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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

Limekiln State Park

Limekiln State Park

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Limekiln State Park is just south of Lucia, California on scenic coast Highway 1. It was the only stop on our Big Sur road trip that we paid for and it was worth it! There is a $10 per vehicle fee to enter the park. There are three trails in Limekiln and I would rate them moderate. Although not great in length, there are quite a few creek crossings where you balance on logs. Although we were visiting California during the intense drought, this state park remained cool and green. Each trail has a different feature, but all three wander among redwoods, through ferns and clovers, and along side creeks.

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One trail is approximately 0.7 miles down and back to the Limekiln Falls waterfall. Limekiln Falls is about 100 feet tall and when we visited was split into two smaller trickles. Perhaps, before the drought, it flowed together as one. We asked a couple who arrived shortly before us to take our photo and the guy really got into with multiple shots and angles. He said “I mean it’s a waterfall! How often do you get to see this?” When I said “Oh we go waterfall hunting as often as we can!,” he was confused until I explained we were not from California!

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A second trail goes to the kilns. This one is about a mile down and back. Four large old kilns are tucked back in the forest. These were used to extract the lime from the stones in the area from 1887-1890.

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The third trail is about .9 miles down and back. Hare Creek Trail wanders back into the redwoods following the creek. There’s no big attraction at the end and we decided to skip this one as we only had one day in Big Sur!

On the other side of the park, under the Highway 1 bridge, is a beach. This area had sand, large stones, and bluffs.

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Limekiln also features around 40 camping spots, some among the redwoods and some by the beach. If I make it that way again, I would love to camp here! It was so peaceful back in the redwoods. I could see kids (and adults!) exploring the creek, forest, and beach in between seeing the rest of Big Sur. This was the exact kind of spot I would have loved to play in as a kid!

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Big Sur Road Trip

Big Sur Road Trip

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

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

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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.

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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.

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Ferne Clyffe Bork’s Falls

Ferne Clyffe Bork’s Falls

 “There is a hidden message in every waterfall. It says, if you are flexible, falling will not hurt you!”  – Mehmet Murat Ildan

Ferne Clyffe is a lot bigger state park than I originally thought. There are in fact 3 separate parts of Ferne Clyffe as shown on the map from the Department of Natural Resources website.

Ferne Clyffe Map

On previous trips (like here and here) I had always focused on the right section of Ferne Clyffe, as I think most visitors do. There’s not even a sign saying “Ferne Clyffe ->” for the middle section. But I was determined to go water fall hunting as all the snow was melting. After poking around online, I found some talk of Bork’s Falls, another waterfall in Ferne Clyffe located in the middle section.

It was not easy to get to. The melting snow made Regent Lane a hilly one lane road of mud and ice. Bork’s Falls actually flows straight across Regent Lane. I’m sure at times it’s much lower, but all the melting snow made it about half a foot deep in some sections. We parked on Regent Lane, on the East side of Bork’s Falls and rock hopped across the stream.

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After exploring on top of the waterfall for a little bit, we kept walking west on Regent Ln, in hopes of finding Trail 18, our original destination. If I had one piece of feedback for the Illinois DNR about Ferne Clyffe, it’s put up signs. If the trails on the map are numbered, put some numbers up on the trails! Basically nothing but the main area is labeled in the park and everywhere we go we say “I guess it’s this one.” So for this trip we are assuming we found Trail 18. The trail head is just around the curve on Regent Lane with signs talking about native trees and cleaning your boots before entering.
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The trail itself wasn’t a bad hike and it would be easy if not for the slick snow and mud. We walked down the trail for about quarter of a mile before it crosses a large opening. Instead of continuing across the side of the opening, which is heading away from the Falls, we double backed this time following the canyon floor and the river. After all, the point of our trip was waterfall hunting.

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The walk along the river was also pretty easy, until the trail we were following ended. Then we had to cross the river and pick up on the other side. More rock hopping! Luckily no one fell in.

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The trail on the east side of the river took us past some gorgeous frozen waterfalls. I love them just as much as I love flowing waterfalls.

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I heard the waterfall before I saw it again. Bork’s Falls is 30-40 feet high with a wading pool beneath it.

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Finally we crossed the river again and hiked up the side of the ridge to get out. It was a great hike! A perfect cure for my wonderlust that has been building over our snowy cold past few weeks. I can’t wait to go back when the trees have leaves.

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Ferne Clyffe Happy Hollow

Ferne Clyffe Happy Hollow

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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.

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We hiked through a lot of forest and pine forest.

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

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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

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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.

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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 😉