After the fiasco that was Death Valley, a little extra planning went into this trip, and it paid off. This time Jeff and I were joined by our mutual friend Zach. We rendezvoused at my house and set out from Los Angeles at midnight and drove through the night so that we'd theoretically arrive at McWay Waterfall precisely at dawn. Around six hours later, and a copious amount of caffeine, we stood atop a cliff gazing down at the crashing waves in the pre-dawn gloom. I think the only word said was a simultaneous "Woah". The ocean is a powerful beast but it seems so tame at the local beach. Here any illusion of a peaceful nature is quickly eradicated by the raw power of waves breaking on worn, jagged cliffs. Slowly the sun began it's accent into the morning sky and with it, color rushed into what was an endless void of grey. The McWay Waterfall is by no means the grandest fall on the planet, but few reside in such a picturesque setting. The sun continued to rise and the scene constantly transformed. Every few moments new colors made their appearance serving you another course in this feast for the eyes. While I could of spent the rest of the day here we had an entire coast to explore so we tore our eyes from McWay and headed through a tunnel under the street to an adjacent park.
There we followed a steam through a redwood forest, scrambling over rocks, across logs and up waterfalls. This hour or two hike was probably some of the most enjoyable hiking i've ever done. The scenery was to die for and I had zero weight on my back. Absolute Heaven. Eventually we hit a dead end and headed back to the car to find our next hike. A short drive up the coast and we found a path down to the ocean that we just couldn't pass up. Once we made the decent we climbed, scrambled, shimmied and crawled up and down the cliffs and miraculously had zero casualties. The potential bodily harm was well worth the up close and personal viewing crashing waves, seals and cliffs we discovered. We grudgingly left this epic playground by the sea and sought out nutrients to fuel us up for the backpacking to come.
Bellies full, and backs laden, we stood and the beginning of our trail up Pine Ridge. The uphill trudge commenced. We ended up being the only hikers outbound due to the fact that it was presently raining and rain was forecasted for the entire weekend. We had also started later in the day than planed and after speaking with the numerous hikers fleeing down the trail to escape the rain, we began to wonder if we would be able to get to Sykes hot spring before dark. Spoiler! We did not. Luckily though, right as darkness approached we came upon a wonderful campground and managed to get everything set up before being enveloped by the night or washed away in the rain. Jeff and I come prepared for rain and had properly set up or tents, Zach, however, did not. He had a damp night and as we set out the next morning, his lack of backpack rain cover meant his pack had sponged up a great deal of water, vastly increasing his load. He was not a happy hiker and made known his desire to turn back repeatedly. Luckily, we ignored him and after a few more miles found ourselves at the Big Sur river where the springs are located. We did get a little confused at this point as to where the springs actually were and had to do a little exploration up and down the river to find them. But at long last, Sykes hot springs lay before us. Imagine if you will, submerging your sore and tired body into a hot spring. A hot spring located on a hill surrounded by towering redwoods and lush ferns. Below you, a river meanders by serenading you with it's melody of rushing water. Far above, the winds rustle the innumerable branches of redwoods adding a new voice to the rivers song. A refreshing rains drips ever so lightly upon your face. One of your friends who sat in a tub that is out of sight doesn't respond to your calls but, you and your other friend don't go see if he has drowned because this is heaven and if he's dead, he died as happy as any man could be. Due to the rain, the normal crowds had vanished and we had the springs entirely to ourselves. Zach's misery had been washed away and he was born again as a happy hiker who complained no more. I took very few pictures during this time because "rain" and "Hot spring in the rain." are not ideal camera situations. But here are some photos Jeff and Zach took:
Three days is really not enough to fully enjoy the Pine Ridge area, and by no means enough time to fully experience Big Sur in it's entirety. This winter, we will be heading back once again, this time with more friends in tow, and I honestly can not wait. Hikes with hot springs are the best hikes and Big Sur is just plain magical. It will be a perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the Los Angeles area and a busy year of professional photography.