Before my annual camping trip to Big Sur, I was worried what the landscape might be like after fires ravaged the area earlier this summer. I am happy to report, Big Sur still has stunning views and is still heaven-on-earth for kids and their parents in need of some ‘unstructured play time’.
We camped at Pfeiffer Big Sur state park. The forest canopy was in great shape providing cool, shady cover on a hot September day. The Big Sur river runs through the campsite and there was enough water for the little ones in our group (aged 1 to 9) to spend four great hours, hiking, riding a real log down a real river (“Dad, this is like the log ride at Great America!”) and catching crawfish.
Pfeiffer Beach is located at the end of Sycamore Canyon. The drive through the canyon is lush and green. Clearly the fire wasn’t here.
The beach itself is gorgeous. A breathtaking display of rock, sand and ocean in dazzling colors and bold shapes. Yet some of the beauty is subtle. Lifting up a rock on the hillside reveals small pockets of purple sand supposedly from “manganese garnet particles”. Purple sand! Where else do you get to see that?
And within all this stunning landscape lies a diverse playground. There is the beach of course with soft, sand-castle ready sand. There is the surf where it can be dangerous to swim but is fine for getting toes wet and wading. A tiny creek terminates on the beach about forty yards from the ocean leaving a small, warm pool for the kids to play in and chase tadpoles. And if that isn’t enough, sand dunes rise up the rocky hillsides making a perfect hill for climbing, sliding, jumping and log rolls.
Later in the afternoon, on a small rocky bluff, about 15 feet up, we spotted a small sea lion. Apparently he had been up there all day watching the kids splash in the pool and we didn’t even know it. A rescue team from Moss Landing came to make sure the young pup was ok. They thought he was a bit young to be on his own, but he charged back to the ocean and seemed to be doing just fine. It was a great thrill for the kids.
All in all, we barely noticed that Big Sur had a major fire very recently. Yes, some of the hiking trails are closed. The upper parts of the steep canyon walls surrounding Pfeiffer Big Sur state park have been visibly scarred. The low-lying shrubs are gone or left charred. And as always in Big Sur, poison oak is everywhere. (Teach your kids not to go near it and get a bottle of Tecnu just in case they forget.)
But neither the stunning beauty nor the spirit of Big Sur has been damaged in the least – gorgeous views as well as hippies, peace-niks and occasional nudists can still be found.