If there’s something that living with MS teaches you, it’s that you have to be flexible, roll with the punches, and find the beauty that life has to offer even when it throws you for a loop. So when mother nature threw a bit of a wrench into our bucket list trip up Highway 1, what choice did we have? Take a detour and enjoy the ride.
Much like MS, mother nature can be known to wreak havoc at times. The winter of 2016 and 17, she laid her blows out on the Pacific Coast. Given the drought California has been battling for the past few years, the rain brought in by the winter storms was welcome. The destruction to the coastline? Not so much.
But good or bad, if you’re a strip of highway winding your way between the ocean and steep mountainside of Cali’s coast, mother nature was planning on doing some restructuring this winter. Part of that restructuring was taking out couple of bridges and wiped out some road through Big Sur with some monumental mudslides. With the road through Big Sur closed, we evaluated the situation and adjusted – just like we have so many times with MS.
Rerouting up highway 101, which cuts through farmland on the eastern side of Big Sur, wasn’t a difficult detour. If anything, it’s a faster and more direct route to San Francisco. However, faster and more direct wasn’t the point of our trip. We were going more for epic and scenic.
Our first chance to get back to the PCH was the turn off towards Monterey. We were still determined to see a few things we really had set our sites on; Big waves, coastal cliffs, sea lions, and, sea otters. And of course, we needed accessibility so Dre could enjoy it all, too! A google search helped us decide to take another detour a few miles south of Monterey to Point Lobos State Park.
Cutting down into Carmel by the Sea for a quick photo opp of Pebble Beach, we headed on to Point Lobos. It was a weekend, and busy – busy enough for the parking lot to be full. However, with our handicap placard we were able to pay the ten dollar parking fee, buy a two dollar map, and head on in. California parks do offer a disabled rate if you have the correct pass, which we did not have, so check into it before you head out!
Point Lobos State Park
With this being a last minute detour, our research hadn’t been complete. We knew the Sea Lion Point trail was handicap accessible, but also knew parts of It had been closed because of the storms. We figured we’d park in the Sea Lion parking lot and check out as much as we could.
As detours do, we soon met up with a side route that was absolutely everything we didn’t even know we’d been looking for, and not planned at all.
After pulling Dre’s scooter out of the car, we headed somewhat aimlessly out of the parking lot. As luck would have it, a woman in an electric wheelchair was getting out of her van as we passed by. “Roll on!” She called out with a smile. We waved back, told her to have a nice roll herself, and asked her if she knew if the Sea Lion Point path would take us out to see and sea otters.
She told us that if Dre’s scooter would make it, the most scenic path was bird island trail. Heck, we wanted scenery and Dre’s scooter might be small but it’s feisty, so we figured we’d give it a whirl.
She introduced herself as Carrie Anne, and we became fast friends. A park volunteer, her goal was to help all visitors enjoy the park, but particularly relished the opportunity to help a fellow differently abled adventurer. Discovering that she also suffers from MS made the quick bond between her and Dre even stronger, and pretty soon, we had our own personal tour guide.
Bird Island Trail
Heading along the paved road that follows the rugged stretch of coast, we were treated to a number of stops to enjoy the waves crashing into the rocks along the way. Aaron and Renee took the opportunity to scour along the black rocks. Fortunately, they rethought their “funny” photo opp of leaning way too far out over the rocks and I survived what I am pretty sure was a heart attack that occurred during their planning.
Bird Island Trail is a loop that curls up and around a point that juts out into the ocean. Following Carrie Anne’s lead, we also quickly saw that it is home to a pristine stretch of coastline. The cove housing the rock arch over crystal blue water bordered by a white sand beach? The one that looks too good to be true in the numerous pictures touting the top ten places to visit along the PCH? It’s there.
We came around a bend to discover that the cove that decorates blogs about the top ten spots along the Pacific Coast is housed in Bird Island Trail and is just as perfect as the tourist pictures show. Thanks to Carrie Anne and her generous sharing of her binoculars, we also got an up close view of the sea lions sunning themselves on the beach.
Further along the trail, Carrie Anne stopped again and pointed to a mass of sea weed floating in the ocean. “Sea Otters.” Once again handing over her binoculars, we got a bird’s eye view of the sea otters floating in the sea weed, enjoying an afternoon rocking in the current.
Completing the loop of bird island, Carrie Anne pointed out the wide array of wild birds hiding in the rocks. Our chance meeting with Carrie Anne turned our visit to Point Lobos from a quick pit stop of an ocean view to a truly magical journey through one of the most phenomenal places we’ve had the chance to visit.
Sharing the journey in a wheelchair and scooter gave it an additional element that many people would never understand. Perhaps when the world isn’t as accessible, the beauty in its roughest and most natural terrain becomes that much more delicious.
Back on Track
After our three-hour detour through Point Lobos, we were ready to eat. Monterey proved to be a beautiful pit stop, with an accessible walkway along the ocean front, complete with sunning seals. We stopped at Abalonetti’s, where Renee and Aaron enjoyed their first raw oyster, and after a delicious meal, continued our drive up the coast.
Once we got to San Francisco, we were back on our original track. Whatever your ability level may be, the city by the bay has plenty to do, and plenty of accessibility. Staying at the Holiday Inn on the Wharf, we had easy access to walk and roll right down to the wharf. An added benefit was that we were able to keep our parking space in their lot for the full day after we checked out. With parking rates steep in the city and spots difficult to come by, we felt like the fifty dollars for our stay was a pretty good bargain.
With only the day to tour before heading to the airport, we decided to split our time between Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco is an active city, with bikes, mini cars, tour busses, ferries, and who knows what other types of transportation for rent. It is also incredibly accessible. A bike path runs along the waterway from the wharf all of the way to the bridge and had we chosen to do so, Dre could have ridden his scooter the entire way.
We didn’t choose this option, instead cruising around to some of the more familiar spots on the wharf. At the end of our hectic trip, we were in the mood for a leisurely day. A lunch of clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl followed by a stroll down to see the sea lions on pier nine were just a couple of the traditional tourist draws partook in.
People watching and listening to the street performers were equally as enjoyable. Tourist options in the area are fruitful, tours of Alcatraz, The Maritime Museum, Ghiradelli Square, shopping, eating… If you know you’re heading for the area, do some research to find what suits your interests. If you stumble in, well, you’ll definitely find something to do!
Our final stop for our trip was at the Golden Gate Bridge. Click on the link to find information on visiting, including the tolls if you choose to drive over the bridge.
Visitors center parking was busy in the afternoon, but we were able to get a handicap spot. As far as we were concerned a roll/stroll across the bridge was a must. For as gorgeous as all of the pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge might be, they don’t do justice to the majesty that it is up close.
Taking a view of the city while leaning on the red, steel beams that are recognizable world wide, is second to none.
A bit wind blown and full of memories that will last a lifetime, we piled into our rental car one more time, and checked off our box on our bucket list. And while this might have been a check, it opened up endless possibilities for our next trip to see Aaron!