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The Big One
What's the best part of motoring California's famous Highway 1? Pulling over. By Michael Benoist

Day 1
Crashing surf and a chorus of snorts, barks, and bleats signal your arrival at Año Nuevo State Reserve's famed elephant seal rookery, 57 miles (92 kilometers) south of San Fran. Later, mountain bike the 15-mile (27-kilometer) Gazos Creek fire road deep into Big Basin Redwoods State Park. At night, retire to the cliff-top cabins of nearby Pigeon Point Lighthouse for an alfresco hot tub soak.

Day 2
Kayak past sea otters, harbor seals, herons, and cormorants at Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Reserve. Afterward, grab a big bowl of cioppino—Italian seafood stew—at Phil's Fish Market. Don't tarry. The Highlands Inn Park Hyatt in Carmel, a high-end roadhouse with high-drama views, awaits your repose.

Day 3
Baptize yourself with seawater at Point Lobos State Reserve. Dive into dense kelp forests or explore the park's eight miles (12.8 kilometers) of hiking trails. Monterey Bay Dive Center offers snorkeling trips for the noncertified. Space is limited, so reserve at least a month in advance.

Day 4
Solitude is hard to come by at Kirk Creek Campground, just 54.5 miles (88 kilometers) south of Monterey on Highway 1; everyone seems to know that it's one of the most scenic sites in the country. Across the street, however, Vincente Camp trail leads five miles (eight kilometers) and 1,600 vertical feet (488 meters) to the backcountry solitude of Ventana Wilderness's Vicente Flat campground—your stargazing aerie for the night.

VITALS:
1. Año Nuevo State Reserve: www.anonuevo.org
2. Costanoa Coastal Lodge & Camp: $45 a day for bike rental, www.costanoa.com
3. Pigeon Point Lighthouse: $46 a night, www.norcalhostels.org
4. Kayak Connection: $30 for a four-hour rental, www.kayakconnection.com
5. Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Reserve: www.elkhornslough.org
6. Phil's Fish Market: www.philsfishmarket.com
7. Highlands Inn Park Hyatt Carmel: $225, highlandsinn.hyatt.com
8. Monterey Bay Dive Center: $128 for gear and guide, www.montereyscubadiving.com
9. Point Lobos State Reserve: www.parks.ca.gov
10. Ventana Wilderness: www.ventanawild.org


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March 2005



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