Walter and Sara Let the good times roll
In Part III, we left off at Carlsbad State Beach with plans to drive up the California Coast the next day. It was still gorgeous when we set out the next morning and Carmine the Garmin took up us through the heart of the LA on the Santa Ana Freeway for goodness sake, before we cut over through the San Fernando Valley and out again to the coast. It is amazing to me that the traffic in the Valley is bumper to bumper even in the middle of a weekday now.

We decided to spend the night at Refugio State Beach north of Santa Barbara. It was the Thursday before President’s Day Weekend and the campground was already beginning to fill up. They had just opened the second half when we arrived to find the first half pretty much entirely full but the second half basically empty. We found a nice little pull-through spot and decided to take a walk to explore the place.

Here’s the campground. You can see Rosita way back in amongst the trees. There’s one row of ‘deluxe sites’ that are all back-ins that are a bit closer to the beach. It’s still a ways to the beach so we didn’t see the value of it.

Campground at Refugio State Beach CA

It’s a pretty beach with a headland on the far end to make for a nice view. There are also some wonderful palm trees along the beach.

Refugio State Beach

There was a stand-up paddle boarder out.

Stand-up paddle boarder Refugio State Beach CA

He caught some waves along the rocks at the edge of the cove.

Stand-up paddle boarder Refugio State Beach

And I spied a Monarch butterfly on the pavement but it turned out to be dead.

Monarch butterfly

The next morning we took another walk out to the beach and were greeted by a pair of ladies doing watercolors of the landscape. I’d never seen painters with umbrellas before. It made them seem that much more picturesque.

Watercolorists at Refugio State Beach CA

The night before our section of the campground had been well over 1/2 full and more folks were streaming in as we left mid-morning. Clearly it wouldn’t be long before it was full for the weekend. We headed north and took Highway 1 up the coast. We stopped to watch the elephant seals near Cambria. It was really warm (east winds blowing out to sea) and the seals were tossing sand on themselves to try to stay cool. In past years there have been one or two doing this but this time it was nearly all of them.

Elephant seals tossing sand

They were also making much more noise than usual with lots of barking, moaning and growling. Each year that we’ve visited over the past 10 years there have been more seals on the beach. It is now one of the largest breeding colonies on the west coast. Every lump here is a seal!

Beach full of elephant seals

The bulls, who normally don’t waste energy going out in the water were out cooling off in the shallows.

Bull elephant seal cooling off in water

Of course they were also busy checking out if any of the females were ready to mate. They drag themselves around on the beach basically saying “Hey baby”.

Bull elephant seal with females

This pair really got into it. She actually was biting him on the neck. We don’t know if that was a way to get him off of her or just part of the process.

Male and female elephant seals Female biting male elephant seal

This pup came all the way up the cliff side as if to check out the people. One of the docents said he’d been doing it off and on for about a week. He didn’t stay long and then shuffled back down again to the beach.

Curious elephant seal pup

We headed on northwards and stopped for lunch in a pullout in lower Big Sur. The oxalis was in bloom in amongst the grasses.

Oxalis in bloom along Big Sur Coast

I had to stop and take at least one obligatory seascape even though I must have a several hundred of them already if I have one.

Big Sur Coast

We spent the night at Big Sur State Park. The ranger checking us in was shocked that we didn’t have a reservation. They were going to be full for the weekend but they’d just opened up a new section and there was space for us for the night. There were tons of cars cruising around with folks looking for spaces which made backing the trailer into its spot that much more interesting. But Walter prevailed and we settled in for the night.

The next day was again gorgeous. It was Saturday and since we wanted to hike at Point Lobos State Reserve just south of Carmel we set out pretty early in hopes of avoiding the worst of the crowds.

We had to stop for a one-way construction zone which allowed me to grab one more photo. Big Sur is just such a wonderful place.

Big Sur from construction zone

Boy, were we glad we left early. We had to park out on the highway at Point Lobos since they don’t have parking for trailers in the Reserve and we got a spot fairly close to the entrance. But cars were lined up to get into the place and already they were telling people there were only spots on the far back side. We headed south along the South Plateau Trail and then cut over through the woods to the Mound Meadow Trail which took us out to the South Shore Trail and the water.

South Shore Trail Point Lobos Reserve

There were tons of folks everywhere you looked including a photography class down on the rocks.

South Shore Trail Point Lobos Reserve

I had great fun timing the waves to try to get the perfect surf photo in this little cove.

Surf in cove Point Lobos Reserve

There were kayakers out exploring the kelp beds.

Kayaks at Point Lobos Reserve

I thought I saw either seals or otters out in the waves but it could have just been kelp. In any case it was gorgeous.

Point Lobos Reserve

We climbed down on the rocks and did some exploring. Walter loved these odd round formations. They are caused by deposits of something softer that has eroded faster than the rest, I guess. I’ve seen ones like this down in La Jolla too. We called them dinosaur footprints when I was a kid.

Rock formations at Point Lobos Reserve

I liked these wavy formations myself.

Rock formations Point Lobos Reserve

We hiked nearly up to Sand Hill Cove and then took the Pine Ridge Trail through the Piney Woods and back out to the entrance. By the time we left, the parking lots were full and they were doing the old ‘one car in when one car leaves’ bit. The parking on the Highway was pretty much all full too and it wasn’t noon yet!

What do people in the Bay Area do on a gorgeous President’s Day weekend? They head south to Big Sur. Once we got to Carmel the traffic going south was bumper to bumper all the way up to I-5 and beyond. I kept wondering where in the heck all those people were going to park once they got where they were going. Carmel and Monterey can only absorb so many people and Big Sur is even worse. Ah well, we were heading north so it wasn’t our problem.

We spent the night that night at Casa de Fruta on Pacheco Pass. They have 300 spots in their campground and it was over 3/4s full. Oftentimes when we stay there in February there’s nobody there but us!

The next day (Sunday), we stopped and had lunch with Walter’s nephew Jeffery and his wife Nancy in Sonoma and then stopped by in Napa to visit his sister-in-law, Dorie. We spent that Sunday night at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park outside of Calistoga, CA. It’s an older park, so the campsites are a bit small and perched along a rather steep road up in the live oaks. It’s pretty though. We had a reservation which was a good thing since the place was pretty full and it was dusk when we arrived.

The next day (Monday), the clouds began to come in. We had a pleasant drive up the coast to Trinidad, CA where we camped at Sounds of the Sea RV Park across the road from Patricks Point State Park. We opted for a pull through site but there are two back-in spots with access to a little deck that has a view.

View from Sounds of the Sea RV Park Trinidad CA

Late in the afternoon serious clouds came in and it began to rain. In the morning, it was cold and wet as we drove north. In fact, we had snow on the trees and on the road (though the car tires melted a nice track) on the high points of Hwy 101 through the California Redwoods. We were very glad we had opted to go the coastal route rather than trying to go over the Siskiyous on the way back. If there was snow sticking at 1000 feet you don’t want to think about what it was like up at top of the passes.

We stopped for lunch along the coastal portion of Humbug Mountain State Park along the Oregon Coast. It was foggy and damp when we pulled in.

Humbug Mountains State Park OR

A half an hour or so later things had cleared up a bit with a patch of blue and a little sunshine.

Humbug Mountains State Park OR

Here’s the view to the north from the turnout.

Humbug Mountains State Park OR

From this point on we were ahead of the rain and even had a bit of sunshine. We saw a few elk outside of Reedsport but no bulls this year. We got to Eugene before dark (always a plus) and set up camp in the sun!

The next morning we headed home and it started to rain just after we crossed the Columbia River into Washington. Welcome home!

I hope you enjoyed riding along with us on our winter getaway.