Hiking in Big Sur - July 2001

I hadn't been backpacking in a long time, so we decided to do a short overnight run somewhere nearby. To the south, Big Sur is the best available as it's pretty close and has the ocean climate. We picked a hike on the Vicente Flat Trail which is a 5 mile hike in from the shoreline next to the Kirk Creek Campground, 4 miles south of the very small town of Lucia. A campfire permit is required for overnight stays and can be obtained (no cost) at the Big Sur Station.

This part of the coast has steep inclines and PCH frequently is washed away in spots. So the trail immediately starts heading up with numerous switchbacks. No easy start to get the legs going, and then to make matters worse, I left the gps sitting on the car. 20 minute detour back for me to fetch it. After the first ascent, the trail heads north along the coast for a ways. We have a great view of the dropping sun and the kelp in the ocean below up till the trail heads inland. Occasionally we pass stream crossings, most of which are dry, but a couple are active and very refreshing to stop at. The light is dropping fast and we do the last bit in total darkness (where in my pack is that light?). We need to drop about 150ft to get to the camp zone where we come upon a few people at their fire. Overall, it's a 1700ft gain from the car.

It's odd and a bit tricky finding a campsite in the dark. You can see the ground, but have no idea what's really around you until the next day. We just found ourselves a nice tucked away spot and set up the tent, then quickly moved towards making dinner, one of those heat and mix chicken dinners you can get in the meat aisle. Perhaps it was the hunger, but it was a great meal. Then to sleep we went.

In the morning we emerged to find ourselves in giant redwoods, quite different from the scrub we saw for most of the trail. A creek, mostly submerged, exited from the grove. It was very shallow, perhaps 10ft wide. We could get water from it, but not wade in it. We made a simple breakfast, looked around a bit, played some frisbee, and then broke down camp to head back down. It was very sunny, but fortunately the trail was almost entirely downhill.

After getting to the car and dropping our gear, we knew there was only one place to go - the ocean. I grabbed the camera and lunch, and we made our way down. As always, I got in a short swim, along with a lot of knee deep wading. And then home to the nearest 7-11 for some big cold drinks.


GPS location for campsite:

--Jason O'Rourke July, 2002