Not content with our backyard blossoms in Montara, we made a quick trip to Big Sur last week to experience Calla Lilly Valley. The day was sunny. The valley was lovely. But the 110-mile drive took four hours. Oof. Was it worth it? You be the judge.
The joy of sampling last year’s California “super bloom” at Anza-Borrego State Park, the Cailfornia Poppy Reserve and the Carrizo Plain left us hungry for a similar experience this spring. But modest winter rains meant the state’s deserts and inland plains were bereft of blooms.
We did enjoy the orchards in bloom last month at Fresno County’s Blossom Trail. The Coastside wildflowers are lovely this year. And Montara is awash in calla lilies. But we wanted something extra special. So, we headed south to Big Sur at 2 p.m. on a Friday. Four extra special hours later we were struggling to find the right turnout at Garrapata Beach while burning precious daylight.
After a ramble through bountiful California lilac along a trail on the bluff above the beach, we finally found Calla Lily Valley. It’s more of a ravine, really, that directs Doud Creek from a channel beneath Highway 1 to the ocean through a fairyland of calla lilies.
It was late in the season, so the chest-high floral grove was a tad past its peak. But it was still nice enough to attract a trio of other photographers with envy-provoking lenses, plus additional wanderers who had come to see the giant white blooms bob in the early evening breeze above the gurgling creek.
We also took a moment to enjoy “golden hour” lighting as the surf pounded the rock-studded shoreline.
Online sources are varied and not particularly clear on the best approach to Calla Lily Valley, but we suggest triangulating using Doud Creek.
Our approach from a trail head to the south required a bit of a rocky scramble to drop into the grandiloquence of the beflowered gulch. We recommend approaching from the trail head at Highway 1 about 500 feet north of Doud Creek. That approach has stairs down to the flowers. You also can approach from the beach without harming vegetation.
Worn from a long afternoon of driving and leery of the traffic home, we decided to seek dinner without a reservation in Carmel-by-the-Sea and lucked into new Mediterranean restaurant called Artemis, on Ocean Avenue at Mission Street. It’s easy to find if you’ve just pulled into town from Highway 1.
We were seated immediately. The Geek dined on Jidori chicken breast (aka the Kobe beef of chicken) and MontaraManDan enjoyed the Kofte, a Turkish variety of seasoned meatballs. We shared a plate of yummy walnut humus as an appetizer. The Geek washed it down with a Lebanese sauvignon blanc. MontaraManDan had a beer. The restaurant is new and waiting to be discovered. We don’t think it will take long.
The drive home up the coast took a snappy 1 hour and 50 minutes. Whew.
Worth it? If you drive past Garapatta Beach in the spring, by all means make the stop. Calla Lily Valley is stunning. But before we spend an afternoon and an evening in traffic to see bunches of calla lilies, we may instead take a walk around Montara or pour a couple of glasses of wine and enjoy the calla lily splendor in our own back yard.
There’s no place like home.