Monday, February 11, 2013

Big Sur: California Condors and More

This past weekend, Joe and I went to Big Sur. This was our 4th year going camping to Big Sur, and our 3rd year camping at Kirk Creek campground. We both really love that place!

There were many reasons why I was excited about this camping trip. The most important was having the chance to get away, into nature, to enjoy the simple things in life with my love and my dog. The second most important one was to go on my first nature adventure using my new camera.

Over the weekend I learned lots about photography, about light, and about many of the components that make a good photo. Practice does make perfect, and I sure was practicing. As Joe pointed out, now we don’t stop for me to take one photo, but we stop for me to take as many photos as it takes to get the photo I want!

Big Sur never disappoints me. Even the drive there is quite amazing, especially after you pass all the resorts of Carmel and the traffic of the main cities. Once you pass the state parks, it’s usually you, the road, the Santa Lucia Mountains, and the Pacific Ocean.

Of course, there is the occasional slow driver. Fortunately, most of them usually pull over so you can pass them and enjoy the road at whatever speed you like most.

This was the coldest camping trip we’ve ever had in Big Sur. The temps went as low as the mid 30s at night and never really went over the mid 50s during the day. The sun can make a big difference when it comes out and shines on you. In fact, two of our 3 days were quite sunny and we got suntans just like that!

The first night we camped, we stayed up later than normal and we braved the cold in order to capture some photos of the star-filled sky. The night was so clear, you could see the Milky Way without any trouble. When we were done with photos, we all snuggled in our tent!

It rained on and off all day Friday, but we managed to still have fun. After getting up with the sunrise, we jumped on the car and drove about 10 miles to Salmon Creek to see the waterfalls. This is the biggest waterfall in Big Sur and it’s beautiful! Every time we are in Big Sur, we hike there to check it out and, every single time, we are filled with happiness by seeing the falls.

Just a few yards before reaching the waterfalls, we noticed there was a group of youth (with a dog) camping by the falls. Big Sur is in Los Padres National Forest, so you can camp anywhere you want as long as you follow certain rules regarding fires and human waste. When we saw the group, instead of heading down, we went up the trail, all the way above the trees. From up there we got amazing views of the ocean and of Highway 1.

Right as it started to rain a bit again, we started our descent, and noticed that the group was now on the side of the road, waiting for someone to pick them up and take them to their next destination. Hitchhikers are a normal sighting in Big Sur.

We spent some time around the falls, skipping on rocks, climbing around and having lots of fun. Bomber was really having a blast! For a 12-pound dog, he sure can handle any situation that comes his way!

In the afternoon, we walked across Highway 1 and started walking up Nacimiento Road to a trailhead located about 2 miles up the road. As you reach the trail, you go into Kirk Creek’s canyon and, after going down on the trail, you reach the creek. It was still raining a bit when we got there but, with the tree cover, we stayed dry until the rain stopped. In the meantime, we enjoyed the magical feeling of being in the forest, surrounded by giants and hearing the water flow on the creek and fall on the trees.

On Saturday, we woke up early again and, once again, walked across Highway 1 and reached a trailhead for a trail that goes up the mountains all the way into a canyon and into the forest. We love starting our hikes early because we usually end up getting the trail to ourselves. This time it was not different and we ended up seeing only 2 people (who passed us!) as we hiked all the way to the campsite where we turned around.

The best part of this hike is the view! From up in the mountains you get the most amazing and breathtaking views of Highway 1, of the turquoise-aquamarine-blue ocean, and of the rest of the mountains. The contrast between the blue and the green is something only nature can achieve and it’s just beautiful!

After clocking 8 miles under our shoes, we ate lunch and headed to Sandollar Beach to soak up some sun and to relax before going back to our campsite.

Kirk Creek campground might just be my favorite campground ever. It is perched on the ocean cliff, it provides the most stunning views, the crashing waves can be heard from any campsite, you can walk to amazing hiking trails, and you can even walk to a small beach. All of this without ever having to get into a car, or having to walk more than a few yards!

We were down at the beach several times and,I think I got some awesome shots of the gorgeous rock formations that adorn the shore. For the second time, we saw sea otters at this beach! The morning we took off, we went down to the beach and there they were, 4 or 5 otters, playing on the water, eating their food and floating around in the rough sea! Just beautiful!

On Sunday morning we started making our way back to San Francisco. We took our time coming back and stopped in many spots to take pictures, to grab coffee, and to simply enjoy the views.

As we passed Julia Pfeiffer State Park, we stopped at an overlook where people were attentively looking at the ocean. Whales, we thought, and we immediately pulled over too. 

We didn’t see any whales here, but we did see 4 beautiful California Condors flying over our heads for a while! Snap snap snap, I captured the moment with my big lens, and felt very grateful for having the opportunity of seeing such amazing animals, knowing that they went almost extinct some years ago. There are only about 100 left and we got to see 4 of them!

The rest of the drive into the city went without any trouble. We stopped at the Bixby Bridge once again to take some photos, and then at a state preserve, where I got the best photos of poppies I have ever taken!

I hope you enjoyed this week’s post. For more fun photos, visit my Etsy store at:




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