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(See my previous post for a link to a short video about hiking in Yosemite and climbing Half Dome, to get a feel on film for what the place is like.)

The remainder of my trip was spent with my family in a rented house at Pebble Beach, which is part of the peninsula that Monterey is also on. I have a feeling that most on my flist (like me) are not big pro golf fans, so I'll just note for the record that Pebble Beach's main claim to fame is an extremely scenic golf course, and our house was a 10 minute walk from it. In fact we were across the street from the practice greens or whatever they were, because there was a minor tournament going on while we were there, and we could hear the mowers start up at 5am and the steady hollow "thock" of golf balls being hit throughout the day.

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And if you were really into golf, I could see how it's a really compelling location. (My brother and his son, at least, are golfers enough to appreciate it.) But to actually play on the course -- when there is not a tournament going on -- costs some astronomical amount of money. I'll stick with mini-golf, thanks.

In the pic above, you can see a big bank of fog rolling in from the right. This picture of clear skies over the course was unusual for us. Most of the time we were there (I was there for 5 days), we were socked in with fog and clouds, and it was chilly. Drive for 10 minutes, and you usually encountered completely different weather conditions. Welcome to the northern CA coast!

On one of the days, we did the 17-Mile Drive that hugs the peninsula's coast, getting out at various spots to look at the pretty coastline (but the light was awful for pictures) and try to spot sea otters and seals. I really, really wanted to see sea otters in the wild. And then we did spot some! Plus a seal who had found a little rock outcropping and was happily lounging there. (There were also a couple of seals playing around nearby, but none of those pics came out.)

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Also on the 17-Mile Drive: The Lone Cypress.

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Not that there aren't scads of cypresses around that area, but this one has a particularly appealing vantage, and for that reason (I guess) its silhouette is the logo for the Pebble Beach Golf Course. Estimates are that this particular tree is between 200-250 years old... and they live about 300 years. So that's going to be kind of tragic sometime in the near future. (Of course, I guess New Hampshire just laughs bitterly in the direction of other iconic landmarks destroyed by the ravages of time.)

The house we stayed in had a garden that was specifically geared towards attracting hummingbirds, which was exciting to me as I had never seen a hummingbird in action before. It was just so totally cool to be sitting there at breakfast and to have a hummingbird come around and visit all the bushes outside the window! Of course, my camera is not really good enough to get a pic of a hummingbird in flight. However, at one point, one landed, and stayed in place long enough for me to dash and get my camera and get back to get the shot.

Black-chinned hummingbird:

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So, on the day before the wedding, I had just enough free time to make a quick drive down to see parts of Big Sur, which I didn't want to miss while I was there. I didn't have a *lot* of time, but enough for a nice little drive down and a short walk and lunch and then the drive back. Parts of the drive were pretty socked in by fog, but for at least bits of it, the fog lifted here and there to give me more of an impression of the area.

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Above, the outlet of the Little Sur river.

Here, the famous Bixby Bridge (built in 1931-32), which I guess is the most dramatic of the bridges along this stretch of highway. Alas, both going and coming, it was pretty foggy in the vicinity of the bridge, so I couldn't get pics of it with a lot of its dramatic coastal backdrop:

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I drove as far south as Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, because some of the family had driven down there a couple of days before and reported that there was a nice little trail that went out to a view of a scenic waterfall, and that sounded good to me, and like something I could accomplish in the little time I had.

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As it turned out, frankly, McWay Falls was... smaller than I had anticipated. (I thought maybe it would be big and broad and rushing.) But it has to be said that its setting, with it plunging over the cliff directly onto the beach, was quite lovely. The trail you use to get views of it goes out to a headland that apparently once had a private house on it, and the view above was their view from the living room window. But when the owners died, they willed the land to the state for a park, and the house was torn down. So only the foundations and an old patio are still there.

View looking the other way, north up the coast. Now *that's* some California coastline!

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The first poor-man's panoramas that I tried to take. (The really sad thing is that my camera has a panorama function, but I still haven't figured it out.) This was the view from the terrace of the little cafe attached to the Nepenthe Restaurant, where I had lunch:

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I suggest clicking through to enlarge the view.

On the drive back, the clouds lift for a bit and prove that yes, there really are even more tall mountains here:

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Panorama of the drive: from the mountains to the sea.

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Big Sur truly was very beautiful. Someday I'd really like to drive a lot more of the coast (or better yet share the driving with someone). As rednikki promised, it did remind me a lot of parts of New Zealand. (I should note that on my trip to NZ, which was in August, which is their winter, I also had the experience of a lot of the more spectacular views being covered in fog or clouds.)

And as I remarked to her in an earlier comment, it's not that Big Sur was a let-down after Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada. But I probably would have been even more wowed by it if I had done it in reverse order.

So that was it for my California trip! I saw a lot in a fairly short amount of time. The wedding itself was lovely, too. (It was held at a winery up in the Carmel Valley, which is also hard to beat for scenic.) I'm really glad that I took the time, even if it wasn't the greatest time to be away from work. I don't know when I'll be able to get back there, but I know that I definitely want to, because there's still so much more to see.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
rednikki
Oct. 19th, 2010 03:27 pm (UTC)
There's a tour in Monterey called Monterey Movie Tours, in which they show clips from movies of various spots in the area as you drive by. There's a clip of the Lone Cypress from a film that dates back to...oh, 1908, I think? The tree was probably half the size it is now, or less. It was neat, and disconcerting!

McWay Falls is bigger during the rainy season, although this summer it's bigger than it normally is in summer, since the rainy season never really ended.

How did you like Bernardus?

Looking at your photos, I'm really sorry I didn't manage to take you kayaking in Elkhorn Slough (otters are known to actually climb on the kayaks - which is fun until you realize you have to get the bloody things OFF), or take you on a drive down through Big Sur when it was more sunny. If you come back (and it's not two days before we're leaving for Burning Man) I would be happy to drive through Big Sur with you. Also, at the right time of year, we could go out to the Pinnacles, which has the advantages of being a strange almost lunar landscape and having tons of wildlife. And if you came out in January, we could go to Lake San Antonio and check out the bald eagles!
raqs
Oct. 19th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)

OTTERS!



Though that seal looks like its life is going pretty well too.
jenlev
Oct. 19th, 2010 10:08 pm (UTC)
These are truly fabulous. And you've made me wish to go there again...it's been a while. Love the 8th from the bottom..pattern of the fench makes it very cool. And ooh! OTTERS! SEAL! :)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )