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Big Sur-prise

Wherever We May Roam

By Leslie Patrick Moore

Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller and countless other writers and artists have waxed rhapsodic about Big Sur over the years, and rightly so. The natural beauty of this stretch of California’s coast—simultaneously serene and dazzling—boggles the mind with its rugged grandeur.

I stand atop a sheer cliff, on the edge of the continent, gazing into the cerulean depths below. Cobalt, turquoise and sapphire waves swirl ferociously into a palette even Matisse or Monet would envy. Seagulls dive and otters frolic amidst the rocky outcroppings as wispy fingers of coastal fog glide ghostlike from the frigid Pacific below; a tangible mist that creeps and twists, reaching out like the latticework of veins clinging to the back of an old woman’s hand. Numerous scenic overlooks punctuate Highway 1 in the stretch between Carmel and San Luis Obispo, and as I gaze out at the view before me—the earth curving on the horizon almost imperceptibly— I am thoroughly convinced that each offers more spectacular scenery than the last. Weaving through rocky cliffs, redwood forests and verdant hillsides, the Big Sur stretch of Highway 1 is a serpentine, two-lane road that only drivers with nerves of steel should navigate. So garner your moxie and rustle up some mettle because this romantic road is easily one of the most stunning in the world.

Big Sur was once a Mecca for hippies and artists, and you can still feel a lingering zen-like vibe emanating through the sleepy coastal community. Relics from its free spirited past can be found in the form of unusual exhibits at the Big Sur Spirit Garden and the Henry Miller Memorial Library. Art aficionados will also appreciate the myriad galleries peppered along Highway 1. Abounding with unique sculptures, paintings and carvings, each artist seems to have imbued their work with themes of nature, as though the spirit of Big Sur itself has been captured in each piece of stone or glass. And while some people visit Big Sur for the art, others come for the hiking and spectacular views. But for me, Big Sur has long been a place that captures my imagination and makes me feel at peace. In particular, there are two things that lure me back to Big Sur again and again—hiking in the verdant coastal mountains and dining at Nepenthe whilst watching the sunset over the vast Pacific.

To hike the coastal Santa Lucia mountain range is to witness a scene of ecologic perfection. Giant redwood trees, which are found only along the Northern California coast, tower some 300 feet above making the hapless adventurer feel Lilliputian and insignificant. These trees have been documented as being alive for over 2,000 years, since the time of the birth of Christ. Through countless floods, fires and earthquakes these massive behemoths have persevered, leaving a tangible record of their growth in the form of scores of rings—like a doorframe marked at intervals with a child’s increasing height. The incline of the dappled, shady trails leading through this magical forest seem completely shrouded from the roaring sea mere minutes away.

After a long day of hiking, the siren song of Nepenthe loudly calls. A restaurant you would swear belongs on a precarious cliff in the Greek Isles, the views from the outdoor patio are stunning, and I would dare to say that anyone who visits will never want to leave, but spend the rest of their days gazing at the mesmerizing scene. As I sit patio side, hundreds of feet over the crashing waves below, I nosh on delicacies like sea bass and artichokes while sipping the latest vintage from one of nearby Carmel Valley’s distinguished wineries. As the sun sets amber and violet over the ocean, I watch as the crests of distant waves sparkle like a thousand tiny diamonds. The wondrous scene makes me feel as rich in spirit as if those tiny gems were tangible carats instead of tricks of the eye produced by the splendid majesty of the Pacific.

Leslie Patrick Moore and Steven Moore are writers and travelers who have visited 99 countries combined. Visit their travel blogs at and


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