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 VII over here.
Much of California was in a state of fire weather watch. San Simeon State Park, only 35 miles south on the Pacific Coast Highway, allowed contained fires the night before, but when I pulled into Plaskett Creek there was yellow caution tape wrapped around the fire pits. The sun was too low in the sky to leave in search of campgrounds that permitted fire, so I checked in and setup camp in a corner lot that butted up against thick woods.
A couple came over and invited me to finish the leftover pasta they just boiled. The introduction happened fast and came with a sense of camaraderie. I used a thin tin spoon to scoop pesto from a glass jar and stir into a bowlful of cellentani noodles. I leaned against the couple's picnic table and got to know Martina and Bastian as I ate their food. This was their last night in the wilderness and they would leave to go back home to Hamburg in the morning.
"Have you heard anything about Sand Dollar Beach?" I asked after finishing dinner and rinsing out the bowl at a nearby pump.
"We haven't, no."
"Come on," I said, "it's just across the street."
We set for the beach with headlamps around our necks and beers in our hands. I had read that Sand Dollar Beach was near Plakett Creek, but wasn't exactly sure where. Fifty yards up the road from the Plaskett Creek entrance, though, is a worn path that leads up a short hill and into an open field. Countless footsteps have carved out a path there and it takes you to stairs that lead down onto Sand Dollar Beach: the largest crescent of sandy beach in Big Sur. Standing on the shore, the massive arch of Pacific cliffs traps the sound of waves breaking and causes it to echo.
The sand was cold on our bare feet, but not as cold as the water that raced onto the shore sporadically and with force as we stood with our backs to it.
We finished our beers and turned on our headlamps to make our way back to Plaskett Creek. Without any fires nearby the sky was dark and only disrupted by stars and our luminescent foreheads. We got back to camp and each got another beer and one more layer, then a car pulled up and someone got out to introduce themself.