Big Sur

May 27, 2020 at 7:16 pm (Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, California wildflowers, Monterey County, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildflowers) ()

Nacimiento-Fergusson Road overlooking Big Sur

I’ve driven the challenging Nacimiento-Fergusson Road from Fort Hunter Liggett to Big Sur two or three times before, but last weekend was the first time I’d started in Big Sur going home.

The N-F road had been closed by the Los Padres National Forest because there were complaints of too much traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway (State Hwy 1, aka Big Sur Highway) during the COVID-19 lockdown. The campgrounds had already been closed and folks were availing themselves of road pullouts or wherever they could to camp.

iPhone pano from the stairway overlook of Sand Dollar Beach

They felt that closing the N-F Road would cut down on tourism. I’m not sure it worked. My housemate and I wanted to also explore the Cone Peak road that branches off the N-F Road, but that remained closed. Even so, we had a lovely trip. The N-F Road is narrowest on the scariest part of the road, where you may need to move way over along an unprotected cliff edge if encountering another vehicle. But I just go slow and anticipate the folks turning corners by taking a little too much of my lane.

Band-tailed pigeon

One of my goals has been to get Marilyn a band-tailed pigeon for her life list. Here was one of three perched alongside the highway at Sand Dollar Beach. The parking lot didn’t open until 9 a.m. but we walked in anyway.

Turkey vultures

A pair of turkey vultures waited for the thermals to make soaring worth their while.

A few short trails led to viewpoints, but we were most interested in the flora. The path to the stairs had a deep erosion rut in it, which made it a bit difficult as I only had my beach sandals on.

Sand Dollar Beach

Sand Dollar Beach had no actual sand dollars, and even though it is known for its jade, we didn’t see any. (Much of it has already been absconded with illegally.) There was, however, plenty of the California state rock, serpentine.

Serpentine and barnacles

Many rocks harbored mussels, snails, and barnacles, with little collections of shrunken anemones trying to hide in the wet sand until the tide came back up to nurture them.

Cliff swallows had a colony on one of the cliffs just offshore.

Cliff swallow nests
Cliff swallows in their nests made of mud
North edge of Sand Dollar Beach

We always like to be out very early to avoid crowds, especially during the pandemic. It’s also the best time for photography and birdwatching.


There were very few seashells, but there were some interesting rocks washing up with the tide. I loved the black rocks dotted with a different mineral, some of which had a quartz sheen.

There were also a few wildflowers.

And some very small sea urchins.

Sea urchin

I was also fascinated with the delicate seaweed.

We had lunch at the Whale Watcher’s Cafe in Gorda, where the employees wore masks and required the same of their customers. That suited us just fine! We ordered fish & chips to eat on the outdoor patio (where tables had appropriate social distancing) and agreed the food was delicious.

Our table, and view

Another beautiful day in paradise.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre
Feel free to reblog or share
Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America
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Contact:  cindy at

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