Hidden - Ridge- Panoramic - Bluff Loop
1,100 elevation gain
Hiking time: 4 hours
Bill and Julie
I really wanted to do a Big Sur hike. Bill agreed to go to Andrew Molera to our favorite beach. We usually take the beach and then bluff trail which is six miles. I convinced Bill to do the loop hike the Tara, Paul and I had done back in 2006.
This hike has everything - meadow, forest, ridge, mountains, ocean and great panoramas. I thought Bill would like the route because part of it was through the forest and he doesn't like dry, exposed hikes. We got to the trail head at 11:30 after picking up sandwiches in Carmel Valley.
I asked the guy at the entrance if the bridges over the river were up and he said "No, and the water is above knee level." I decided to change into my shorts. I didn't bring my tevas so I walked barefooted to the river which is very close to the parking lot.
The water was cold - I mean refreshing - and in my case went mid thigh deep. I was really glad to have my stick for extra balance and to act as a "third leg". I put on my hiking boots on the far side and we were off. We started on the river tail that parallels the river and the highway.
Everywhere it was lush and green. The wildflowers were already out in force. We saw purple iris, Indian paintbrush and lots of poppies. The lupine wasn't out yet. There was a white flower that I couldn't identify that was everywhere. This is a pleasant trail through twisted coastal oaks. Eventually you come to the Hidden Trail which is steep .9 trail up to the ridge.
The ridge trail gives you a great view of the Santa Lucia mountains and particularly of Pico Blanco. At one point the ridge opens up and you have mountains to the left and ocean to the right. We kept hearing gunshots from the mountains on the other side and hoped they weren't aiming for us.
The ridge trail turned into forest with more oak trees eventually giving way to a redwood grove. One of the things that I like about Andrew Molera is the variety of trees from birch, oak, redwood to evergreens. Butterflies were also out and fluttered around the trail. We reached the top of the ridge and there is a bench and a grand vista of the Point Sur peninsula.
We took a break to eat our sandwiches and enjoyed the hard earned view. We headed down the Panoramic trail. This intersects with the beach - but is deceptive in that you can see the beach - but there are many curves and switchbacks before you get to the trail junction. There were two guys coming up the trail as we headed down, but otherwise the beach was deserted.
It is was much smaller than it has been in the past with big waves breaking close to the shore. The point we usually get around was inaccessible. I soaked my ankles in a little stream running down to the ocean. We hung out the beach for an hour and a half, napping, reading War and Peace (yes, I carried that sucker all the way down) and playing in the water. Bill was mesmerized by the waves and eventually went down the beach exploring a bit. It was an absolutely gorgeous Big Sur kinda day. We could have gladly stayed longer at the beach, but at 3:45 we decided to head back.
It was the first day of daylight savings and so we had gained an hour of sunlight, but still had the drive home before us. The hike out on the bluffs trail was pure bliss. Birds singing, flowers, the ocean glowing. Perfect temperature. All that a hike should be. Good for the heart. Good for the soul. Good for the mind. Good for the body.
We moved at a good pace and it took a little less than an hour to get back to the river crossing. We cut across Creamery Meadows. A group was crossing the stream when we got there who had stripped down to their underwear which was entertaining. The water felt great on my legs and feet. We relaxed at the car for a bit and prepared for a beautiful drive home.
We stopped at Rocky Point for our post celebratory hike drinks - a ritual of which Bill strongly approved. The view from the deck was amazing with Bixby Bridge in the background. It was definitely a day to remember and just what we both needed.
Lessons Learned: Bring a stick when crossing a river. A day in Big Sur in spring can cure all.