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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

California’s Central Coast

March 12th, 2009 · 2 Comments

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As I drove from Southern to Northern California yesterday, I could have driven the 300 miles between Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz in 5 hours if I had taken the fast and boring inland route. Instead I came up Highway 1 — the Pacific Coast Highway — which Google Maps says is a 6 hour drive. With all my stops for the scenic beauty en route the drive took me 9 hours.

I arrived at my friend John’s home at dusk, and since my butt was tired from so much sitting, John suggested that we first go out for a stroll. While I have stayed several times with him and we hiked often together, this was the first time that we have walked in his neighborhood.

John lives on the banks of Zayante Creek. Thousands of old-growth redwoods grow here. Since coastal redwoods require at least 80 inches of rain each year, this means that John lives in a rain forest, because that’s how we define that term.

This is so different from where I live in Boulder! We get so little rain there that it qualifies as desert. Yet I love both. And I especially love redwood trees, which are what I miss most about California. Redwoods are my favorite plant in all the world.

Not even seeing the Pacific Ocean again means as much to me. Still, I was delighted to drive along the ocean for hours yesterday.

This is the world-famous Big Sur, a 90-mile stretch of rugged and awesomely beautiful land along the ocean between San Simeon and Carmel. When I reached San Simeon, I stopped to stretch my legs at the W.R. Hearst State Park, where I walked out on the pier. From the ocean I could see Hearst Castle:

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle

Yesterday I saw the castle only from a distance. I had toured it several times before, including once with Catherine and once with my dad. My visit with my dad was particularly memorable because of a chance encounter we had.

My dad must have been almost 90 when we toured the castle. We were resting on a bench when a guy came up to my dad and asked, “Aren’t you Alex Mendosa?”

When my dad admitted that he was, the guy said that my dad had been one of his teachers at Chaffee College in Ontario about 40 or 50 years earlier.

The castle we were visiting was the creation of perhaps the first press baron, William Randolph Hearst. Not only did he build a terribly expensive monument to his name but he also owned a huge section of the coast — 250,000 acres of the most beautiful coastal land in the world.

His ownership extended to the ocean, where elephant seals breed in February and March. Like here, where I saw more of these huge creatures than ever before in my life:

Elephant Seals at Piedras Blanca Rookery

Elephant Seals at Piedras Blanca Rookery

When I told people of my trip plans, so many of them asked if I would be driving Highway 1 along the ocean. This highway is justly famous, as this one picture amply illustrates:

A Creek along the Pacific Coast Highway

A Creek along the Pacific Coast Highway

But the main reason that I took this long, winding road was to visit Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park once again. I remember visiting this park several times, including once with Catherine.

This park has one major attraction — a short hike to the Waterfall Overlook to McWay Falls. This is one of the very few waterfalls in the world that falls directly into an ocean. The setting is also sorta nice. I hadn’t previously taken any photographs of it that I liked. I have now:

Waterfall into the Ocean at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Waterfall into the Ocean at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park


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Posted in: Hiking

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Robert K Fenton // Mar 13, 2009 at 4:08 am

    I was pleasantly surprised to discover that you were not on vacation. While stationed at the Presidio of Monterey, I was fortunate enough to see most of the Highway One area from near LA to the Oregon coast. I too detest travel up the inland highways except to take side trips to some of the National Parks and other interesting landmarks.

  • 2 David Mendosa // Mar 13, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Dear Robert,

    I am and am not on vacation. I keep working and writing while I play!

    Best regards,


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