Having had a stint in the High Sierras, we ventured south along the shores of Lake Tahoe, before turning westward for a Fresno Family Thanksgiving. After the holidays we continued west, crossing the Coastal Range and descending to the coast, where much more adventure awaited us.
Our path west took us over Donner Pass, the infamous site of a failed pioneering effort to make it over the Sierras with winter closing in. Lessons learned? Don’t take no shortcuts, and always remember to pack pepper!
The tribute stands on the site of one of the wretched cabins, with its 22 foot base being the depth of the snow pack on that winter, the worst in a 100 years. Great visitor center, with interpretive displays and finger foods.
On the way to my Aunt’s house, we spent a couple night’s rest a by the side of Grover Hot Springs. A madcap hot hole full of Russians, we soaked to a higher state of being and told ghost stories in the inky darkness of the empty campground.
We followed the springs with a trek on 88, which crossed the Sierras and put us on the west slope. Travel down 49 through the lustrous sun of the San Joaquin Valley took us to a couple more campsites before finally landing at Auntie’s.
Though it had been a score of years, there was much love around that Thanksgiving table, as Auntie and her son Artie hosted us to much family cheer and a needed respite from the road.
The leg to the ocean consisted of a trip across an artillery range (we travelled low and fast), then onto the Nacimiento Road. 30 miles of 15 mph serpentine turns and incredible climbs both up and down the Coastals eventually spat us out onto PCH1. We had never seen such ocean views, as the tide surged into the scalloped bay, some 200 feet below.
We figured camping would be dicey, in that the state parks in the area were typically booked a year in advance. As luck would have it, mudslides just north of us had blocked traffic from the bay area. We popped into Kirk Creek, where every space held a “Reserved” tag, but there was nary a soul camping.
We opted for a campground 5 miles south. Plaskett Creek Campground also was completely empty. Its charm was the proximity to Sanddollar Beach, a 1/4 mile stretch that is the longest along Big Sur.
It rained heavily all night, but the next morning broke clear and we were able to clamber down to the beach for some playing on the playa.