Brave the driving wind to watch elephant seals cavorting by a car park (on a beach, obviously). The first of the big males have arrived from Alaska, says the guide ranger man, referring, presumably to the seals. And then, miraculously the sun comes out and turns everything into steam, just in time for sunset and expensive but, to be fair, great Californian wine at Nepenthe, jutting out over the Pacific. Everyone loves Nepenthe; it’s been a stop between San Francisco and LA for decades. Rita and Orson, Henry Miller and Richard Burton and Liz Taylor all figure in its much-touted history.
After trying one lodge that was charging $550 a night we were kiss-the-ground grateful to spot Fernwood. The Children at Play sign at the top of the dark dripping trail to the Big Sur river was a little creepy late on a December night, but the cabins under the redwoods by the store and Redwood Grill were cosily rustic, and the food, hot and hearty. Lots of wood, chopped and growing. There are tent cabin things and camping sites by the river, camping supplies and maps of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park on sale, and while the campers I spotted hunched over their Macs, seeking shelter in the bar didn’t look ecstatic, I reckon this would be a top base for a few days should it ever get warm again.
Nepenthe: 48510 Highway #1, Big Sur, (831) 667-2345