Fishing Stories: Big Sir, January 2003

Several weeks ago Don Gale, a photographer from El Monte, notified me that he would be doing a photo tour with a group in the Big Sur area on the weekend between Christmas and New Years. I have done several similar tours with him and have enjoyed and benefited from his advice and suggestions and his knowledge of photography. So even though this workshop would create a few conflicts with holiday activities, I decided I would attend.

I take Max on these workshops with me and, in fact, he may learn more than I do. So we left on Thursday about noon to make it to Big Sur before dark. It seemed that we would have plenty of time, but not on that Thursday! First of all the traffic to Gilroy was horrendous. It took over an hour to go from San Jose to San Martin. Then things went okay until we got to Highway 156 and again it was backed up a mile or more on 101. Then a stop in Carmel for gas and some groceries, and we still had 26 miles to go to be in Big Sur.

Don was staying in the Ripplewood Resort; and since they did not have RV facilities, I looked for a place nearby so it would be convenient to go back and forth. However, in checking with the Big Sur Campground and Cabins, I found that they did not allow dogs in their cabins so I decided I would pass up the opportunity to stay in their campground. The next place I tried was the State Park, and I had no trouble finding a space or having a dog. No one was on duty since it was after 5 PM, so I picked a space and went back and left my $10.00 in the slot on their wall. Max and I had dinner, went for a walk, read a while and spent a pleasant night with the rain hitting the top of the camper.

We met Don and the group at the Ripplewood Café the next morning at 7 AM. A slight mist was falling but we are a hardy group, so we went back to the State Park with plans to hike the trail to Pfeiffer Falls. We took plastic bags to cover our cameras if it rained and umbrellas to protect us and the equipment when we are shooting. There were ten of us in the group and when we went into the park, there was no one to collect our fees. When we left we decided that we would leave the money in the slot since no one was there.

This park has a large thick growth of Redwoods. Even on a bright sunny day it is somewhat dark on the ground. This was a heavy overcast day so I am concerned that it is not looking too great for photography. The people using film are using ISO 50 Fuji film and those with digital cameras are generally setting them for the equivalent of ISO 100. The exposure times are a little longer but the results were great. We shoot some pictures trying to do justice to trees several hundred feet tall and some pictures of single leaves or tiny mushrooms. The rain held off and we completed a good morning of shooting. Then, we took a break and agreed to meet again at 2:30 PM.

Big Sur is a beautiful place. There are large groves of redwood trees and a mile away you can find large expanses of open area with the familiar arid flora we are used to in the lower foothills in California. Governmental organizations and commercial interests conduct an intensive, and probably somewhat expensive, effort to convince people to visit the Monterrey/Carmel/Big Sur area. But it appears that, if they thought they could get away with it, they would require that you reveal your financial condition and net worth before you were allowed to enter the area. Restrooms are in short supply and many are earmarked for customers only. Parking is at a premium and you are warned that parking in any of the roadside pull-offs overnight is illegal.

The group went to the Big Sur lighthouse one morning to see the old lighthouse and to photograph the coastline. As we went into the gate and the ranger saw Max’s big head looking out the window, that was as close as we got to the lighthouse. We were told to wait on the highway outside while the 3-hour tour took place. There were fifteen cars waiting to go in and three of us were turned away. Why? I am sure that since I intend to call the Director of Parks and Recreation about this there will be some rational developed to tell the public. The three cars turned away received three different reasons for not allowing dogs. Anyway, two of us went sight seeing on our own and had a good morning anyway. Max’s self esteem is slowly returning and, hopefully, this instance of discrimination won’t leave permanent scars.

On the last day we planned one final stop: Point Lobos. We were a smaller group by this time, so we car-pooled in two cars. Again, we were caught! You can’t go into Point Lobos with dogs. So we went to the Carmel Mission and took some great pictures.

In any event, in spite of the high prices, lack of parking, objections to dogs, and a general lack of pleasantness on the part of some residents, we had a good time and had a good photo outing.

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