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    • Back in March, I asked Cake for advice about a (then-upcoming) trip to the Monterey area and Big Sur...

      The community came through with some excellent advice, and I wanted to share a bit of what we saw.

      We got started in Pacific Grove, which was lovely. Pretty much the entire coastline from downtown Monterey all the way around the peninsula is a walking path, so we spent several days just walking and exploring. We never got sick of the view, and would often find ourselves stopping for ten or fifteen minutes just to watch the waves from this or that section of the path.

      One thing that struck me about the town of Pacific Grove: it is clearly a town that is loved by its inhabitants. We quickly noticed that there were abundant benches along paths, and that each one was dedicated in memory of somebody's relative, friend, teacher, etc. What took us longer to notice was that each bench had been very precisely situated to make the most of whatever viewpoint it was at. Seriously, it was uncanny. We would be stopped, enjoying an amazing view, and then notice a bench a bit further down the path, and darned if that bench wouldn't turn out to be in exactly the optimal spot. The obvious inference to draw is that the people in that town love their views, and take them very seriously.

    • The best time of day was sunset; we canceled at least one dinner reservation at the last minute because we decided to stay out and watch the sun set rather than walk back into town.

      On one notable occasion, we selected a particular spot that we thought would make for a photogenic sunset. Right as the colors were starting to really get going, a fellow we referred to as "rock-stacking guy" showed up, squarely in the middle of the view, where he commenced the construction of ever-larger and more-precarious stacks of rocks. We were mildly annoyed at the time, but it did make for more interesting photos, in the end...

    • We next ventured south, to Big Sur. Highway 1 was still closed at that time, and it was also relatively early in the season, so it felt like we had the place to ourselves. The further south we drove, the emptier it got, and down at the point of closure (Gorda), it felt downright post-apocalyptic. The drive down was spectacular! Coming from Oregon, I am familiar with coastline landscapes, but this was something special.

      Along the way, we stopped at the Point Sur Lighthouse, which was absolutely worth it: a lovely walk, incredible views, and fascinating history. Also, like everywhere else we went in this region, the people volunteering as docents were extremely knowledgable and friendly.

    • Due to landslide and fires, many of the iconic Big Sur hikes were closed. On the advice of one of the Point Sur docents, we decided to start by hiking the Buzzard's Roost trail, which goes up... and up... and up, ending with spectacular panoramic views of mountains, the sea, and of course soaring birds of prey. One of the most interesting parts of the hike was watching the vegetation change as we climbed, and also noticing how different parts of the forest were growing back from forest fires.

    • Having the road closed worked out very, very well for us. It meant that there was little enough traffic that we could pull over safely for photographs pretty much anywhere we wanted to!

    • The weather was perfect: clear and warm during the day, with clouds rolling in around sunset (presumably to help make for more interesting views). This shot was from Sand Dollar Beach just as the evening clouds were starting to form over the mountains. The people in this shot were pretty much the only humans we saw that afternoon.

      After reaching the end of the highway, we headed back north. On the advice of the Cake folks, we stopped for dinner at Deetjen's, and I can wholeheartedly pass that recommendation along. We didn't plan very well, and so didn't make a reservation... all of the people that we didn't see further down the road must have stopped there, or something, since the place was crowded. The folks there were very kind and let us sit at the bar, which gave us a great opportunity to make friends with the staff and learn all sorts of interesting things about the area.

    • After a few days exploring Big Sur, we headed north to Carmel-by-the-Sea. Along the way, we spent a day at the Point Lobos, which is an incredible national treasure. Otters, sea birds, seals, etc., with amazing views and trails around every corner.

      I spent a good twenty minutes sprawled out on some rocks, carefully bracing my telephoto lens, watching a particular otter enjoy some snacks.

    • Carmel-by-the-Sea was a wonderful place to wrap up the trip. Their beach is beautiful, the town itself is full of interesting shops and lovely architecture, and we got there just in time for their annual plein air art festival. While out and about over the previous several days, we had been seeing people with easels- turns out that it's part of the festival's painting competition. Artists bring canvases to get stamped on a Wednesday, and then have until Friday at the end of the day to turn in their submissions. The quality of the work was extremely high, even given the compressed timeline (or perhaps because of it?), and we enjoyed trying to guess where the paintings were made.

      We had asked the staff at Deetjen's to recommend some places to eat, and unsurprisingly they were spot-on. We wholeheartedly recommend La Balena as well as Cultura!

      As much as we enjoyed Carmel, I think when we go back we will spend more time in Pacific Grove- it was a bit more relaxed and low-key.

    • After Carmel, my better half headed back to Portland and I went back to Pacific Grove for my conference, which was at a summer camp that has been turned into a conference center. It was right by the Asilomar State Beach, which is another treasure of the area. I have now been spoiled forever, and am a firm believer that all academic conferences should be held somewhere where one can have a bonfire at the end of each day of meetings.

      And that was our trip! Thanks, Cake, for being a place to get such useful suggestions, and for generally being a pleasant place to hang out online!