It’s fall, the sun sets far before we’re ready. We load the van in darkness on a slanted San Francisco street. Packing up the van feels like a curious new luxury. Swapping compact pads and sleeping bags, for pillows and down blankets. We cruise out just after 6 but the sky is pitch black. Giving our adventure a mysterious tone. Like we’re sneaking out in the dead of night to an undisclosed location.
We head down the 1, passing dark signs for state beach turn-offs. We pop into Half Moon Bay for provisions: beer and burritos. Solely the essentials. Once stocked, we roll on. We pull into a protected turnout just north of Santa Cruz. Our scrappy campground for the night is shared with a Subaru, a Prius strapped with surfboards and a retrofitted school bus.
We pop up the Vanagon’s oh so convenient table and slide open the side door. We hear waves lapping onto rocks, but all we can see is a midnight sky dusted with stars. The longer we look, the glitter seems to multiply. We enjoy dinner by candlelight in the moving living room, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. With full bellies and a Tecate buzz, we’re ready to fold down the bed and turn in. Flopping pillows and blankets we’ve constructed a successful fortress of coziness.
When we wake, our gypsy camp buddies have all left. The barreling waves are in clear view, along with a crystal blue horizon. One of the most magical things is to arrive somewhere in the dead of night, then wake up and marvel at the scenery that existed all along. It feels like time travel.
To transition into the day we enjoy a cup of coffee and a remodel, folding the bed back into day use. I pop into the driver’s seat and we continue down the coast. The Vanagon coasts like a dream. We pass beaches, artichoke fields, and enticing fruit stands. As the 1 begins to curve into cliffs our phones drop service, and we recognize we’re nearing El Sur Grande. Each bend is somehow more beautiful than the last. We come in over the iconic bridge and drive down to Julia Pfeiffer for a view of the falls. It’s the kind of view that makes your heart melt on the spot.
We land at a creekside campground for the evening. Our site nestles in between a cluster of redwoods and A-frame cabins. There is an enchanting magic in Big Sur. It’s hard not to feel in tune with your soul when you step into her natural fortress. Maybe it’s the billowing redwoods that keep sunlight at bay or the cliffs that drop effortlessly into the Pacific. Perhaps it’s the fact that it still feels only mildly inhabited. Giving us a feeling that we’re alone, just us and the land.