Minimoon Up The California Coast

Hello again! Here’s another backdated post, one that takes place the week after my wedding!

First, some background. For our honeymoon, my wife and I wanted to go Argentina. We knew an Argentina trip would require a lot of planning, something we didn’t have time for while preparing a 170 guest wedding, so we chose to have a delayed honeymoon. But we also heard it was important to have celebratory alone time immediately after getting married, so after we tied the knot we went on a minimoon up the Central Coast. We then went to Argentina five months later.

Below is our minimoon post; if you want to read about our honeymoon in Argentina, go here.

DAY 1, June 28, 2014 (easy to remember because it’s 2π day) – We got married! We had our wedding at Malibou Lake, a Santa Monica Mountain manmade lake in Agoura Hills, California. Both our ceremony and reception were held in the community’s Mountain Club, which was a beautiful place; even though it was technically in Los Angeles, it felt like another world.

Here are some pictures from the day:

Wedding Ceremony (1) smaller
Courtesy of Aleksandr Ostrovskiy Photography

Our ceremony, conveniently located in the shade on this hot, sunny day. You can’t see it in this picture, but there is a lake back there. 

Wedding Ceremony (187) smaller
Courtesy of Aleksandr Ostrovskiy Photography

We just got married!

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Courtesy of Aleksandr Ostrovskiy Photography

Look at those moves! My wife is amazing!

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After the wedding, 23 of our friends went with us to a local brewery, where we continued partying.

Alright, enough wedding pictures, lets get to traveling!

DAY 2 – We woke up early, as did our friends who stayed at the same hotel, so we could watch the World Cup. This morning’s game was Mexico vs Netherlands and being So-Cal natives, Mexico games were a must. This game was super-exciting and very controversial, but unfortunately Mexico lost.

And now it’s time to head up the Central Coast!

It takes five hours to drive from Malibou Lake to Big Sur, and since we left relatively late we didn’t make it until evening. Therefore, when we arrived in Big Sur we went straight to our lodge (Lucia Lodge), where we spent the night.


Lucia Lodge, a ten room cabin hotel, was one of the first structures built along what is now PCH. We enjoyed staying here a lot.


Lucia Lodge’s cabins, overlooking the Pacific. The view was spectacular.

DAY 3 – Today was our day to explore Big Sur. Here’s where we went:


Morning at Lucia Lodge, the coast covered in fog. So much for that amazing view.


Last time I went to Big Sur I photographed this beach. It’s one of my favorite Big Sur photographs and I actually use it for every list that Big Sur is in. This trip, I wanted to go down and stand on the beach, but unfortunately that wasn’t possible because the property is privately owned.


This was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. It is a wall of fog, miles long, not moving or doing anything. It was literally just sitting there, and it continued on in each direction as far as we could see.


Remember that bridge I alluded to (but didn’t see) on my last Big Sur trip? This is it.


And here’s the backside. This is one of the tallest single-span concrete bridges in the world (concrete was chosen over steel because construction and maintenance were cheaper, and also the color was a better fit with the surrounding environment) and is also one of the most photographed bridges on the Pacific Coast.


Next stop: Henry Miller Memorial Library. Big Sur is one of the US’s greatest artist inspiration spots, and many artists (writers and painters in particular) have been inspired and developed their voices here. Most notable are the beat generation writers, like Jack Kerouac and his major influencer, Henry Miller.

Exhibits at the Henry Miller library. I can’t remember what film they were showing, but I think it was part of the Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series. Maybe I should submit something!


Hey look, it’s not-Bixby Bridge! The one I saw on my previous Big Sur trip!


Hiking to our next destination, McWay Falls. It’s only half a mile trek, but at the end is one of the most stunning coves on the California Coast.


McWay Falls, inside McWay Cove, both named after the family who built a house near this viewpoint (the house no longer stands but the foundation still remains). The waterfall in this picture used to plunge directly into the ocean, until a massive landslide filled the cove with sand. This is what the cove looks like today.


Info on the landslide. That thing was huge!


Our next hike: to a secluded beach. There was no one here but us.


Our next (and last) hike: to Jade Cove. Inna didn’t go with me, which was probably smart, since I got lost and had to climb through poison oak on my way back up.


Jade (I think) at Jade Cove. You’re only allowed to remove jade found below sea level, so these two pieces remained.


Our last Big Sur stop, at Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. In the 1800s, northern elephant seals were almost hunted to extinction, and by the time Mexico and the US passed laws to protect them there were less than 100 left (all the survivors were on one island the hunters hadn’t discovered yet). Today, ~150,000 northern elephant seals live up and down the North Pacific coast. Elephant seals arrived in Big Sur in 1990; the colony started out with 24 seals and now totals over 10,000.


Two seals fighting for a spot. These elephant seals were really noisy, and they smelled terrible.


They smelled terrible because of this: the seal’s entire epidermis is molting off. This is a natural occurrence, but it was weird to see.

At this point, we reach the southern end of Big Sur. Our trip isn’t over though; next stop: San Simeon!



A wedding gift from our San Simeon hotel. They even upgraded our room to one with a beach view, free of charge. Nice!


Our hotel was located next to this dried up riverbed. It was pretty cool.


Fish bones in the riverbed. What happened here?


For some reason, I’d been wanting to relax at a firepit overlooking the ocean. This was the main reason we chose this hotel, and it did not disappoint.

DAY 4 – It rained all day today. Lucky for us, today was the day the US played Belgium in the first knockout round of the World Cup, so we were planning on spending the day inside anyway.

We went to a local bar to watch the game and were surprised to find a good 30 or 40 people watching with us. This was not what we expected in a mostly white, older small central California town. Just goes to show you how much soccer is catching on around here!

Unfortunately, despite their goalkeeper’s phenomenal performance (he set the record for most saves in single World Cup match) and a brief resurgence in the last 15 minutes, the US were dominated pretty badly, and lost.

After the game, Inna and I spent the rest of the day at our hotel, reading and relaxing and enjoying the comfort of our locale.


Our hotel’s restaurant wasn’t too special, except they had the best crab cakes we’d ever had. We only spent two nights in San Simeon, but these crab cakes were so good we had them three times.

DAY 5 – Today we drove home. Home is a four hour drive away, but we left early so we could take the scenic route. Our first stop: Cambria.

Cambria is a small artist town between San Simeon and San Luis Obispo, and in addition to its art and art galleries, the city also has an amazing coastal boardwalk. We enjoyed Cambria so much that I even included it in my top 10 for California’s Central Coast.


Main Street Cambria doesn’t look like much, but it is a very nice place. The street is filled with art studios and galleries, many of which were open for browsing. Main Street also has lots of restaurants, including Main Street Grill, a sister location to my favorite Central Coast eatery: San Luis Obispo’s Firestone Grill. We had tri-tip here and it was the best. 


A couple blocks east of Main Street is Nitt Witt Ridge, a four story folk art home made entirely out of seashells, concrete, natural refuse, and garbage. The home was built by one man over the course of 50 years, and he lived here too. Today, the house is listed as a California Historic Landmark.

Inside Nitt Witt Ridge. This place was weird (as was its now deceased builder), but it was awesome.


Cambria’s 1.5 mile boardwalk, which connects the city to beaches, tidepools, hotels, and restaurants.


Cambria’s coastal tidepool. It was one of the best tidepools I’ve ever visited.

Crabs, mussels, moss, sea urchins…


A seal resting in the tidepools. I think he is waving at me.


One last shot of the tidepools. I love this picture, look at the colors!

After exploring Cambria’s tidepools, we continued south. The next main cities down PCH are Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo, cities we’ve visited many times (I went to college in SLO). Not only that, but we’ve also driven LA to SLO a lot, including along PCH, US 101, and CA 154. But one route we’d never taken was CA 33 through the Los Padres National Forest, so we went that way on this trip.

To get to CA 33, we took CA 166 through the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Despite being a National Monument, Carrizo Plain is relatively unknown and was very desolate; it was just a two lane road, every once in a while another car, and us.


Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the Carrizo Plain, but I did take this pic at a gas station somewhere around these parts.


From Carrizo Plain, CA 33 cuts through the Traverse Ranges and ends at PCH. It was a windy, slow, super-desolate (way more than the Carrizo Plain) drive, but it was also lots of fun.

On the far side of the Traverse Ranges, CA 33 goes through Ojai, another one of our favorite small California towns. We didn’t spend a lot of time here, but we did visit our favorite place in the city: Mediation Mount.

To continue our scenic drive, after leaving Ojai we took CA 150 to CA 126. This route took us by Thomas Aquinas College, through the quaint town of Santa Paula, and along the Santa Clara river; these last two locations were along the flood path from Los Angeles’s infamous 1928 St Francis Dam collapse.

From CA 126 we connected to I-5 and then went home.


A map of our trip. 622 miles driven, 9 highways taken, and 1 national monument, 1 national forest, 4 state parks (all in Big Sur), 1 folk art environmentalist landmark, 1 waterfall, 1 lake, 1 lodge, 2 hotels, and 110 miles of coastline visited.


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