More Adventurous is a series covering travel, exploration and on-the-road living by musician and FP design team member turned content provider, Jillian Taylor.
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Ever since I first cracked the spine of Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur, I’ve imagined the peaks and valleys of that mystical place in my mind. A family wedding in Napa, CA, gave me the perfect excuse to make this dream a reality, and put a recently thrifted 35mm Pentax camera to use. I took some extra days off of work, grabbed a map and decided to make a proper road trip of it.
Yes, you will need a map, and plenty of other supplies depending on how prepared you want to be. Savor your wifi before taking this trip. Screenshots of campsites, maps and directions are great for when you lose service, and you will lose service. Pack some books, an Internet-free form of music and enjoy.
I started this trip from the good old Garden State on a red eye flight to LA. A friend living in San Diego met me at LAX with a rucksack tent, acoustic guitar and suit in hand as my date. From there we rented a car for $25 a day and set out on our trip. (pro tip: always get insurance on the rental car. A mere $9 extra a day can save you a $500 dent fee. Also go for the economy car whenever you can. They go fast and you usually end up with a free upgraded vehicle like we did).
An endless roaring ocean, winding roads that cut through lush mountains and zero phone service made for a one-of-a-kind, serene journey. There are several camping sites along that long stretch of Highway 1 and, depending on the season, they fill up quickly. Since this road trip was on kind of a whim, we had no camping reservations and tried our luck with a walk-up site at Kirk Creek in the Los Padres National Forest. If you don’t want to go the drive-until-we-find-something route that I sometimes like, recreation.gov is a great site to find camping all across America.
Most walk up sites are first come, first serve and for tenting and biking only. We were able to leave our rental car parked outside of the camping area and pitch our tent atop an 80 foot cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Our campsite came with a picnic table and fire pit, complete with a metal grilling grate. They sell firewood on the honor system at Kirk Creek (take a bundle, leave the money in a jar), but all food and other supplies are on you. Sites will have a bathhouse with sinks, toilets and sometimes showers. This particular site did not have showers, but a dip in the ocean usually works just fine. Be sure to stop at one of the last call general stores on Highway 1 and stock up before entering park territory. In the spirit of traveling light and being unprepared, we survived on leftover sandwiches, trail mix, fruit, lots of water and some wine in the evening (had to pay homage to Kerouac).
From our site we were able to explore the dense Los Padres National Forest that bordered us. We hiked down one of many trails surrounded by enormous Sequoia and White Fir trees. If you explore this forest keep your eyes to the sky as well. We glimpsed a California condor whose wingspan took my breath away. Our trail ended at the water’s edge. We took a freezing yet refreshing dip in the Pacific and air dried our clothes under the nighttime sky.
Big Sur Tips & Tricks: Remember that you are out in the wilderness and camping is at your own risk. This area of California is home to black bears, coyotes and mountain lions. Make sure all food and trash is disposed of and that luggage is closed and stowed away. Raccoons are the most common animal on the prowl at Big Sur, which I found out one open bag and several pairs of underwear later.
Bottles of water
Layers of clothes (hot days transition to cold nights)
A good book
Paper and pens
Fruit, trail mix and any snacks that won’t spoil
Solar powered chargers and boom boxes
Stay: Check out at Kirk Creek in Big Sur!
+What are your road trip essentials?