Browsed by
Tag: bluffs

Lost in Calla Lily Valley

Lost in Calla Lily Valley

Calla Lily Valley is an area on top of bluffs along Highway 1 in Big Sur.

Big Sur doesn’t have the best cell phone reception and therefore following our phone’s GPS was somewhat difficult. I had printed information and maps on “Calla Lily Valley” that included the highway marker, but we still drove up and down this area of the coast not finding it. It didn’t help that we were visiting in 2016, in the height of the California drought. There were no calla lily’s to be seen. We eventually gave up and decided to get out at a place that looked pretty and had flowers.

We started out hiking a trail that was cut in the brush/flowers/grasses. It soon narrowed, but we still blindly followed it. Even though Donovan said “uh Lindsay, this isn’t a trail. This is just from water run-off.”

   

     

 I’m SO glad we did. We ended up on the edge of the cliff and could see the coast stretching out in both directions. The water crashed below us and there were greenery, succulents and flowers everywhere. The cliffside was covered in these tiny white and purple flowers, perhaps a type of wild morning glory?

      

    

  

If you’re looking for the actual Calla Lily Valley, here’s some articles by people who made it there.

Back Country Cow

Adventurer of the West

Big Sur Road Trip

Big Sur Road Trip

DSC_0442 (2)e8

We spent one full day exploring the Big Sur Coast during our recent trip to the LA area. The area known as Big Sur is several hours North of LA, especially with LA’s traffic. We got a hotel room in Morro Bay for the night on either side of our Big Sur road trip, so we could have a full day exploring the coast.

Driving straight through from Morro Bay to Monterey, which encompasses all the area known as Big Sur plus other wonderful stretches of the coast, on Highway 1 takes about 3 hours. The roads are very windy and narrow, so you have to go fairly slow. If anyone can drive without stopping, they have a lot more self control than I do. Our plan was to drive the route North and then come slowly back down the coast making all our stops. The thought process was we’d have a better idea where things are and wanted to beat the crowds to the big attractions, like McWay Falls on the Northern end. We definitely made some stops on the way North. We could not resist those rocky ocean coastlines. But for the bigger attractions, I do think it worked well.

DSC_0168e2    DSC_0152e2    DSC_0211e2

Before you go…

  • Big Sur has almost no cell phone recpetion. I printed off a dozen google maps before we went and did a lot of research on where our stops were. It’s also lacking signage in some areas, so those notes and maps really came in handy!
  • Everything is very expensive in Big Sur. Fill up on gas before you go.

Calla Lily Valley

We didn’t stop at the “right” path. In fact what we traveled down was not technically a path. I said “Let’s follow this trail!” Donovan said “That’s not a trail. That’s a path water runs down.” I said “Well I’m going to follow it anyways.” We ended up on a beautiful point along the coast all alone. The wind was strong, the flowers were pretty, the views were gorgeous, and I felt on top of the world. Lesson: Follow the path less traveled, even if it’s not technically a path.

DSC_0562e2  DSC_0596e2  DSC_0590e2

Bixby Bridge

This is a very popular stop and it was crowded. Not the best view in Big Sur, but it’s worth a quick stop. I read a tip on this blog to pull off on a dirt road to the Northeast of the bridge and it made a big difference! Almost no one else was there and it was a better view.

DSC_0551 (2)e2McWay Falls

The crown jewel of Big Sur for a good reason. Parking in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park costs $10 per vehicle, but there is plenty of parking along side the road. If the road is covered in cars going both ways, you’ve found McWay Falls. Make sure your car is not touching any of the white lines; they are serious about ticketing. We saw cops ticketing other cars. The path is short, slowly revealing the cove to you until you can see the Falls. It’s a beautiful pristine area, because there is no access to the beach by the falls. McWay Falls drops 80 feet from a granite cliff into the ocean.

DSC_0513 (2)e2  DSC_0518 (2)e2

Hermitage

The drive up to this Camaldolese Benedictine monastery is one of a kind. The drive to the top is basically a one lane road full of switch backs and breathtaking views. We didn’t go inside the monastery, but the drive up was worth it.

DSC_0700e2  DSC_0686e2

Limekiln State Park

Limekiln deserves its own post. It was beautiful and green even in the drought. I loved being back among the redwoods and the park has giant kilns, a waterfall, and beach access. This is the only stop we paid $10 to park and it was worth it. We love hiking and this was the perfect side trip to stretch our legs.

DSC_0012e2  DSC_0015e2  DSC_0073e2

Willow Creek

We were actually looking for Jade Cove when we ended up here. The views from the top parking lot are fantastic and you can drive down to walk along the beach.

DSC_0440 (2)e2   DSC_0445 (2)e2

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

This area features dozens if not hundreds of elephant seals. Humans can observe from the boardwalk.

DSC_0369 (2)e2  DSC_0382 (2)e2

There are a handful of places to eat in Big Sur and they’re all pricey. We stumbled upon the Big Sur Deli and were very happy. The sandwiches were giant and made quickly. We took ours and found a turn off along the coast to sit and eat. Great food and an ocean view for a small fraction of what you’d pay somewhere like Nepenthe.

We spent the night at 456 Embarcadero Inn & Suites in Morro Bay. The hotel was clean, the complimentary br eakfast had good variety, plus our room had views of the harbor. We even got a veterans discount booking on their website! I would stay here again.

DSC_0248e2

If we had multiple days in the area, I would also want to check out: Highbridge Falls, Jade Cove, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (beyond McWay Falls), Pfeiffer Falls Trail, Point Lobos State Park, Salmon Creek Falls, and Sand Dollar Beach to name a few.

DSC_0416 (2)e2  DSC_0193e2  DSC_0534 (2)e2  DSC_0625e2

Ferne Clyffe Happy Hollow

Ferne Clyffe Happy Hollow

DSC_0041c8b

Looks can be deceiving and maps can be hard to read. For our three-year anniversary, Donovan and I rented a cabin nearby Carbondale. It was “dog-friendly” but we wanted to tired Chiba out a bit before going there. We drove to nearby Ferne Clyffe and decided to try out some of the trails we’d never been on before.

Ferne Clyffe Wanted To Do blue

Here’s part of the Ferne Clyffe map. The red line is the trail I thought we were going to do, but it turns out that where the green circle is, the trails aren’t connected! So we ended up doing something more like the blue trail. This involved walking through the woods instead of on paths multiple times and several more miles and hours than we estimated. The trails we were on are called Happy Hollows trails and make up an 8 mile horse trail. We probably only did 6-7 of the 8 miles, thanks to some “short-cuts.” I wouldn’t recommend this during summer. Horse trails are awful for bugs! But the pine trees and mossy bluffs made the scenery interesting for a long winter hike.

DSC_0013c2  DSC_0015c2

DSC_0025c2  DSC_0018c2  DSC_0027c2

DSC_0041c3b  DSC_0046c2  DSC_0056c2

We hiked through a lot of forest and pine forest.

DSC_0060c2  DSC_0067c2  DSC_0070c2

DSC_0073c2  DSC_0079c2

Eventually coming to a gorgeous area with mossy bluffs and frozen water drippings.

DSC_0086c2

THEN! We stumbled upon the hidden Natural Bridge of Ferne Clyffe. It’s not actually hidden, but it’s in a very remote area of the park on the horse trail. I had read about it, but even the two blogs that brought it up, didn’t say where it was located in the park. Honestly, I can’t tell you where exactly either (we were super lost when we found it), but somewhere right around this yellow star on the map:

Ferne Clyffe Natural Bridge

DSC_0084c2  DSC_0088c2  DSC_0090c2 DSC_0098c2 DSC_0099c2

Right around the bridge is where we started to realize we were a lot more lost than originally realized and had gone a lot further than originally planned. Donovan turned google maps on his phone and it showed us WAY FAR AWAY from the Ferne Clyffe road. So we abandoned the trail and walked down hill toward the road. Eventually we found the other side of the trail loop and followed it almost back. Except google maps showed us right down the hill from the road back to our car, so we once again abandoned trail to take a short cut back.

DSC_0101c2 DSC_0103c2

It wasn’t what we planned for our anniversary, but we spent time doing something we love with the people we love. I told Donovan he could be the map reader next time 😉

Ghost Dance Canyon

Ghost Dance Canyon

DSC_1149c4

Dixon Springs is a 801 acre state park near Golconda, IL. The area is known for mineral-enriched water and was a health spa in the 19th century. The area today is known for cliffs, crags, boulders, and bubbling brooks that turn into waterfalls with enough rain, just a few of my favorite things.

The park contains a swimming pool and some camp grounds (although I read that they aren’t the best in the area). The trails could also use some maintenance. There were a few times that I was guessing where it went next and eventually just followed the sound of the water. The areas without a clear trail were filled with brush and Chiba’s leash became tangled too many times. That being said, it’s a lovely area for a more adventurous hiker!

There are two trails in Dixon Springs: a short down and back trail about a mile called Ghost Dance Canyon and a longer loop of Oak Tree Trail, Bluff Trail, and Pine Tree Trail. I cannot find a length for the longer loop on the internet. The longer loop is definitely the better known of the two. Ghost Dance Canyon can barely be seen on the map of the park. I had read online, however, that Ghost Dance Canyon was the real gem of the park. This time I only completed Ghost Dance Canyon, but I hope to go back for the longer loop.

DSC_1090c2

Ghost Dance Canyon begins in the parking lot for the swimming pool. You probably wouldn’t even know it was a trail just looking at it. It immediately crosses the brook, takes a left pass a sign for the trail, and goes under a highway bridge.

DSC_1114c2

After the bridge, you follow a brook for a while. There’s several points where it’s quite easy to be right next to the river and climb around on the rocks. Chiba had fun trying to snap at bubbles.

DSC_1172c2

The next turn is a tricky one, you have to cross the river, but the path isn’t well laid out. There’s a series of rocks in a line across the brook. If it was warmer, you could easily walk in the water. I did read online that the water can get high in a very rainy season and it’s not advised to cross then.

DSC_1195c

The trail picks back up here and you walk alongside a cliff.

DSC_1234c2  DSC_1247c2

Again there are several paths to walk down to the water’s edge.

DSC_1261c2  DSC_1269c2  DSC_1277c2

After this is where I became more confused and just followed the sound of falling water. The waterfall was flowing for me!

DSC_1299c2  DSC_1311c2

DSC_1315c2  DSC_1357c2

The small waterfall was lovely and river rock hopping is always a favorite for me. I do wish the state would spend some time and money cleaning up this area. Even knowing this, I’ll be back to do the longer loop!

DSC_1368c2  DSC_1393c2

Alto Pass – Quetil Trail

Alto Pass – Quetil Trail

If you haven’t been winter hiking in Southern Illinois, you should. We have stretches of very mild weather during the winter and it’s the perfect opportunity to get outside. There are no bugs on the trails, the crowds are very thin, the temperature is great, and some of the overlooks are more spectacular because you can see further without the leaves. Try to select a trail, though, that’s interesting without the greenery, such as one with bluffs or waterfalls.

Alto Pass is a tiny town in Southern Illinois, about a half hour south of Carbondale. It’s claim to fames include the Bald Knob Cross (an 111 ft white cross that has additional great scenic views) and Alto Pass Vineyards (the first winery in Southern Illinois).

Following signs from Alto Pass for the “scenic overview,” there’s a picnic shelter and a cliff line to walk along with stunning views. Off to the South, you can see the giant Bald Knob Cross. The scenic overview is called “Cliff View Park” and is one of the best overlooks in Southern Illinois.

20151224_142741_HDRc2 DSC_0054c2 DSC_0055c2   DSC_0052c2

To the West of the overlook, there is a set of stone stairs carved into the cliff. This leads to the trail below. Alternatively, you can park at the foot of the cliff.

DSC_0115c2  DSC_0118c2

DSC_0068c2

The trail used to be an old railway line. Today it runs .5 miles before ending at some private property. The trail runs between sandstone bluffs and the forest.

DSC_0076c2  DSC_0079c2

DSC_0113c2  DSC_0086c2

My favorite boys.

The overlook also happens to be the spot where Donovan proposed to be on Christmas Eve of 2015. It’s a great short hike and has some very happy memories for us.

20151224_141058c  20151224_141047c