1st January – We have been told that Highway 1 through Big Sur and to Morro Bay is one of the great road drives in the world. I am itching to get going but the day has dawned to a crystal blue sky and a warm sun and we decide to walk the beach of Carmel first. We drive through the roads that skirt the town and it is certainly one pretty spot , the houses are all set in lush gardens with shade from the impressive Monteray pines and the various Mediterranean shrubs that are mostly still in flower. The roads all lead down to the sand dunes and the two mile long beach which for the dog lovers of Carmel and their assorted mutts must be a kind of paradise.
By ten in the morning the temperature is already in the high sixties and despite being the morning after New Year celebrations there are already crowds of people walking or jogging its length and walking the many dogs for which Carmel is famous. There are certainly more dogs than children on this beach this morning. We walk its length and back and by late morning the beach has filled and the temperature is in the seventies. There are even people swimming without wet suits even though the temperature of the sea is only in the mid forties. That should get rid of any hangovers anyway. Lots of folk seem to know each other and there is a sense of a community here as the various packs of hounds greet and play and chase and swim. I’m sure it’s not for everyone but as a dog lover myself I feel that the folk who live here must be O.K and we enjoyed seeing them and getting some strokes in as it is a few days away from our old girl Dylan and we do miss her.
And then we set off south along the 125 miles of coast-hugging Highway 1. It does not disappoint and the glorious weather adds to the enjoyment, highlighting the scenery of mountains that drop into a huge ocean and into which this precipitous road has been carved.
We make constant stops as each bend brings a fresh view even more spectacular than the last and we suddenly notice a pod of whales exhaling and breaching just a few hundred yards off shore. And then some more and some porpoises too. As we head south there are several stops that have to be made as we realise the sea is alive with migrating whales. Although they are sometimes too far out to really get any detail, the sight of the plumes of spray is awesome. As we near Morro towards sunset we stop at a beach full of basking elephant seals and then notice the huge males that are swimming just off shore and making their fog horn grunts.
We have seen all sorts of birds that we don’t recognise. Lots are like seagulls and some I think are albatross. We see flocks of pelicans that are strangely elegant in flight for such a primeval looking bird. There are all sorts of raptors – some very large like buzzards and eagles, some smaller like falcons and some that resemble a slightly larger kestrel. I think of my old friend Dusty Gedge and wish he was here to pass on his knowledge of birds. There is a very common shiny blackbird that develops a red flash on its wing the further south we go. And there are flock upon flock of waders in the many lagoons that we pass.
At one point we pass through what we think is a leaf fall only to realise that we are passing through a huge cloud of what we believe are monarch butterflies.
It has been quite magical and then we notice a black cloud moving in over the sea and so suddenly we are enveloped in a sea mist and the temperature drops from high sixty to mid fifties in seconds and we cannot see the beach thirty yards in front of our faces. We know that the whole trip could easily have been like this as the road is often shrouded in mist. We have been so lucky to have had such an amazing bright and warm day to start the New Year and so to have fully appreciated the glories of this road trip and all it offers.
So we drive the last few miles into Morro Bay to the voice of our GPS lady who Marilyn has allowed back into the car. And we hope that tomorrow Morro and its famous rock will have more surprises for us.