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Our next destination was camping in Andrew Molera State Park, insde the long coastal area generically referred to as Big Sur.  For those unfamiliar, Big Sur is a legendary California camping and hiking destination nestled between Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo, adn between redwood forests and the ocean.  However, the beauty begins well before the destination.  Interstates 101 and 1 are breathtaking.  Smooth roads, forests, meadows, and mountains the entire way.  We made a quick stop at Pismo Beach, which is at about the halfway mark from Santa Barbara to Big Sur.  Pismo is definitately a must see, in light of its huge sand dunes. Imagine Tatooine (this is a Star Wars reference for you non-Star Wars geeks) on the beach. It isn't terribly isolated though.  However, if you have a large group, and maybe some sand boards or horses, it would be a great weekend trip.  by the way, Ruthie actually got to ride some woman's horse around a little, which took her back to her childhood glory.  She did look pretty sweet up there, but you can check it out for yourself in our photo galleries.  That night's happy hour was at "Chele's" on the Pismo Pier. At first, it appearted that it might be a bad tourist trap joint, but actually had a great tuna salad and turkey sandwhich, with an ocean view.   

One short helicopter evaculation later, of what we can only hope were motorcycle crash survivors, we pulled into the Andrew Molera trail head at about 9pm.  We're not huge fans of packing in and setting camp in the dark, but it has a strange appeal and challenge.  Luckily, it was a fairly short pack in, and we had campg set and food going in no time.  The night ended with one of our 18 month long backgammon tournament.  I started off with a blistering 2 games to 0 lead only to have Ruthie battle back to a 2-2 tie by bed time.

Things got interesting the next morning.  We woke up to a ranger obnoxiously saying "Hello in the tent, hello in the tent" over and over again until we had no choice but to acknowledge him.  Imagine the teacher from Beavis and Butthead with a little ranger outfit and a mountain bike.  A "magnificently large" mountin lion had just been sited less than 300 yards from our tent.  Nice!  Apprently, they're usually pretty easy to scare; no, we have never quite believed that either.  Anyhow, we still decided to do the beach trail hike which was the central reason for our visit. 

Turns out, we got lucky; no mountain lion, a goregous deer citing, and an incredible hike.  Unfortunately, we left the camera in the car for the hike, but picture about a mile of Africa looking dry savannah all the way to the coast, which was filled with tons of driftwood, large cliffs, crashing waves,  black rocks and sand, and a half a dozen red tailed hawks riding air pockets, without even flapping their wings.  The climb then continued two miles along the bluffs on a ridge  over the ocean with panoramic views of the ocean, cliffs, an old light house, and forested mountains.  For the final two miles, the trail dropped into a thick sycamore forest, back ghrough the savannah, and accross a river.  Not bad, with the exception of the tremendous amount of poison oak everywhere, and we mean everywhere. Although Ruthie was convinced it was floating around in tiny little bits of particulate matter (thanks to Wendy Schneider's tall tales), we did not get any in our mouths, throats, or lungs.  Mike just got a little bit on his leg, but it is clearing up nicely.  Notwithstanding the poison oak "scare," Mike cannot believe he waited 29 years to see this place, especially given that he grew up in Los Angeles.
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sand dunes
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