Road Trip Part 4: Zion to Big Sur

The final installment of coverage of my giant west coast roadie begins where I left off -- in the middle of the desert -- where after many, many hours of driving, I'd finally come to rest in the middle of a lonely desert road just shy of Utah's Zion National Park.  I slept deeply, waking up at first light in the same exact position i fell asleep in. Anxious to check out my surroundings, & also knowing that the desert colors would be at their most spectacular in the early morning light, I crawled out of my comfy sleeping bag & forced myself out of the tent. It was worth the strife, as the rising sun brought the ROY G BIV to it's full splendor. I'd broken my Aeropress the week before at camp in Crested Butte, so I had to put making & drinking coffee out of my mind for the time being.  Few things in life are as enjoyable as sipping on an excellent, freshly-pressed cup of coffee while sitting in a camp chair, under the glory of a desert sunrise.  So i just walked around & took a lot of pictures of my tent instead.

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Once the sun had fully come up & my will to go any longer without coffee had been crushed, I left my perfect little dead-end road camp & made my way to Zion. This would be my first time checking out the park which i'd heard so much about for so many years. Sadly, I only had about a half a day to spend in the park, before having to hustle the whole way out to LA for work. 

Was really looking forward to shooting on my little film camera here, but i'd already burned through all of my rolls of color film on the trip .. so I switched over to a roll of T-Max black n white for the remainder of my journey.  I was bummed that I'd be shooting bnw in a place as color-saturated as Zion .. but once I got the scans back late on, I was pretty stoked on the results.

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Clearly I didn't have the time to really explore or get to know this national treasure. All of the shots above are from the road or just off it. But i still managed to pull off into nearly every dirt turnout to take pictures, went for 2 short hikes, & even pulled on my climbing shoes for a quick bouldering session near the West entrance.  

Much as I was enchanted by Zion, by mid-day, i was getting antsy knowing that I had to be in LA that evening. I had those fresh chiles on ice in my truck & it had gotten really hot out, & the tourists were swarming all the super obvious spots. It was time to move. I stopped briefly at the Wal-Mart in St George to pick up a power inverter & more ice. That was a cultural experience. I'll leave it at that. 

I flew across NV on a steady diet of pedal steel twang provided by Gram Parsons Pandora channel, & took note as the lonely mountain & desert byways of the previous days gradually built up to a feverish crescendo of rush hour madness as I approached the greater LA area.  I couldn't have timed it any worse. By the time i hit San Bernardino'ish, i knew I would be in for a couple hours of hell before it would release me from its grip & deliver me safely on Andy & Dana's quiet South Bay street. My brief time in LA was a whirlwind of amazing friends & okay surfing & an awesome day/night of work. 

Surf check: chopped up wind swell & thick marine layer

Surf check: chopped up wind swell & thick marine layer

Of course we got wet anyway! Turned out to be pretty fun, & the marine layer burned off. 

Of course we got wet anyway! Turned out to be pretty fun, & the marine layer burned off. 

Nostalgia & the expected Hwy 1 surfmobile

Nostalgia & the expected Hwy 1 surfmobile

My only other major objective on this endeavor was to catch a couple nights of camping & maybe also a couple waves along the magical Big Sur coast.  The drive up from Santa Barbara always takes well longer than I think it will, yet I never seem to remember that when it counts ..& anyway it's mostly a gorgeous drive without traffic misery. I finally rolled into the Maiden Tavern at 10 or so, kind of delirious from the dark twisting drive in, very thirsty for a beer, & without much of a plan for where I'd actually spend the night. I like to keep things loose, apparently. The nice folks at the bar said I could just kick it in the back of the parking lot, back-of-truck style, but I opted to scrounge up some someplace a bit less public. 

I imagine if you were to poll a hundred of the tourists twisting their way through Big Sur on Hwy 1 as to what makes the place so special, you'd might get 95 real similar answers about the sweeping Pacific panoramas & the turquoise sea smashing itself into explosions of white foam & mist on the rugged yellow seacliffs. Maybe you'd get a couple people who talk about the hikes or a specific beach that they're attached to, but most people only see Big Sur from the passenger seat, & then again as arm-out-the-window photo memories on the screens of their iPhones. And they're right, the place is all in-your-face sea vs. mountains drama. And I'm not saying I'm not one of them, either. I've been to BS a bunch of different times but have never actually spent real time getting to know the place at all. And so for me, the thing about BS is as much to do with what you don't see, as it is about what you do see. Every dramatic vista reveals, for me, a hundred mysteries, in the form of hidden-from-view coves & beaches & overlooks. And then there's the barely accessible highlands, with twisting gulches shaded by ancient towering redwoods ..which actually makes up the vast majority of the BS acreage. To really get to know BS takes effort, & time.  Can't say my 2 days of exploring netted me much in the way of deep knowledge of place, but I did get some good hikes in, 1 super fun surf session, a couple dirt road rambles, an up close & personal Condor confrontation, & 1 persistent case of poison oak resulting from draping my wetsuit inside-out over an infested rock face. Here are a couple pics I snapped along the way. 

Bunch of fun ones with only 2 dudes out at this spot. The water clarity was unreal. 

Bunch of fun ones with only 2 dudes out at this spot. The water clarity was unreal. 

Way up high watching as the marine layer slowly creeps in & overtakes the coast

Way up high watching as the marine layer slowly creeps in & overtakes the coast

Rounded a corner way up high on a jeep road & came face to face with this California Condor. She looked totally prehistoric, & was close enough off the front of my truck that Henry Dog was growling at her. The bird was huge & seemed pretty unconcerned that I'd stopped the truck right next to her.  The tag on her wing says "69". More on this in a moment ..

Rounded a corner way up high on a jeep road & came face to face with this California Condor. She looked totally prehistoric, & was close enough off the front of my truck that Henry Dog was growling at her. The bird was huge & seemed pretty unconcerned that I'd stopped the truck right next to her.  The tag on her wing says "69". More on this in a moment ..

A couple dirtbikes approached from the other direction & that spoked her into flight. She rose off the thermals coming off the ridgeline & circled overhead for ten minutes or so, seemingly with her eye on HD as a possible snack. Later that day I talked with a local about the sighting, & she said to check out the Ventana Wildlife Society for more info on their reintroduction efforts of this once nearly-extinct species. I sent them the images above & got in return a super nice email explaining that the black tag #69 is actually number 569 & they even provided a link to a profile of this exact bird. Her name is "Phoebe the Forager" & she was born on Apr 28, '10, & she's mostly "bouncing between the Big Sur coast & Pinnacles National Park" these days. 

A couple dirtbikes approached from the other direction & that spoked her into flight. She rose off the thermals coming off the ridgeline & circled overhead for ten minutes or so, seemingly with her eye on HD as a possible snack. Later that day I talked with a local about the sighting, & she said to check out the Ventana Wildlife Society for more info on their reintroduction efforts of this once nearly-extinct species. I sent them the images above & got in return a super nice email explaining that the black tag #69 is actually number 569 & they even provided a link to a profile of this exact bird. Her name is "Phoebe the Forager" & she was born on Apr 28, '10, & she's mostly "bouncing between the Big Sur coast & Pinnacles National Park" these days. 

No Big Sur blogging would be complete w/o the obligatory Bixby Cr. Bridge photos..

No Big Sur blogging would be complete w/o the obligatory Bixby Cr. Bridge photos..

Everyone takes pics of this bridge for a reason .. it's incredibly beautiful in every lighting condition.

Everyone takes pics of this bridge for a reason .. it's incredibly beautiful in every lighting condition.

I think I'll call this trip report a wrap. I'll spare you the details on Bedbug Scare '14 (I'm looking at you, Klamath Falls..) & sweet-talking my way out of a speed trap incident (again, Klamath Falls, what's up with you??).  Til next time .. keep your eyes on the horizon but don't miss the good stuff that's right in front of you!