Highway 1, but one I’ve never seen up close.

We knew it wouldn’t be a long hike – the “Day Hikes in Big Sur” book said two miles – the more reliable “”Hiking and Backpacking Big Sur” said .7 miles. The “Day Hikes” book made is sound like we could combine it with a hike to Sand Dollar Beach, so we decided to try that and spend the day at the beach.

Teresa had bought new hiking boots and this was their maiden voyage. We packed our lunches, donned hiking clothes and headed south. The turn off came quickly and Teresa braked quickly screeching to a halt. Jo and I were both clutching the sides of the car, but recovered quickly. We parked in front of the ranger station.

The folks next to us were loading up there hang gliding equipment. We crossed the highway, climbed a step ladder staircase and crossed an open meadow. There were lots of cow patties – but no cows in the pasture. They must have been moved to a different grazing area. There was a beautiful view of the coast and in the distance it looked like Point Sur sticking out, but it was probably closer to the area around Nepenthe. We walked to various points and tried to find the loop trail. We followed it up the hill, but it petered out into scrub and poison oak. We turned around and decided to have lunch back on the cliffs.

It turned out Teresa had left her lunch in the car – but there was enough food to share. We talked about going back to the car and driving to Sand Dollar beach. I looked at a steep path snaking up a hillside behind the Pacific Valley Ranger Station. This was the Prewitt trail – which I had considered for the day’s hike until I found out it was 12 miles and strenuous.

Sitting there looking at the switchbacks – I tried to talk Jo and Teresa into climbing to the top of the hill – or just hiking up for an hour. Teresa was concerned about her new boots and would rather wait in the car or go to the beach. Jo could go either way she said. It seemed to me that we needed to get more of a hike in. We decided to go back to the car and decide from there.

As we headed back we saw a trail going off to our right.

Perhaps this is our missing loop we thought and decided to follow it. It did indeed loop towards Sand Dollar Beach. We could see the beach in the distance. We followed the cliff around and walked by more rock outcroppings.

The path eventually led us to a locked gate and then back to Highway One about a 1/2 mile away from the car. We decided to just walk down Highway One to Sand Dollar Beach rather than backtracking to the car. We were going to get our hike in anyway and Jo and Teresa were off the hook for hiking the Prewitt Trail.

This section of Highway One has no bike lane and lots of burr bushes on the side. Cars came whizzing by in groups. We tried to move to the right as much as possible. It wasn’t far and we made it to the parking lot. We took the trail and wooden steps down to the beach. The beach was fairly crowded but we walked past a large family volleyball game in progress and found a nice spot.

I couldn’t wait to get in the water. I was discreet and just stripped down to sports bra and sarong; Jo put on her sarong and Teresa rolled up her red hiking pants. The water was wonderful. Cool and refreshing. The waves weren’t large and there didn’t seem to be much of an undertow. Because I didn’t mind getting my sarong wet I went waist deep, while Teresa and Jo stayed closer to shore. It was great to play in the water.

The only time I usually get into the water is the plunge, so it was fun to be out during the daylight hours. Sand Dollar is a beautiful Big Sur Beach. White sand, giant rocks and the Big-Sur-turquoise-blue water. I adorned myself with seaweed and just played and played. When I came up to the beach in wet sarong, I wanted to find a nice rock to sit on.

Someone had made rock sculptures by stacking rocks into columns. I grabbed one of the unused rocks. It was quite heavy but I lugged it over to where we were sitting. Before I sat on it – I noticed just what a beautiful rock it was. It was green with sparkling streaks of what I assume is Serpentine. I decided that it was just too beautiful and decided to take it home. No matter that the sucker weighed 35 pounds (I weighed it when I got home) and that we had to climb five flights of stairs and sneak past the ranger.

I wondered if it would break the straps of my daypack and decided if I carried it in front like a baby I could give it more support. We named it Serpie – short for Serpentine. We spent awhile longer at the beach. I rarely go during the day and there was plenty to see. Several surfers and a wide variety of dogs. We could see a hang glider in the distance – probably the ones we parked next to. You also had a lovely view of Cone Peak (one of the May hikes) in the distance.

We finally had enough sun and sand. I loaded up Serpie and we headed toward the stairs. I thought – this is how much weight I used to carry around with me all the time! What a realization. I had to stop and give Serpie and my back a restaurant a couple of time going up the stairs. We climbed a little dirt path to the Highway and I stashed Serpie in the first turn out. I didn’t want to carry her all the way to the car.

I found a large plastic bag, so Jo and I picked up garbage on the way back. Teresa was more concerned about getting hit by a car and told us to watch our back packs sticking into the road when we bent over to retrieve the variety of trash we picked up. After filling the first bag, Jo produced another one. She carried the full one and I picked up another bag. There were lots of weeds along the road and we both got covered with burrs. It was a good feeling nonetheless to leave it cleaner than we found it.

We were definitely ready to wash our hands and throw away the trash when we got back to the car. We walked up to the Ranger Station where heavy metal music was blaring. We found a garbage can, next to a very nice weight workout machine. A cute young ranger drove up in a little walkman. We saw the trailhead to the Prewitt trail, but he told us there was a yellow jacket nest right in the middle of the trail. It was good that we hadn’t tried it. Been there – done that. Right, Jan?

We asked if we could wash our hands and he said the hose could be used for both washing and drinking. We washed up and Teresa pulled the car around. Since we had run low on water at the campground and Kirk Creek water is non-potable we had already paid $3.25 a liter at the Lucia Store which was an incredible rip-off. We filled up all our water bottles and Teresa’s thermos as well.

We drove south to pick up Serpie then headed back to camp for our post hike celebratory drinks. We donned our sarongs and took our drinks to the point overlooking Kirk Creek Beach.

We were sun drenched and splashed clean. It had been an amazing day of heat, beauty, playfulness and fun. Both Pacific Valley and Sand Dollar Beach are amazing spots. Well worth investigating up close and personal.

Lessons Learned: Don’t forget your lunch. Just because you can’t find the path doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist - keep searching. You’re never too old to play in the water. Pack your trash and a few other people’s as well.

1 comment:

Canucktions said...

Serpie??? You are some bad girls! Don't worry, I like bad girls. ;)

Hey Julie, there's this site that I'd like you and any of our friends to check out. It's an online delivery system for presentations complete with text chat area, one voice at a time with browser and whiteboard capability. Imagine doing a live presentation about Sand Dollar Beach and record it at the same time...point being I'm in a contest. My site explains some of it:

If you sign up to TheBigWebinar's notification list, when asked where you heard about them, reply: Robert Klein.

Thanks a bunch,

p.s. You won't be able to attend, Julie as the events are at 6PM Afrikan Dance night - oh - and big one - you need an internet connection. :)

p.p.s. I made my first online video which autoplays at my canucktions site. My company invested in Audio-visual equipment...too kewl...Turn your speakers up.