Big Sur, CA is easily one of the most beautiful places you can possibly imagine. Towering redwoods border the rugged central California coast, while the iconic Pacific Coast Highway weaves its way along sheer cliffs, lush trees on one side, and the vast Pacific Ocean on the other.
The Pacific Coast Highway is the most direct route into Big Sur. The drive is absolutely gorgeous, but not always passable. Mudslides occasionally wipe out parts of the highway, or sometimes construction projects cause lengthy detours. So be sure to check that the section of PCH you need for your journey is open before you go! And then there’s the weather. It is unpredictable at best, and can drastically change from one day to the next. Always check those weather reports, especially before setting off on big treks through the wilderness.
1) Always Check the Weather and Road Conditions to Your Destination
Although most people prefer to hike in dry weather, hiking in the rain can actually be a pretty cool experience if you’re prepared. Having waterproof shoes and a rain jacket makes all the difference, but it goes even further than that. Wearing clothing made from synthetic fabrics that dry quickly helps a lot too; hiking in wet denim is unpleasant to say the least. Natural fibers retain water longer, keeping you cold and wet long after the rain stops, while synthetic materials wick away moisture and will have you dry again in no time!
It is essential to make sure you keep your gear dry, especially on backpacking excursions. You need to have a way to get yourself warm and dry at the end of your trek. Your best bet is to wrap the gear you want to keep dry in plastic before putting it in your pack. Lining your pack with a dry sack is another good option. However, if you find yourself caught in a rainstorm unprepared, the best thing you can do is move the stuff you need to keep dry into the center or bottom of your pack, that way they won’t take the brunt of the rainfall, and then cover your pack with one of those emergency ponchos. Nowadays I always carry a couple in my pack, just in case. Not to sound too dramatic, but they can mean the difference between life and death. Totally worth spending the couple bucks.
2) Make Sure to Be Prepared for Wet Weather
Visiting natural hot springs comes with a whole other set of advice and things to keep in mind before setting off on an adventure. Before jumping straight in to a pool of water heated from inside the Earth, dip in a toe first to make sure the temperature is safe. Some hot springs (not Sykes) are far too hot to enter, and it’s better to find out first before discovering it the hard way. I also like to wear water shoes and board shorts in natural hot springs. Why? Because I once made the horrible mistake of grabbing a handful of the sediment at the bottom, and the things I saw were NOT GOOD. Everything from dead bugs, to hair, to band-aids. Things I was much happier not knowing about. Some people like soaking in hot springs wearing nothing but their birthday suit, and seriously, more power to them. I, on the other hand, am too worried about junk getting in places it shouldn’t. Plus, the water shoes make maneuvering the slippery rocks easier and safer. It’s a win-win situation.
3) Bring Proper Swimming Gear
Another thing to watch out for is that pesky brain-eating amoeba, the Naegleria Fowleri. These guys live in untreated hot water, like hot springs or warm lakes, and enter the body through the nose. They then set up camp inside your brain, feeding off your brain tissue. Symptoms start out feeling like a flu, but quickly grow much worse, and eventually lead to death. All within about a two-week span. These amoebas are microscopic, so there is no way to check the water for them before entering, and there is no cure if you contract one. Your safest bet is just to avoid submerging your head underwater in warm bodies of untreated water. The amoebas can only enter your body through your nose, so just don’t give them access to your nose. Easy enough. Also, make sure to stay hydrated! You’d be surprised how quickly the heat can drain you.
4) Beware of Brain Eating Amoebas
It’s funny how you can go on hundreds of adventures and still learn new things each time you head out into the wild. You may think you are as prepared as you possibly can be, and yet still things pop up you didn’t plan for. Most of the time these little oversights are no big deal; just some knowledge to tuck away for next time. But occasionally, these small errors can be dangerous. Always make sure to plan, do plenty of research on the destination your visiting, but most importantly, have fun!