Big Sur is the California that men dreamed of years ago, this is the Pacific that Balboa looked at from the Peak of Darien, this is the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look.

- Henry Miller

Big Sur is a 90 mile (145 km) stretch of rugged coast in central California. The Santa Lucia Mountains range rises almost straight out of the sea and at various points extends from 3 to 12 miles (5 to 19 km) inland. As you drive along the coast, you are greeted at almost every turn by stunning beaches (often inaccessible) and amazing rock formations. Bird lovers have enough to keep them busy, while otters and sea lions bob about amidst the kelp. Even dolphins will occasionally be spotted.

Most visitors see only the sights along Highway 1, never venturing inland along some of the most amazing hiking trails and, if you a more daring on dirt roads, some of the most amazing spots to spend the night. Since 1937, when the two lane highway between Carmel and San Simeon was completed, it has been closed 55 times due to landslides. During my stay, Highway 1 was open, but many of the service roads to the interior were closed due to fire and water damage.

Big Sur is part of California, but very likely the most under developed and sparsely populated area of the state. It has a little bit for everybody. Highway and dirt roads. Beaches and rocky cliffs. Roundly polished beach pebbles, jade and even gold. Natural springs to drink from and hot springs to relax in. The little village of Gorda (population of 38) boasts the most expensive gas and groceries in the country. There are hotels, motels and camping (if you book 6 months in advance). If you didn’t book ahead (like me) there is also the possibility of free camping if you know where to go. My five days in Big Sur were spent sleeping in my truck and hiking trails out to some remote camping spots. My five days in Big Sur were free of internet or telephone and full of adventure.

Author Lillian Ross , who lived in southern Big Sur near Lime Creek beginning in 1939, famously described Big Sur as “not a place at all but a state of mind.”