Warning:  There are a lot of pictures in this post.  And a large percentage of them are jellyfish.  And part of the story is a little serendipitous (and crazy) which is just what we were looking for on this road trip 😉  Despite the large number of pictures though, included among them are some of my favorites ever so bear with me!
A pretty funny story will always be associated with our BIG SUR portion of our California coast road trip.
You see, when doing research on the best things to see along the California coast one of my top “want-to-see”s was Big Sur.
I was especially excited to see the McWay Falls waterfall because just look at that first picture on the upper left below:
Yeah, that is something to seek out, right?
Plus the girls thought it would be cool to see the purple sand beaches there and it just looked like an all-around pretty cool place to spend some time exploring.
So I planned to spend the night there after Hearst Castle so we could check it all out in the morning light before we headed to Monterey.
But when we were ready to book, hotels were either unavailable or too pricey in that area so we had to get all the way to Monterey for a hotel.
Gosh dang it! 
So we headed out to Big Sur to catch as much light as possible before the sun sunk and the stars came out. 

There were a few stops we couldn’t resist along the way.

I love the stormy sky.

We drove and drove.

And drove some more.

Lucy memorized and Article of Faith in the car and we all cheered.  We talked about the world and the girls told me their “happies and sads” as we zipped along. We ooo’d and ahhhh’d at all the beauty surrounding us.  I haven’t mentioned yet documenting this trip (although I have before) how much I adore car time with kids.  No, it was not fun when Lucy used to bawl the whole time (and believe me, she did), but man alive it’s good now.  Nothing like having your daughters all trapped with you for hours.  We didn’t watch any DVDs on the whole coast, just talked and read and learned and fought a little too.

Can’t be a road trip without that, right?

And we drove that particular afternoon into the evening, things like “Lucy, you’re taking up way too much of the seat!” and “Claire, you’re the most annoying sister in the world!” and “Grace, stop it!” started to fill the air around us squelching out the sweetness and light bit by bit.

As the sun sunk lower and lower I got worried we wouldn’t be able to see any of Big Sur.  And that thought started making me snappy too.

At least we’d see McWay Falls, I was sure.

Finally we got to the turn off for the beach area.  (After I missed a turn and bellowed at Grace for not helping with the map quicker.)  We drove down the windy road to the bottom where the parking area was and scrambled to get out to see the last glow of sunlight on that gorgeous spot.

It was pretty chilly so we were trying to grab sweatshirts from the back of the car as quickly as possible and I cannot remember exactly how it went down, but I got stomping mad at Grace about something or other.  Something dumb about needing to grab a sweatshirt but she didn’t think I wanted her to get it, doesn’t really matter, bottom line is that in that jumble of trying to get to the beach we were both mad.

She stomped out in front of us as we all started to speed walk in the direction of the beach, tears starting to trickle down her cheeks right as we heard someone jollily break through our little storm cloud of emotion yelling “Grace!” in a sing-songy, happy voice that seemed so strangely out of place right at that moment.

It was one of her good friends from the desert and her whole family pulling into the parking lot, trying to catch the last light along with the rest of us.

It is so funny how things can switch at the drop of a hat when something like that happens.

All of a sudden Grace and I snapped out of our stomping and smiled at that great family, who I’m sure by then totally knew they had happened on a tense moment.

We all walked to the beach together and laughed at the situation….

…and the girls and I are still laughing about it to this day a couple months later.

I think I need a nice family to come walk in next time I’m ready to get stomping mad and slam a door 🙂

Anyway, our friends let us know that we had actually passed the McWay waterfall about twenty minutes before.  Cherry on top of the frustration of the moment.

But guess what??

That and the other parts of Big Sur we still want to do are right there on our list of “things-we-missed-and-want-to-do-next-time.”  There are quite a few of them which is good because we’ve got to have some good reasons to get back there again some day, right?  There’s no way to fit all that beauty into a three-day trip I tell you!

We did indeed find the purple sand:

…caught a picture of Grace and her friend:)

 …and watched the beauty of God’s earth change as the light changed…

Later as we drove I pulled over to catch one more picture of the ocean in the last light of the stormy clouds.

It was out of focus but I think it’s one of my favorite pictures ever.

To me it was the perfect shot to capture my mood at that moment: Turbulent beauty.  Sometimes life gets out of whack and blurry, yet it is so beautiful if we stand back and try to remember what we’re supposed to be learning.

We had a kind of funny episode of losing a suitcase that night that I hope we will remember.

Already these memories are like golden threads to me.

We started out the next morning at the MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM…Lucy’s long anticipated stop.

 That place is amazing I tell you!

 We were incredibly mesmerized by all that gorgeous sea life.

 (Lucy looks a little worried about that crab shell thing she’s holding don’t you think?:)

Love that quote up there.  So true.  I’ve been in love with the ocean ever since we started scuba diving years ago.  I adore it.

Then we hit the jellyfish area.

And got pulled in so tight we couldn’t leave for a long time.  We could not get enough of those things.

Let’s just watch how this thing moves in a series of pictures:

Let’s watch a little video here to check out how cool that movement is in real motion:

 They are incredibly mesmerizing.

 There were a few different varieties.  These little ones were so cool too.

 We watched for sea life out on the deck.

Love how Lucy watched Grace instead.

 We took this trolley around Monterey.

From there we headed out on our drive for the day.

 We took the 17 MILE DRIVE to get to Carmel.

 I wasn’t sure how that would pan out with all these little girls, but we all loved it.

 There are stops along the way where you stop and your little map tells you all about each of them.

And it is breathtakingly beautiful.

This shot below may not look like much at first glance:

But let’s check out the beauty of even just that little landscape let alone the vast ocean out the other direction.  There’s something about that combination of colors and textures that just speaks to me.

Let’s get one more look:

 Oh boy.

 One of my favorite pictures:

 I love when Lucy gets so excited posing for pictures.

And I also love that that bird decided not to drop anything on my girl.

That excitement would have faded speedy-quick.

Claire was practicing her photography skills here and took about 49 pictures of these beauties:

 The cypress trees en route are incredible.

 I’ll let the signs do the talking on those…

I love this lone cypress:

Out there thriving despite it’s rocky ground.

So many analogies we could get into about that…one of my favorites that came to mind was the “Single Tree” Grandfather’s secret.  I talked a little about that back HERE, but I have more to say when we get to documenting Bear Lake some day.

 Drove past PEBBLE BEACH golf course:

And ended up in CARMEL.

 Such a cute little town.

I told Claire to pose in a way that we’d remember we were in Carmel.

 These were her poses.

Haha!  I think she thought is was actually Caramel Beach.

Our big decision the day before was whether we should go to Yosemite en route to Bear Lake…

…or to San Francisco.

In the end we decided on San Francisco since we didn’t want to rush Yosemite or fight the crowds there, and Lucy had never seen the Golden Gate Bridge.  (Some day we’ll get to Yosemite…)

Long-time blog readers may remember our trip to the GGB with my sister Charity clear back HERE, but Lucy wasn’t with us on that trip and we were so excited to show that thing off to her!

The excitement was tangible when we rolled into SAN FRANCISCO!

We drove over the bridge to get to our favorite vantage points of the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE and found ourselves right inside a cloud.

See that great bridge behind Grace:


It was completely engulfed in clouds.

But never fear, we weren’t afraid to wait and soak in that evening light together.

Little by little and inch by inch we saw a little more of that thing.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but man alive I love that bridge.

There is something about it that just speaks to me.

It obviously speaks to these girls too.

We explored all three vantage points.

And watched God’s art as this blanket of clouds draped itself over the bay:

See the tippy top part of the next “gate” over there popping between the clouds?:

I know too many pictures but we’ve got to remember those joyous faces!

How I hope these girls will always hold onto each other in life when those cold gusts of life hit them just like they are here:

We drove back over to FISHERMAN’S WHARF where we got sourdough bread and also some delicious pizza and had a little picnic in the car since we couldn’t find any parking to save our souls.

And really, what is a trip to San Francisco without a quick dessert stop at GHIRARDELLI?

We were all quite sure we couldn’t miss that.

Nor could we miss the salted caramel brownie sundae they have there:

We had no problem making that thing disappear.

And to end off our last night on that gorgeous coast line, I have to include a hotel picture.

Because I tell you, the goofiness that came out of those girls some nights is something I want to remember right along with all that beauty.

It’s a big part of the beauty to be honest.

Oh boy I love being theirs.

The next morning we headed over to meet up with my sister and her family who had been at a family reunion with her husband’s family in Piedmont.

We had always heard a lot about where Jeff was from so it was so fun to see him in his element (and catch up with his parents there too).
And as luck would have it, my brother and his family were in California for a family reunion as well, and their flight was delayed.  

So it was a big giant meet-up that morning…which we were all pretty happy about.

 The cousins were SO delighted to be reunited.

 …a little pre-reunion before the big deal Eyrealm reunion began the next week.

We walked around and checked out Piedmont for a bit, and then headed off on our long drive to Bear Lake, caravan-ing with Saydi and her kids.

The views were a little different as we whisked along:

 But still so beautiful in a different way.

I love those wide-open skies.

Luckily I had Saydi to talk to on the phone as we drove next to each other since by then my co-pilot had pretty much checked out.


We made it all that way in one day.

Here was one of our pit-stops when we picnicked on the sidewalk for dinner:

Oh boy I miss this already.
But I’m so grateful for all those memories we got to bundle up and weave into the tapestry of life we weave each day.  
We were pretty excited to reunite with Dave in Park City:

 …where we spent the night, and then finally arrived at Bear Lake.


We sure took the long route to get there, but it was worth every minute.
…Even the stomping part at Big Sur 🙂

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  1. I wish I'd known and you could have used our Aquarium passes! The jellyfish are our favorite exhibit, too.:)

    So glad that you had a great time in our neck of the woods. We might have even been in Carmel the same weekend! 🙂

  2. "And watched God's art as this blanket of clouds draped itself over the bay" and "How I hope these girls will always hold onto each other in life when those cold gusts of life hit them just like they are here" are sentences that touched my soul! Please write another book with your favorite photos. Please, please, please with a cherry on top. –M

  3. Oh wow, I didn't even know half of this happened. I didn't know you and Saydi had caravanned back or that you had stayed at Baliwood on your way to Bear Lake. I'm so happy to see all this! What a grand memory!

  4. Love a post with lots of pictures!! My catch phrase is if there's not a picture, it didn't happen.
    Pictures capture the moment that you can never get back – they keep the memory alive. Your trip looks absolutely amazing!!! Thanks for sharing!
    Take care,

  5. WOW! Driving up the coast looks beautiful and amazing!!

    p.s. I love Claire's sandals! I'm sure you guys have been doing some walking so are they comfortable enough for that? And what size are they for reference?

    Thank You <3

  6. Do you sell digital files of our photos? Have you ever considered it? I love the out-of-focus ocean shot you shared, it has such beautiful light and contrast and I'd love to put it up on my wall!

  7. Thanks so much for sharing your pics and thoughts about the aquarium. My father built that aquarium and he recently passed away at age 86. It would make him happy to know how much enjoyment his creations bring to others.

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