Sunday, November 9, 2014

San Simeon State Park and Coastal Travels North, CA

Best laid plans - we expect to be here 3-4 days and end up staying almost 2 weeks! When you find a good spot, stay put! This part of our trip is also a bit nostalgic and romantic - Brad and I honeymooned here 32 years ago, so we are returning to the scene of the crime/sublime.

San Simeon is on the California Coast about half way between Monterey and Santa Barbara. It is probably most famous for the Hearst Castle, one-time home of millionaire William R. Hearst. We take many day trips from the State Park, and this blog entry will highlight the trips north to Carmel. Although it is a lot of driving (it's 90 miles of twisty mountain and coastal roads which takes us 2.5 hours to drive without stops!), we cannot bring our trailer any further north than San Simeon due to the hairpin turns and narrowness of Highway 1. In fact, part of the road has been lost to the ocean (mudslide?) and is only one lane controlled by a stop light.
Point Lobos State Preserve, south of Carmel

The Big Creek Bridge (constructed in 1938) is probably one of the most identifiable bridges in North America, being featured in many movies and brochures. It is iconic California coast and synonymous with Highway 1.

This home is perched on the cliffs above the violent surf. I wonder how much longer it will be here.

Point Lobos State Preserve is one of the very rugged coastline areas. We enjoy a picnic lunch here overlooking the swells of the outgoing tide.

The rocks at Point Lobos provide stunning scenes like this crashing wave.

Baby harbour seals sunning with their moms. There are 5 or 6 pairs on this rock alone.
Seventeen Mile Drive, Pacific Grove to Carmel

I just HAVE to put my toes in the water, and yes, it's cold. Obviously, it's low tide.

The lone cypress. We have the same photo from 1982, but it's worth another one.
San Simeon State Park Beach

Hanging out on the beach. The waves are really huge today but it's not windy - tide is going out.
McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

On the way north, we stop at the Elephant Seal Rookery where the females and young seals are resting. They will stay here for a couple of months when mating will begin.

The younger males practice their sparring, preparing for the future when fighting for the right to mate is paramount to their survival.

Meet Puma, the resident cat at Ragged Point. This is the Luckiest Cat in the World, spending his days laying under the gazebo regarding this stunning view and making trips down to the beach.  Ragged Point is a great stop for a coffee and pastry.

McWay Falls drops about 80 feet onto the beach. It's absolutely beautiful and a very short hike to see it.

Another view of the falls. In the 1930s to 1940s, a couple lived here with this view from their bedroom. Today, the home is gone with only the foundation and a few walls remaining.

The water from the falls used to fall directly into the ocean but this landslide in 1983 caused the sand from the hillside and road repair to be deposited a few hundred yards south where the present-day beach under the falls was created.

Driving home after visiting the falls, we finally spot a migrating whale. He does breach twice, but before we can stop, get out of the truck and get the camera zoomed in. We follow him for miles, trying to get ahead of him, but he doesn't breach again (that we see).

The drive home (south) provides different lighting and these sunset photos show more rugged beauty of this coastline where the mountains reach down into the crashing ocean waves.

The last rays of sun illuminate these pampas grass fronds.
Hearst Castle, San Simeon

William Randolph Hearst, millionaire publisher and collector, had "The Ranch" built between 1919 (?) and 1947 when work on the unfinished mansion was stopped. It remains unfinished to this day. We choose the evening tour because I think the effect of the lighting will be so dramatic, and we're not disappointed. From Highway 1, we can see the lights on the castle some 1,500 feet up in the hills. The stories and information surrounding the castle and W.R. Hearst are very interesting and available online.

The infamous Neptune Pool is empty right now. Due to the drought, the water from the pool has been used to irrigate the property.

The formal dining room where many guests from Hollywood, the political scene and the public eye enjoyed Hearst's company and meals.
Professor Plum in the Library with the wrench.  If you're too young, you won't get that.  Two of the actors in period costume (1930s) in the library. Hearst collected books and art objects, not for their value but for his passions.

The office where Hearst would meet with his newspapermen (and women) to discuss stories. My office never looked like this!

Stories about the indoor pool include Cary Grant's many night-time wanderings to meet women here. Regardless, the pool is beautiful, with gold-plated tiles. The two tennis courts are on the roof.


  1. Looks like the weather is still good. Beautiful. Love the rocks at Point Lobos pic the best (well, loved the kitty pic, too).

  2. Hi guys! Whe round your blog. Happy to see your and all your beautiful photos. Home you are in good haelth. Good winter to you both. Jean et Denyse xxx

    1. Hey, good to hear from you. Funny though as we moved today and are now camped in Mojave NP where we first met you. Are you traveling this year?