tldr; foggy and majestic.
We arrived in Carmel on Sunday evening, after a busy day of driving up highway one. Carmel was just as misty and moody as driving through Big Sur, with gray clouds hanging low over the beaches. The beaches had big waves with lots of surfers and bright white sand. During the week, we worked from a parking spot just off the water and walked along the beach after work and to take breaks. We also loved walking around the neighborhoods, where huge modern homes sit right next to sprawling old-fashioned mansions and beautiful, small cabins. Among all of these homes and beaches were bright flowers and oak, pine, and cypress trees.
In the afternoons after work, we explored the areas around Carmel. We visited Point Lobos, a state park with lots of wildlife, brightly colored flowers, and waves crashing against sheer cliffs. We did a long but flat hike around the park and loved all of the dramatic views.
We spent a couple of afternoons in nearby Monterrey, a larger city where bright purple flowers line the parks next to the ocean. They have a bustling downtown near the water and a nice paved path through the city where I went on a run. We showered at a coin-operated shower on a pier here. It was fun to hear the loud barking of sea lions in the ocean right outside while taking a shower.
On Friday evening, we drove inland a bit to Folktale, a winery that my dad and a couple of our friends had recommended. As we got closer to Folktale and further from the coast, we left the clouds behind us and arrived at the picturesque winery with sunny skies. We snacked on a cheeseboard and split a wine tasting as we listened to live music played by a local musician. Our waitress was really friendly and enchanted by van-life. We’ve met a lot of people like this throughout the trip who have been thinking about van-life and are excited to meet people actually doing it. It’s always fun to get to share our experiences and our excitement.
After our fancy winery experience, we headed back to Carmel, picked up a slice of cake Choi had been eyeing at Safeway, and headed to Carmel State Beach. We parked at the edge of a neighborhood and followed a little path through sand dunes and flowers to the beach. We were nearly alone with just a few locals taking their dogs on walks, and otters lounging in the waves just off the shore. We sat out there for a while, just enjoying the slow pace. On our way back up to the van, we met another local entranced with van-life, a soap-maker in Big Sur with a cute little white dog.
Saturday morning, we headed off to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and were lucky to have sunny skies on the coast for the first time all week! We did a couple of quick but steep hikes with viewpoints of the ocean and the valley.
After exploring Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, we went to another state park intending to do a hike down to the ocean. About 20 minutes later, hopelessly lost and failing to find the trail down to the ocean, we decided to just relax at a pretty little creek that we’d passed. We sat in the sunshine with our toes in the cool water. It almost reminded us of the greenbelt back home in Austin.
We headed to Garrapata beach state park next, which turned out to be our favorite so far! We followed a little trail lined with flowers down from the road to the beach. On the beach, lots of people and dogs lounged around in the sand. Huge boulders dotted the shoreline off the beach and parts of the cliffs jutted out, creating little coves. I read for a while and Choi took a nap and then explored a bit.
After our busy day, we waved goodbye to Carmel and Big Sur and headed to our next destination, San Jose. On the way, we stopped to wash the van (long overdue) and pulled off at a roadside fruit and vegetable stand to stock up on fresh cherries, peaches, avocados, tomatoes, oranges, and lots more.
Carmel, we loved your misty white beaches, your big waves, and your incredible state parks. Along We Go!