Alright. So. I have been waiting, and putting this off, and procrastinating, for a very very very long time.
Aka, this was a trip taken for my 23rd birthday. And I'm almost 24.
OH SAY IT AIN'T SO.
Ok. My point is - this post has been put off SO LONG because of the mere fact that I have been so freaked out to approach it. This actually happens a lot; for some reason trying to write down your thoughts and make a memory tangible is daunting to me. This kind of stuff keeps me up at night I really should relax.
Anyway, how am I supposed to write about something so surreal, and describe something that seems like it was out of this world?
And so this post comes with a large disclaimer - if it sucks, it's not my fault. I was just overcome by pure awe and inspired SO HARD that I couldn't get it down on paper correctly. Or on a HTML correctly. Plus, I just know it's going to be a doozy and take me an eternity to accomplish. IT'LL BE WORTH IT.
And so, so, with all that said, I have decided that the most fair way to approach this is to let the pictures do most of the talking. I'm sure I'll insert my dialogue in there forcefully simply because I can't help myself, but none of this can properly be re-told or captured for how it really was. It was probably the most beautiful experience I have had in my short 23 (still 23 yes going to milk that) years.
It all began, once upon a time, with a dream to see a part of California that wasn't Los Angeles. Because LA gets this rep about being, like, all there is to see in California. Which is so insanely not true. In my semi-educated opinion, LA is one of the last things to see, if not the last.
It also all began because of this nervousness I have around my birthday. For anyone who is close to me, they're rolling their eyes and telling me I'm an idiot - I have always had some weird phobia/mysterious shyness with my birthday. Maybe because when I was a kid it always fell on/right around standardized state testing and so no one was in the mood to celebrate my joining the world. Or because it's right after taxes are due or whatever. April just isn't a glamorous month. Who knows. I don't really like the concept of a birthday, I mean I could go on and on but there's just a lot that sometimes makes me generally kind of sad about it. And so, I have decided that instead of shying away from my birthdays, I would start to stare them in the face and make 'em special. So far it has massively improved my vision on the whole concept and has actually made April 18th a little more enjoyable! Who knew.
The dream was live. Who better to help me put the dream into play than Neal. He is truly an inspiration for adventure. He planned an entire camping, Big Sur expedition and I basically watched with the nerves. Bless him.
He flew down from Seattle with camping gear in tow, extra bless him. I purchased a sleeping bag for the journey but that was about all I had to do with it. Seriously he's that great. And I'm starting to sound like a loser so I'm going to move on.
We drove up the next morning, bright and early. The drive itself was stunning. It was about 6ish hours along the coast mostly once we got further north. We got to drive through Santa Barbara and catch a little snippet of that. It was extremely enjoyable.
So the first few nights, we were camping. Tent style. I actually really love to camp. We used to camp a ton when I was growing up, and I haven't done it in years. So this was a very special experience for me. I learned that Neal is somewhat of a pro camper, so that helped. He had a hammock and everything that he slung up in a tree. I was loving acting like the camping-princess (except I was actually so jealous of his skills like why could I not start a fire like he could or pitch a tent ugh...).
We grocery shopped in a little town nearby so that we'd have breakfast/snacks for the next couple of days and stashed it all in my car at the campsite while we were out. It was so perfect. It got chilly at night, but luckily we were prepared for that and our sleeping bags kept us warm as they were rated for those kind of temps (thanks again, camping-king Neal for helping me out). Here he is below being the camping-king. Look at that beard! And the scratch on his knee and the general dirt-look from finding firewood out of the brush. Total king.
After our first night of camping, we set out to find some coffee. Sleeping in a tent, though comfortable as we were for being in said-tent, really makes you crave some coffee to help knock out the camping kinks. I just really like the way 'camping' sounds apparently I guess that's why I'm throwing it in so much (I knew this post would be kind of rough).
In the cute little town of Big Sur, we found this unworldly, amazing, perfect little coffee shop with the best pastries ever. I'm starting to run out of adjectives to describe anything in this trip. It was making me speechless. We went there twice during our trip, it was that good.
It had the prettiest situation of succulents. The prettiest little benches and tables. All of it was so pretty. Plus again with the pastries...heaven.
The coffee got our blood pumping and we set out to find a hike.
We found one, alright. This hike was 10 miles. Ten. Along the coast of a secluded beach with small segments of jungle.
Jungle - where tiny snakes are waiting in the path to SCARE THE LIFE OUT OF YOU.
Sure enough, we happen upon one of these said snakes. So what does Neal do? Jumps over it and leaves me! Ok not so dramatic but I was seriously freaked out. I jumped and it slithered and I screamed and we moved on. Point is I did not dig the jungle parts. (I should say this "terrifying snake" was probably 24" long. Snakes are not my thing in any way.)
I also should really say that I was going to the gym pretty regularly before this trip. I thought I was in decent shape and was confident setting out on this hike. Yet this hike nearly really did kill me. I felt so bad because I was having such a hard time and holding Neal back...but he was never once not supportive and waited as long as I needed to catch my breath and proceed. My defense is, that the whole dang thing was a hill. It seemed like all the way up to the halfway point, and back all the way up to the start... Alright there was a small reprieve at the VERY end but by then my legs were so dumb I wouldn't have noticed anyway! With all the complaining I'm doing though I'm not mentioning how breath-taking the views were. Let the pictures do the talking...
I should say... This is the moment we got our sun-torching that I referred to in the Catalina post. TORCHED. 10 miles takes a long time to hike, and we were hot. Exposed skin was done. No chance. Ideally this would not have happened on the first day, but it did. Fun way to keep the fun going throughout the entire trip. We definitely didn't forget the hike any time soon.
That night was our last at the campsite. After our day of exercise we were particularly hungry, and not for food we could cook ourselves on our fire-pit, as fun as that really was.
That night we went to the most inspirational restaurant I have ever been to. The food was impeccable, the service was unprecedented and the entire experience couldn't have been more perfect. Again with the lack of proper adjectives. We were seated at a bar setting that wrapped around a large outdoor patio facing the ocean. The views took my breath away and the sunset was unreal.
More photos from the hike:
The next day...
...was -- My birthday!!! ... No but it was pure bliss. Really great. I had zero negative feelings for the entire day. Minus my sun-kissed skin. It was feeling a little crispy by this time.
We abandoned our tent life for an Airbnb, which was stunning and clean. Didn't take much to feel clean after camping, but I feel the word clean needs emphasis. After dropping our things, we hit Carmel. It was the most quaint beach town - town is a weird word for it. It felt more like a beachy community that shimmered with only happy people and had the most warming familial atmosphere. I had my favorite seafood, salmon, and Neal graciously called me a red lobster. Appropriate, though.
The whole day was filled with loving messages from friends, calls with loved ones, and best of all being hand-in-hand with Neal. It was the perfect day. After lunch we strolled Pebble Beach and saw the most adorable dogs and more happy people. I was happy right along with them - probably more so, even.
We concluded the day with a birthday dinner featuring Neal's favorite thing: pizza. And it was really great pizza. The best part, in my opinion, was the dessert. I'm not one to really order it, but on my birthday I make exceptions. I chose the cannoli with Neal's help, and it was decadent.