I was itching to go somewhere this Thanksgiving weekend. It was a long 4 day weekend and staying home would be rather wasteful. I couldn’t plan anything substantial with more days off mostly because I was already out of vacation and good will from my management. This all coming from my planned trip to Chile. So I started looking for a place to go for a couple of days.
Sykes could be a place. Rita especially liked it. But they become so overused that it isn’t fun any more. East Sierra sounded promising, but for some reason I didn’t want to drive so much with the unknown state of the mountain passes. We could go camp in Sunol Wilderness, but it is a pain to get permits. So we settled on Big Sur. The potential team was Damon, Yuhua, Rita, and yours truly.
Well, on the day of the event – Friday, November 23 – Rita seemed to be getting sick. I wasn’t feeling that well either. But, Damon was coming on time so I had to go. I did feel like some sort of flu was coming, but still decided to go. Yuhua was on the way at some unknown location. It also wasn’t clear if she was going to go to Sykes anyway. Thus I checked the map and picked a different place to visit. It was actually Damon’s idea since he wasn’t very keen to go to the original route because no one really liked Sykes anyway. This time I thought that visiting a place called Pat Spring may be interesting.
We stopped at the place called Bottcher’s Gap Camp. The road to get there was going through some very shaded living areas. The camp was busy, with almost full parking lot. The camp host on duty was helpful, if a bit too much. He reminded me that we have to pay for parking, get permits, make no fires. He also pointed me that my Wilderness Press map is bogus and out of date. Some camps that the map listed were out, some were not in the right place, out target spring was in a slightly different place too. But whatever, as long as we can have some water we can camp anywhere.
The trail was great. The weather was fine. Even my approaching flu wasn’t that bad. I just seem to have some problems with my new shoes. This time around it wasn’t the ankle bone – for some reason I was getting blisters on my heels and pain in the knees. The boots were nothing but trouble. The old ones gave me no grief at all. These guys – like a curse from the old ones. Hopefully I’ll survive the Patagonia expedition. So we were walking (or struggling) though some very beautiful fall colors. The trees in Big Sur are kind of a mixture of some that do shed leaves and some that are don’t. There were also many ares still displaying the scars from forest fires. But the nature was slowly recovering. Some places had these huge old oaks that now turned yellow. They loaded the ground with lush carpet of leaves.
We met a couple of day hikers on the trail and just one group of backpackers. It seemed that people were taking advantage of whatever this year’s Black Friday could offer. Screw that thing – waiting in line in some insane hour to get another piece of consumer crap? The weather was great this day to to waste it like this.
My GPS went down. The batteries that I dutifully charged the day before didn’t have enough juice to get the device going. Damon had his, but without the map we were going semi-blind. I did have a map, but as I said it wasn’t that up to date. So, at some point that was close enough we found our spring. (and I forgot to take its picture). It wasn’t hot, it was well organized little box on the side of the trail with clean mountain spring water coming off the rocks. That was it.
There was a camp site right on the trail a bit before the spring. However, after a bit of searching we found a very nice place with the view of the ocean. The water was close, the wind was light, and my flu wasn’t present – what can be better. All remained was to get the food and clear out the supplies we brought in. We met a solo older man in the way to our ocean side campground. He was planning to find the way to Ventana peak. That way was apparently gone after the fires. We also met the other group of backpackers who also wanted the same spot. But there was enough room for actually many more groups. On top of this, this great camping spot had a view of Carmel (or Monterrey) and thus had cell reception.
Starting out the next day after a surprisingly warm night. I was really expecting freezing temperatures, but that didn’t happen. After breakfast we tried to go a bit further in the hope to find good view of the ocean. We didn’t – the mountains were just going on and on. We did, however, find many campsites with old campfire pits. I guess this place was quite popular.
On the way back we saw a couple more groups heading to the same direction. With the same great weather we were done at about 4PM or so. Enough time to dip feet in the ocean in Monterrey and get some tasty garlic ice cream in Gilroy. Interestingly, the trail back went through some wet and shaded areas. I suppose the fermentation processes were going full blast there because it smelled like beer in those places.
I should definitely visit this place again. Perhaps spring would make for some nicer weather, but the fall colors were still spectacular this time.