As told by a local hot spring Enthusiast, the Big Sur region is an ecological anomaly than the rest of the California coast. When I asked him how he thinks it got the way it did he stated that was a great question. He then proceeded to enthusiastically explain that Big Sur was once thought to be one of the most incredible pacific islands 1-2 million years before, A great distance off the coast of California. During that time an eruption of some sort sent the island in motion at a very slow rate, but eventually floating into the California coast and linking based on the years of pressure from the currents and shifts that are constantly occurring below the earth’s surface in California.
I don’t know if that story rings 100% true or if it is more of an urban legend, but there really is something magical about just driving through the big Sur right in heart of Highway 1. It isn’t one of those sites you see and your eye adapts to it’s beauty as it is almost hard to imagine how such a magical place exists. Every sharp turn you take its almost as if it gets more and more beautiful with every second passing.
So naturally I really enjoy the energy of this place and when a friend offered the opportunity to hike in 12 miles to some local hot springs called Sykes I jumped at spending an extensive amount of time in this ecological marvel as well as being able to get a little off the beaten path. These hot springs are still highly visited by all sorts of characters, misfits, and college spring breakers, but nevertheless it was worth a trip into this ancient civilization. I also realized I got to bring Maddy along for the trek so I was excited to spend some quality time bonding with my best friend and conquering this ecological masterpiece together.
The hike started just south of Pfeifer State park and immediately we started up on the Pine Ridge Trail. As I would come to learn this was quite the hard trek. We took many of breaks to acclimate to our environment and really start to become one with the surroundings here. You could tell that this specific trail was well traveled and had once been very lush, but after the fires that occurred in 2008 it had wiped out a lot of vegetation and was quickly starting grow back. As I really started to melt into the scenery that lay ahead of me I couldn’t help but feel as I walked through this Forrest that it was probably a lot different pre 2008 and that it would never look the same when I return in the future. That is really one of the great aspects of travel hiking is you never know what will be around the next turn even if you have done the trail 100 times. Always room to explore and depending on your age, state of mind, frame of reference, or even just physical condition it can really open up different windows into the Big Sur.
After we completed the grueling 12 mile hike of about 5-6 ridges and 4 river crossings we setup our camp on this amazing beach on the river facing a steep cliff across. Got a big fire going for warmth and passed out from sheer exhaustion in my hammock under the stars that the animals have starred at for thousands of years. The next morning after sleeping in I finally descended on the hot springs. In all my hikes I am usually all about the journey rather than the destination, but in this particular case I was extremely satisfied by the 5-6 pools of sulfuric water boiling over. I hopped in and proceeded to meet an interesting mix of college kids on spring break, and nudists that were expressing themselves in there full birthday suit. The conversations inside these springs unlike most others always seems to flow so naturally as if the environment has just helped everybody drop there inhibitions and talk freely. So you really get to know people faster than most environments society puts us in. It is almost like a different world among the forest so people feel more open to talk. I met around 5 different countries representing this small springs in the middle of this forest.
As for the river we camped on I could write all day about the beauty as well as the refreshing nature of the river and how it will always be with me now as so many rivers I have floated/bathed in have been, but I can save that for another story. This region (Big Sur) really does have some magical healing energies associated with it and it will always have a power to bring me back for more exploration and travel. The ups and downs and windy turns of the trail really bring me back to what life, balance, and harmony are all about.
“The more ups and downs, the more joy I feel. The greater the fear, the greater the happiness I feel.”—Jack Kerouc, The Big Sur