We spent three nights camping along the Pacific Coast Highway before arriving in San Francisco. Each night out there exposed us to new people and new environs and left us inspired to share them with you. Sometimes the tales have to do with food, sometimes they don't. Either way, expect one every Tuesday until we get to San Francisco. Read Parts I through V over here.
I hadn't been on the Pacific Coast Highway for five minutes when I saw the zebras Partick and Leroy told me about. They roam the 250,000 acre property of Hearst Castle, which extends to San Simeon State Park in the south and the highway to the west. That's why I camped there the first night. Not to see the zebras, but because I found out the day before you can take a tour of the castle's wine cellar.
George Hearst bought 40,000 acres of ranchland in 1865. Fifty years later, his son William Randolph inherited the property, which had grown the acreage it is today. By 1949, 165 rooms were built and Hearst Castle was finished. The property is owned by California State Parks, but the Hearst family owns the contents therein. So the castle and it's furniture belongs to the Hearsts, but the land it sits on is the state's. Similar rule ties into the wine cellar, which is stocked with bottles of old vermouth, Chablis, Bordeaux, and German riesling from the twenties, and Nuits St. Georges pinot noir from 1878. The state owns the actual bottles, but the family owns the wine.
I left the castle at 3pm and started to think about where I'd camp. I had done a bit of research and figured I could hit Plaskett Creek Campgrounds by nightfall. Sand Dollar Beach is across the street and the name intrigued me. But when I pulled off the highway near Salmon Creek Falls, the lad who made my coffee told me about campgrounds up near Treebones. "When you pull of the highway, you'll see a sign. You can go right for Treebones, but turn left," he said. "That's Will Creek Road. There's no fee to camp there."
I drove ten miles from Salmon Creek until I saw signs for Treebones. I turned off the highway and saw the sign. I took a left. It was 4pm. Will Creek Road winds up into the mountains with about three feet to spare between road and cliff. It's all loose dirt and sand. None of it's paved. I continued to drive, kicking up more and more dust as I looked for signs of campgrounds. There were none - campgrounds or otherwise. The terrain was rugged. Thirty minutes later, the sun lower in the sky, and I had gone less than four miles. That's when I heard a dog's bark come through the passenger side window I had cracked open and put the car in park.
There was a deep ravine between me and the bark and I was at the edge of it. On the other side was a somewhat manicured lawn. The dog kept barking when it's owner saddled up next to it and looked over at me.