The Great Outdoors, for the majority of my traveling life, has been something of an enigma. I'm a city guy at heart, with an aversion to most of the things associated with getting closer to nature; heat, a lack of iced coffee, and physical exertion are all of no appeal to me. Flipping through magazines or reading the work of fellow bloggers, I come across countless pictures of mountain vistas and stories of nature's immense solitude, none of which are successful in stirring an emotional response from my soul. I am more apt to shed a tear for a dish created by a world class chef, than I am a coastline crafted by the hands of Mother Nature. Less than two minutes after arriving at Point Lobos State Park, however, all of that started to change.
If it weren't for a little intervention from the Travel Gods, our visit to Point Lobos might not have happened at all. We made the short drive south from Pebble Beach, and arrived at the park just as the ranger put out a sign which read: "Lot Full - One Car Out - One Car In." The last available parking space had our name on it, and if we arrived just a few minutes later we probably would have skipped the park altogether and continued driving down Highway 1. That would have been a real travesty...
After handing over the $10 entry fee - my first interaction with a park ranger - we headed down the windy road through a coastal forest, and eventually found the only remaining parking spot in the small gravel lot. As the top of our rented convertible slowly came to a close, I could hear the crashing sound of the Pacific in the distance, mixed with the now familiar bark of sea lions.
The narrow foot path which led to the ocean first meandered its way through a grove of coastal scrub. A sea of colorful plants and flowers surrounded the trail on both sides, and we spotted a few rabbits which obviously called the scrub home. Thankfully we didn't come across any slithering inhabitants, although I'm sure the scrub was full of them.
Eventually the lush surroundings of the scrub gave way to a harsh rocky point, and the bark of the sea lions grew louder with every step. We reached the edge of the point where we had a view of the source of all the racket; countless sea lions were lounging on giant rocks a hundred yards or so offshore. While the barking seemed to have lulled most of the other visitors into a trance, I grew bored of the sea lions after a couple minutes and set off to explore more of this insanely beautiful piece of real estate.
If you don't count San Francisco Bay or seeing it from an airplane, this was my first real encounter with the Pacific Ocean. Being a lifelong Floridian, the coastlines I'm familiar with are flat as a board, and lined with perfectly white sand. I knew the California coast was far more rugged than that of Florida, but it wasn't until I saw it for myself at Point Lobos that I fully grasped just how different it really was.
The adventurous kid buried deep inside me wanted to touch the waters of the Pacific, so I set off on on a slow and tedious decent down the cliff to the rocky cove below. No sooner had I reached the bottom, when a wave came washing up the "beach" signaling it was time to head for higher ground. Not that I minded, this "hiking" thing I'd always heard about was actually kind of fun...
We spent a few more minutes admiring the incredible panorama, but it was soon time to move on to our next spot. Easily the biggest regret - really my only regret - from our California adventure was that we didn't have more time to enjoy Point Lobos. We barely scratched the surface of areas to explore, and could have easily devoted an entire day to the park.
As we pulled the convertible back onto Highway 1, a familiar feeling rose up inside of me. It was one that's usually reserved for the works of Da Vinci, Picasso, and Van Gogh. I was inspired, but for the first time in my life, Mother Nature was the artist, and Point Lobos State Park might just be her finest masterpiece.
If you go...
- Arrive early
- Allow plenty of time - take a picnic
- Wear closed toe shoes
- $10 entry fee is valid for all state parks on same day
Enjoy Your Stay