Sept. 16 Now we are heading into the “Moisture” part of the trip The California Coast. First we crossed the Diablo Range using Hwy 580 & the Altamont Pass. Then the #680 with a steep climb with very well planned 8% descent at Freemont.
Through San Jose and now the brown rolling hills have transformed into green treed mountains with a really interesting part of Highway 17 cutting through them. A winding 2 lane, length restricted road into Scotts Valley. It reminds me of North Vancouver. Here is where we will make home base for the next few days.
Sept. 17 First stop today is downtown Santa Cruz, the historic old section of town. Small clapboard houses sitting really close to narrow streets. Sprinkled throughout are stately 2 storey porched homes set back from the streets. Everywhere are trees. Seems many of the coast towns like this & Key West Florida are very similar.
Then it was on to the Santa Cruz Pier built in 1914 at 2701 feet long & is still a working wharf. The deck is lined with shops & restaurants, the railings with fishermen & underneath is the cacophony of barking sea lions. We tried Sand Daps for lunch seeing as we had never heard of them. Turns out to be a tasty white fish similar to Halibut.
Now it was time to walk the beach, put the feet in the bay, check out the boardwalk & amusement park. The big building in my shoreline pics is part of King Neptunes Kingdom which was originally built in 1911 as a salt water plunge pool. Bath houses & pools were becoming in vogue at that time.
Sept 18 Today is the scenic drive of the Cabrillo Highway(The #1) to Big Sur. We actually went as far as Lucia before turning back & heading for home. The “Scenic Highway One” displays rugged costal scenery, pine forests & bridges crossing deep canyon streams. The iconic Bixby Bridge at 714 feet long is one of the tallest single span concrete bridges in the world. It used 825 truckloads of concrete. We had lunch at the Big Sur River Inn. It has most fascinating beginnings with apple pie in 1934, gasoline around 1943 & electricity in the 1950’s. Once upon a time sitting in the wooden lawn chairs in the river letting the cool water run over your feet started a tradition that the Inn guests still follow. It looked most peaceful.
Here is where I have to mention the “The Soberanes Fire” in the Los Padres Forest which encompasses the Big Sur area. It was started by an illegal campfire July 22 & has become the costliest forest fire in US history. To date the fire has destroyed 57 homes, 107,375 acres, and claimed one life. Numerous base camps of tents & equipment, house 5,636 firefighters. We saw helicopters taking water from the ocean, passed numerous tractor trailers with heavy equipment & saw one of the base camps.
Planning on driving this scenic route, I had been keeping an eye on this fire. It has gone up to 61% containment which is good news. Although you couldn’t smell the smoke, the effects in the sky and on the scenery were definitely visible.
We decided to stop in Monterey & catch Cannery Row (no pun intended) plus have dinner while watching the sunset. Sardines are what put Monterey on the map & the sardine-packing industry, was immortalized by novelist John Steinbeck in the 1945 novel Cannery Row. There was a collapse of the sardine fisheries in the fifties & closing of the last cannery warehouse in 1973.
There is the world famous aquarium, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the sand dunes, the marshes and by the way Monterey Jack cheese comes from Carmel Valley not Monterey. We walked Cannery Row with its 16 elevated walkways that were used to move canned fish from the processing plant on the bay side of the street to the warehouses near the train tracks. We had dinner at Massaro Santos restaurant on the pier watching the sea lions, otters and marina.By the way..the sunset is not over the water but the view was perfect.