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Have you ever wanted to get lost for a day? Drive far away to a place you’ve never been that takes your mind away from it all? The trials of everyday life can change your spirit to a degree. To a point that you feel exhausted. The same routine over and over. Waking up, heading to work, then coming back home late. Just grabbing enough time to make dinner and gather your thoughts before heading to bed for the night. We lose a sense of free will in a way. An ability to say that we just need some time to think about life. When you get so deep into a routine, you have to take a moment to let go. Leaving your worries behind you for a day, can sometimes set you free.

I woke up this morning around 4:30 and looked over at my alarm as it screamed loudly. My eyes blurry, my mind not quite ready to wake. I contemplated turning it off and going back to sleep, yet I was reluctant to do so when I thought of the day ahead. Making my way to the bathroom, I grabbed a towel and got into the shower. Feeling the water trickle down on my body invigorated my being. Now that I was awake, I proceeded to make my coffee and head out the door. Dark was across the sky and the sun would struggle to make its way up for the day. I headed west towards Big Sur.

I have taken trips down the coast of California before. Something about the view off of the Pacific Coast Highway and the Ocean always seems to calm me. I also thoroughly enjoy waking up in the morning before anyone else makes their way out of bed. Being on a bare road as you travel to your destination keeps your wits about you. The possibility of seeing wildlife increases and the light coming across the sky is next level. This trip was about going further south of Big Sur. I had camped near Big Sur previously, but wildfires in California made the road inaccessible for several years. Finally seeing they had opened up, I wanted to get my final leg of Highway 1 under my belt. Turns out I couldn’t have chosen a better day to do it.

Passing by Monterey, I looked over at a perfect view of the beach and ocean meeting. The mist settled in with the red and orange hues drifting across the sky. It was around 7:30 as I made my way through. My first stop of the day was Mcway falls in Pfeiffer state park. It is one of two main waterfalls in California that actually flow directly into the ocean. When I got there, it was myself and one other family. I parked my car further away from the trail and made my way to the waterfall. I had a quick conversation with the father of the family. Exchanging pleasantries and information, before heading out. Why is it that people are always friendlier in the morning? No matter where I go, it feels like people that are half awake tend to have a better outlook. Maybe because there is still a full day of possibility ahead for them? Either way, I’ve met some wonderful people on morning hikes.

The trail to the waterfall was short. Much shorter than I originally had expected it to be. Walking around 500 feet on a small gravel pathway. Trees all around, with a small stream flowing below. Passing through a drainage tunnel briefly and I was there. The anticipation was built high as I walked around the corner. Each footstep I took, I continued to gaze over at the rock formation to my left. Just waiting for the waterfall to come into sight. The lighting was not perfect, yet the waterfall was still attractive as ever. Flowing strong down the rock face and trickling into the ocean. I stopped and viewed for several moments to take it all in. I took several photos of the area before I packed up by camera and proceeded back to the car. I’m glad I had the waterfall to myself for a moment. The time it took me to make my trek, was more than enough time to spend before the family came into view. The dog, children and couple all walking down the path towards the waterfall. Taking the same route that I had just taken. I always take glory in getting to a site first thing in the morning. Way before the tourist stronghold happens as the sun comes up. I do this often, I enjoy it.

My trip after the waterfall became less of a destination and more of a drive. I thought about driving back to Monterey, but that didn’t last long in my mind, before I decided to keep driving. When I started, I wasn’t sure of when I would stop. My mind was clear and I was just enjoying the amazing views along the way and having nothing planned. I rolled down my windows on the car and felt the strong breeze hit my hand as I rested it on my door. The blaring sound of “red dirt road” on my speakers as I drove with no destination in mind. Stopping at various places along the way, I made my way through Lucia and then Ragged Point. Small towns with no real inhabitants to see. The twists and turns of the area seemed calming. I stopped to observe surfers out at the beach catching some strong waves. I watched for a while, as the sun started to make its way above me. People started to join in on my day. After enough people had made their way to the beach area, I decided it was time to shove off. My solo drive had now became a bit too crowded for my party of one.

I made a decision to head back as I had only the day. Tomorrow would bring the reality of work back into the fray. I still had around 3 hours left to get back to my house. On my way back home, I stopped and grabbed a bit to eat at a place called Coast in Big Sur. It’s a quaint restaurant that looks like several huts combined by stairwells. It was a mix of everything. Food, yoga, art, it was all within these walls. I had actually forgotten that I hadn’t eaten anything for the day. I ordered a miso soup and a beer. The miso soup was thick with flavor and large chunks of vegetables. It left a lasting flavor in my mouth that didn’t dissipate until much further down the road. It was a perfect stop that added to the tranquility of the day.

My way home had much more traffic than my morning commute. People passing to make their way to whatever weekend destination they were traveling to. I wondered where they were going and what their life was like that week. I was content. My mind felt free from the struggles of everyday life. Driving 6 hours could be distasteful to some, I found it to be enlightening. Something about this area invigorates. I could drive on and on and never feel like I need a break. The constant stopping to stare at amazing views whenever I felt like the time was right. The anticipation of what I would see next as I went through areas I’d never been before. The day was what my mind needed to recalibrate. I would suggest you do the same. As your mind starts to work overtime and you feel overwhelmed, take a break, and go for a drive.

Chris Hetrick. Author.

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