tldr; Monday Funday.
We had Monday off from work and we filled our day well, with a packed drive up highway one. We started the day with Choi surprising me with brunch at one my friend Courtney’s favorite places, The Madonna Inn. This “inn” is really an extravagant hotel made up of 100 over-the-top rooms, all unique and decorated extravagantly. Some of the amenities include a secret garden full of blooming flowers, a chic-looking pool with a waterfall, an all-pink restaurant (where we ate brunch), a bakery featuring lots of 70s style layer cakes, and even horses for horseback riding. It was a such a fun experience and we felt like we’d been transported into Disney or some other fairyland.
After our morning in fairyland, we headed back to the one and stopped at Morro Bay, a nice coastal town. We walked along the bay and watched adorable sea otters hanging out, wrapped in kelp and obsessively grooming themselves with their cute little paws. We also saw (and heard) lots of sea lions barking at each other as they swam around tourists on kayaks and lounged on docks and bouys. After our walk, we drove over to a nearby state park where Choi took a nap and I went on a trail run.
While heading back to the van at the end of my run, I somehow lost track of the trail (unfortunately an all too common occurrence) and found myself slowly picking my way down a steep hill through deep and thorny bushes. I wasn’t too concerned about my predicament until I started to hear a loud buzzing and looked around to find a swarm of what looked like hundreds of bees pouring in and out of a hole in the ground. A few of these bees seemed perturbed to see an intruder so near their home and started to buzz their way towards me. While I’m typically not nervous around bees, this group looked quite ominous and I hightailed my way down the steep hill, crashing through bushes and eventually tumbling my way out onto the trail, free of bee stings, but covered in little scrapes and bits of bushes. When I finally got back to the van, Choi was sleepily stretching, just waking up from his nap.
After my run, we went back into Morro Bay for a pier-side shower for me and a great lunch at a seafood place before heading back on the road. Shortly after getting back on the one, we turned off at a viewpoint known for its elephant seals. We weren’t sure how many would be there since it wasn’t mating season or pups season but we shouldn’t have worried.
As soon as we got out of the van, we were greeted by the fishy smell and blubbery sight of hundreds of elephant seals stretched out along the beach, side by side. We thought sea lions were loud, but a sea lion’s barks sound like sweet little puppies yapping compared to the obscene grunts, snorts, and roars that emitted from these well-proboscised creatures. In addition to being smelly and noisy, elephant seals are much larger than the sea lions and harbor seals we were accustomed to.
On our visit, the elephant seals we saw were females or juvenile males, laying around, throwing sand overthemslves to cool off, and lazily bickering with each other. It was crazy to be so close to such strange creatures and we can’t wait to come back during mating or pup-season, when you can see even bigger males battling for the attention of a female or pups wiggling around in the sand.
We waved goodbye to the hundreds of snorting elephant seals and headed back up the coast towards our intended destination for the evening, Big Sur. The drive started out with incredible views but (as expected) got progressively mistier as we got closer to Big Sur.
While we couldn’t see the ocean views as well as we would have liked, the moody weather perfectly fit the image that we’d had of Big Sur. Huge rocks and craggy cliffs faces peered out at us through the fog. We also got a fleeting glimpse of bright sunlight shining down through the mist onto the hillsides in Big Sur Pfeiffer State Park.
Once we arrived in Big Sur, we realized that we wouldn’t be able to spend the night there as we had planned. There was little to no signal for us to do our work the next day, and parking options were limited. We pressed on another 45 minutes to Carmel-by-the-sea, not at all a bad place to end our busy day.
Highway One, we love your cute coastal towns, your ocean views, and your unique marine life. Along We Go!