There are some days when the very air you breathe seems to embrace you like a comforting hug. September 9th was not one of those days.
It was better.
We had just left Pfeiffer Burns Park, home to my absolute favorite waterfall in the US, the breathtaking McWay Falls; and on our way back north, my aunt and I spotted another captivating park within Big Sur: The Andrew Molera State Park (or AMSP).
As it turned out, this second stop in Big Sur would give me the opportunity to touch the waters of the Pacific for the first time in over four years. And in this article I’m going to recount the time when I charged a huge gaggle of seagulls (and lived), as well as show you the top five most memorable aspects of my visit. Not surprisingly, the first has to be…
1. Big Sur’s stunning coastline
From the road, the AMSP doesn’t look like much, but appearances are deceiving. To get to the good stuff, we followed a trail that led toward the beach. As it turned out, the trek to the beach was at least twice as long as we had thought. Thankfully though, the trail itself was alive with activity. Along the way we saw a deer (which actually had the courtesy to pose for a photo) and crossed a bridge over a fast-flowing river that I later found out was the Big Sur river itself.
After walking for nearly a half hour, the trail opened up onto the beach, and we finally saw the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. Blue waves lapped the pebble-covered shore; and instead of being the warm embrace I mentioned above, the sea air was brisk and cool that day, and the smell of the Pacific sharpened my senses.
Something seemed out of place though. What was it?
Oh yes, how could I possibly forget the…
2. Mysterious, Crude Huts on the Beach
Not pictured in the photo above were the strange, crude wooden huts that we found along the beach. Made primarily of driftwood, they were large enough for one or perhaps two people to squeeze inside, but they certainly weren’t going to keep any rain out. I got inside one, sat down, and looked out onto the crashing waves. In the distance, I heard seagulls.
I wondered what it would be like to actually live here on the beach, to let the sound of the waves become my lullaby and the sound of the seagulls become my alarm clock. I wondered what it would be like for even just a few days. Or, if I were marooned here far into the past, how my perspective of this place would change after being here for more than a week.
Of course, I’m sure they’d never allow it today. The beach isn’t one of the 24 designated camping spots in the park. Still, I wondered who made these huts and for what purpose.
After examining the huts, I began walking along the beach, studying it. In my observations, I was shocked by the…
3. Stunning Patterns in the Sand
Now, I’d walked beaches before. (I was born in California, after all.) But I’d never seen anything like this.
Beneath my feet, the water had created an exquisite pattern of curving lines etched in the sand. Like ancient tree roots reaching deep into the Earth, these curving lines which changed in width and depth were reminiscent of an ancient pattern in geometry of which I had no name for. Perhaps I’d never seen this before because this phenomenon only happens when the beach is littered with small pebbles… Whatever the reason, the effect was very elegant and caught me by surprise.
Something about the river behind me caught me by surprise, too. When I looked behind me, I was greeted with a beautiful sight.
Towering high above the river was mountain peak in the distance that, after doing some research, I can only guess is Post Summit (though I can’t confirm that). That wasn’t the surprising bit though. The surprising bit was the…
4. Crystal clear water of the Big Sur River
When I approached the edge of the river, I instantly knew that this river was special. Even as the river dropped off, I could see to the bottom of it easily. The submersion of the two large stones before me almost seemed to be a lie. They seemed way too defined to be underwater… but they were. In fact, if it weren’t for the reflectivity of the water, I could probably have seen the entire riverbed from where I was standing!
I decided to follow the river north, and it soon curved west again and emptied into the ocean as I’d seen before. And where it was emptying into the ocean, I could actually see where the river had eaten into the side of the beach. I can only surmise that, over time as the beach continues to grow, it gets overtaken by the river periodically, only to eventually reform again.
How many times do you think this cycle has occurred? After all, this river had been here, in some form, for thousands of years at the least.
But of course, the most entertaining element in Big Sur region is the…
5. Fascinating Wildlife (Alive or not.)
Near the river, I began to notice some oddly mesmerizing signs of life, the most interesting of which was the dried-up remains of a large pelican. It was spread out, wings slightly open, and its head was resting on its side. The pelican corpse seemed to fit in with the pebble-covered sand perfectly; and, in the strangest way, I found this dead thing aesthetically pleasing to photograph.
Perhaps if anything stays in one place long enough, it starts to look as though it belongs there. I knew I wouldn’t be there for much longer, though. Soon, it would be time to leave, but before I left, I knew I had to make some time to interact with much livelier subjects.
It was then that I began my approach.
I carefully approached a group of perhaps two dozen seagulls standing near the waves. I came closer and closer, seeing how close I could get before they flew off, but they didn’t seem to mind my presence much.
So, in a crazy moment of wild abandon, I charged at the entire flock.
Suddenly, the entire group took off into the air, flew over the ocean, and circled around, most of them landing on an outcropping of rock that was farther out. (The trick to charging a flock of seagulls is to pay close attention to where they flee and have somewhere to take cover. After all, you don’t want poo in your hair… or worse.)
After a few minutes, a few of the seagulls did return to where they’d been standing. Those few were the brave ones; and henceforth they were known as the Bravegulls.
See AMSP & Pfeiffer Burns in 1 Day
I recommend seeing the Andrew Molera State Park (AMSP) if you have time after seeing the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (which is more photogenic and easier to access). In addition to being considered the most reliable surfing area within Big Sur, overall it’s a wonderful place to relax, observe the local wildlife, and simply enjoy the Pacific. And since the AMSP is only a 20 minute drive north from the Pfeiffer Burns Park, it’s easy to visit both on the same day.
I hope you enjoyed this overview of the AMSP. As always, Marco the Spacefarer followed me and appears in each of the 21 photos in the photo gallery that accompanies this article.
The “Where’s Marco” game is like Where’s Waldo, but more challenging. If you’re new to “Where’s Marco”, learn how to play →
And don’t forget to:
Checkout the Andrew Molera State Park photo gallery →
Next: Last Glimpse of Big Sur (Sunset Timelapse video)
When was the last time you saw a sunset? I mean really saw it. Have you ever seen the last morsel of the sun slowly dip below a watery horizon? See just that in the next article which features a video of an authentic Big Sur sunset…