Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Day 1 of our Big Sur Thanksgiving Week 2013 Trip

Day 1 of our Big Sur Thanksgiving Week 2013 Trip.

The drive to Big Sur from San Diego is a long 7 hours. In that amount of driving, we could reach Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, or Zion National Park in Utah, but we chose to stay in California. Though I love both Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks, but we just spent some days at Zion during the summer hiking. Last spring, we hiked Grand Canyon from rim down to the river. I felt it is about time to listen to Big Sur calling. :) We actually also spent our 2012 thanksgiving vacation in Big Sur. Our memories from 2012 kept on inspiring me to go back to enjoy the wild scenery, and the wildlife.
from our Big Sur 2012 Thanksgiving Week Vacation
Big Sur 2013 Thanksgiving Week Vacation

We left San Diego about 7:00 am Saturday so that we could still catch some light when we reach Big Sur. Despite having been to the place several times, we still left with high excitement to see the wintering butterflies, whales, sea otters, critically endangered California condors and more wildlife in the wild Pacific Coast. For us, it was not much about seeing the place, which is described by National Geographic as one of world's Top Ten Drives of a Lifetime. It was more about experiencing the wildlife, the wild but beautiful scenery, and extreme peacefulness.

Why do I love Big Sur? Ahhhh, so many reasons, I will slowly share our experiences, perhaps, they would explain why I love to go back in this paradise again and again.

Anyway, here was our day 1 experience, whales will come later on day 2:
Wintering Butterflies at North Pismo State Beach

Pismo Beach is about 5 hours from San Diego. It is a very strategic stop for us, for two reasons: 1. lunch time and 2. experience again the flight of the monarch butterflies as they winter in North Pismo Beach. Below is a short 15-seconds video of the wintering butterflies, currently estimated to be about 30,000 monarch butterflies wintering in the eucalyptus and cypress trees by North Pismo State Beach.

It's very amazing  for me to learn of the flight of the butterflies, how they migrate, and how they winter together. I can't help but be filled with awe seeing them. I added background music in the video above. I actually love adding background music in my personal videos, somehow, I just find nature and music go very well together. I however try to be careful enough to add music that is not copyrighted,and are free to share. Music copyrights is very strict as youtube or facebook could block you if you got three copyright violations. It would be nice if I have my own music studio, maybe I could make my own music. I would probably get a novation impulse at musicians friend so I could make very good soothing music to go with my nature videos. Ahhhh, so nice to dream! Haha!

Going back to our drive, after the butterflies and lunch at Pismo Beach, we continued driving North on Highway 1. Before entering Big Sur, we stopped at San Simeon to check the elephant seals.
 Seagulls and Elephant Seals: Sights at San Simeon

Then, in about an hour from San Simeon, we started our windy ascent to Big Sur, where the mountains kiss the sea.
 Entering Big Sur

Someone got tired from the long drive, could you tell from the picture below? I am not sure though if it was from tiredness, or from feeling reaching heaven on Earth.
@ Lucia Lodge, Big Sur

This is Day 1 of Big Sur ( or shall I call it less than half a day since most of the day we were driving ). Come back for more of our days 2- 5. Meanwhile, if you have not seen yet the video below which I shared in my previous post, you can watch the video which best summarizes our trip.


1. Pismo State Beach - for the wintering butterflies. Each year, from November - February, thousands of monarch butterflies find refuge in the eucalyptus and cypress trees of North Pismo State Beach.
---how to find it: It is past the North Beach Campground at 400 S. Doliver, Pismo Beach, CA. You can't miss it, past the campground, you will see lots of eucalyptus and cypress trees, which has become the BUTTERFLY TREES.

2. Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas, San Simeon. - this is one of the elphant seal rookery or breeding site in California. Elephant seals are different from harbor seals and sea lions. They are a lot bigger ( that's why the name elephant), growing to almost 14 ft and 5000 lbs in weight. 
Location: Along Highway 1 by San Simeon, just watch out for the sign "ELEPHANT SEAL VIEWING AREA"

3. Big Sur (our main destination) - Big Sur is a very serene, mostly remote, and mostly natural place. In 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the Portuguese explorer who discovered California and the west coast said,
" There are mountains which seem to reach the heavens, and the sea beats on them."

Big Sur is along Highway 1, South of San Francisco and North of Los Angeles. Though in between these 2 CA big cities, but Big Sur feels a million worlds apart. This stretch of coastal wilderness is very slow paced, and thankfully, no EXTREMELY RICH MAN could say they will buy lands here to build their mansion :) since this land is protected for wilderness to co-exist with modern California.  The only structures here were from those who already had inhabited the land many many years ago, and some State Parks. Lodging in Big Sur ranges from $150++-$2,000 per night, from very basic($150++) to luxurious ($2,000), but all without TV and cell phone signal. Frankly, who needs a TV and cell phone signal when in Big Sur? Each lodging in Big Sur (from 2 star to 5 star) has this to say: "relax in pure nature!" - thus no TV! :)
( sorry for the washed out collage here, not at my end, after uploading to blogger it seemed blogger changed the resolution and the exposure of this pic, it looks so washed out )

There's not a lot of hotels in the area, making advance reservations a must. Summer visits may even need a year in advance reservations if one plans to stay in Big Sur. Otherwise, for others who could not find reservation and are not open to camping as well ( take note: camping needs advance reservation too) may still find reservations in Monterey and Carmel. The National Geographic lists Big Sur as one of the top ten drives of a lifetime in the world. BIG SUR showcases coastal wilderness at its best, where learning and appreciating nature grows more in the heart.

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  1. Really amazing to see in pictures, what more in real life? Lovely indeed and you're so blessed to experience the beauty of nature.

  2. The butterflies were really a sight to behold. So many of them swarming together.

  3. awwww, i so love that candid shot of yours Beth! you look sooooooo happy! nakakahawang smile. :)

  4. One thing so good about US geographically is that it would allow you to do this kind of road trip without worry of security on the road.... 7 hours? That's quiet a long drive, but if the reward would be this awesome scene, I won't mind.. so relaxing Betchai :) Dropping by.

  5. Wowowow I love the seagulls, it seems like they are really posing for the camera. You are so lucky to have experience all of this. I love to travel but the budget does not permit me so I just satisfy myself looking at some pictures like yours. LOL not the hiking thing wahh I don't like to walk long hours.

  6. Its beautiful. We had family trip during thanksgiving week as well and sad to say the weather was suck. It rain and cold all week. Try to add a watermark on your video, Betchai. You can edit it inside the You tube.

  7. Definitely I like to see those lovely butterflies. As always nice photos to compliment a good post.

  8. Oh am gee!! So many "bluetiful" scenery and one lovely girl in blue :)

    I am mesmerized by those happy, free animal friends by the sea and those wings are so gorgeous! :)

  9. Wow those butterflies! I have seen so many of them! And seagulls! But I'm more fascinated with the pretty butterflies. My daughter would definitely want to see that.

  10. The elephant seals look so cute! I want to see them in person. Thanks for sharing your wonderful Big Sur adventure. ^_^

  11. I have never seen so many butterflies in one place yet, hope to see what you enjoyed out there.

  12. Oh the butterflies! Ang dami naman nila :) And you have a very precise description of the place where to find them. Ikaw na ang bongga kung mag-adventure ate.

  13. This is what I want to see and it's the reason why I love nature so much!

  14. Wow! I am speechless as always with your amazing pictures Sis :-) They are breath-taking :-)

  15. Ahhh... there's your set of photos again, Ms. Betchai! Sobrang nakaka-enjoy! Wow!!! So breathtaking talaga yung butterflies! Triz is giving me a lesson on butterfly migration now. Lol. I so wish to see that in person, and all those amazing scenes you shared! The beauty of the nature is definitely healing to the soul.

  16. No need to apologize for your photo collage - it is simply stunning. I am amazed by all the butterflies on the butterfly tree.

  17. Jeez! Need I say more, Te Betchai? Everything is what it is! Nature's beauty has that calming effect to our souls. Even just by looking at your amazing photographs, I feel like I am soothed!

    I am so happy I have chanced upon your blog and I am reminded of God's love and power each time I swing by here.

    Sure you've had yet another wonderful outdoor escapade.

    Love and hugs from me to you!

  18. These are all wonderful and amazing scenery, Betchai. How I feel to stand underneath the butterflies and hear their wings fluttering in the air. The videos are fantastic too.

  19. The videos make everything real. Everything were captured perfectly. I wish I can visit such wonderful place.