Our bike trip continued without much naked time as we were passing through farmland and coastal towns on the way to Big Sur. On our approach to the town of Marina, we had a very pleasant surprise at Del Monte Road. This amiable fellow on the photo below greeted us and offered some energy bars!
He used to be an avid biker too, and now that is his way to contribute to the community. In his spare time, he goes out to local bike routes and supports bikers with some calories and a smile. That was a great encouragement of what was going to be our longest ride in one day – 85 miles (almost 140km). If you don’t think it’s that much, keep in mind that our bikes were loaded with camp gear and food, and the road along Big Sur coast was very hilly.
We were constantly rewarded by such beautiful views. The weather was perfect for such a ride: warm and cloudy, with mild refreshing ocean breeze.
The sun would appear once in a while briefly, and when it reached the silver surface of the ocean, beams of light almost seemed touchable… It was already getting dark though when we hoped to have reached a campground that would bring us close to something interesting in Big Sur. We settled on Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park campground and lodge right off the Pacific Coast Highway 1, it seemed to be pretty close to natural host springs of Sykes, another advice of Dan. We were greeted with a piece of pie at the entrance, which was prepared for the bikers of “AIDS/Life Cycle – Ride to end AIDS” that happened in the same time… We were setting up the tent in the dark and couldn’t wait use some of the lodge’s amenities: a very decent restaurant and a hot shower!
Next day, we started our hike by the Pine Ridge trail. It was easy to follow as it has clear signs for it… Or maybe not so clear, as some of the branches of the trail that looked very much like trails to us we marked as “not a trail”
This trail goes along the Big Sur National Wild & Scenic River, and it was indeed wild and scenic!
I was desperate to see an elusive mountain lion, known in the area, but it was too much to ask… and also, they usually avoid humans, so if you do see them, it’s not necessarily a good sign. The views were quite stunning anyways.
It was interesting to see how different two slopes of Big Sur canyon were: the one facing the sun was almost bare, void of trees, and the more shady one facing north was covered with coniferous forest. We could also feel that the climate was quite different from the shore shortly after beginning of the hike: the air was much dryer and the clouds didn’t seem to come up there often.
Some trees were damaged by infamous Californian wildfires, but it was good to see that many of them withstood the fire and seemed full of life again.
That was also where I saw my first hummingbird, but it disappeared before I could change the lens on my camera… So here are just its beloved red flowers of zauschneria that it fed on.
Pine Ridge trail crosses a couple of springs of the Big Sur river basin, so we could refresh on the way
and we didn’t have to carry much water with us (I have an ultra-fine water filter pump).
We packed very light, Tam and I shared one backpack which we swapped carrying, so it was a very pleasant easy hike. It was 7 miles to Sykes springs, which we did mostly bare and barefoot too – Tam, part of it, and I, all the way.
When the trail crossed the Big Sur river, we knew it was time to look out for Sykes hot springs and find a place for camping. We saw some tents along the river and continued towards the hot springs… and we couldn’t believe it when we found a perfect camping spot right across one of the hot springs! While two other guys enjoyed the hot spring, we claimed the spot and pitched the tent. Those two were heading back quite soon after that, as they came just for a day.
After our 85 mile bike ride the day before and then 7 mile hike, we were happy to stay overnight and relax at the hot springs at full.
Could there be a more perfect natural campsite? I would say it was like heaven, except that the hot spring was very much a manifestation of earthly activities, being produced by the emergence of geothermally heated groundwater from the Earth’s crust. Neither its sulfuric odor was amongst the most pleasant smells you could think of, but we felt like in paradise.
There are only 3 ‘tubs’ at Sykes, but we were lucky to have “ours” mostly just for ourselves.
I couldn’t help noticing that the tubs were surrounded by ferns which always a prehistoric look… We had a very quiet, starry sky and babbling brook kind of night… followed by early morning warm up in the hot springs.
Too bad we couldn’t stay at the hot springs much longer, but the hike on our way back was great too. We didn’t see a mountain lion,
but we did come across of mountain quails,
western fence lizards,
and a Steller’s jay dealing with its favorite meal, an acorn. We had our meal at the campground too, jumped on out bike and headed out South… Unfortunately, Niko’s bike broke and we could go as fast as we should. But luckily, as night was approaching, we got a ride from a very friendly couple who agreed to squeeze all our 3 bikes into their SUV and drive us to the next campground. This helped us to get back on schedule, and next day we rode to San Luis Obispo station to take the train all the way to San Diego.