It has occurred to me that I use the P-word too much. That’s P as in Paradise, of course. Give me clear skies, temps between 65 and 95 (I’m flexible), nice vistas, good trails, and few humans, and I’m in paradise. That’s why I’m trying to think of a new word to describe Andrew Molera State Park on the Big Sur coast. Fantastical? Superb? Awesome? Suggestions are welcome.
The campground at Molera is a hike-in affair. It’s a beautiful, easy stroll, just a quarter mile from the parking lot, so you can make multiple trips or easily go back to get something you forgot. The path runs along a crystal-clear, babbling stream, which we’d soon discover was cold as ice. The campground itself is in a large, sheltered meadow about a half mile from the beach. To the east, the Santa Lucia range towers above, when you can manage to look up. It’s spring-summer here, and there’s a huge variety of flowers to keep your eyes glued to the ground. Monarchs flit about, crows poop on your table, deer check you out, and what you assume (hope) are raccoons rustle and chatter in the woods after sunset. Cows moo on the range next door, waves crash on the beach, and the wind rustles through some ancient laurel trees. What’s that? A toilet flushing? Yes, the campground even has running water and flush toilets. Incredible luxury. It was as restoring as a trip to the spa.
It’s a bit shabby, like every CA state park — suffering from deferred maintenance and a ground squirrel infestation. We now know that comes with the territory. At least Molera provides bear boxes for your food, so the squirrels munch the grass rather than your dinner.
Feeling like we’d won the lottery, we pitched our tent, then walked down to the beach. The beach is in a sheltered cove, but the numbingly cold stream flows between you and the sand. There’s nothing to do but to take off your shoes, roll up your pants, and wade across as quickly as possible. A European family that arrived after us took it one step farther and just took off their pants. Makes sense, as all I got in return for my modesty was wet pants. Luckily, we had found a nice stack of firewood at a vacated campsite and later had a raging fire to warm our numbed feets.
There’s nothing like an uncomfortable night in a tent to make your regular accommodations seem like the ultimate in comfort. I’m pretty sure this is the reason some people camp, to better enjoy their everyday luxuries at home. The first night was fine, but on night two, a windstorm blew through and kept us awake all night. The tent flap-flap-flapped, making noises that sounded alternately like tearing velcro, a crackling fire, rain, and, worst of all, approaching footsteps. The ranger had bizarrely insisted (in an offended tone) that it wasn’t ever windy here, but I’d beg to disagree. Still, one overtired day was worth the chance to give Rocky a break from his human inhabitants for a few nights and to feel closer to the nature of Big Sur.