Locomotoring

Seven continents, seven seas, seven billion people and seven thousand good eats …

Mission accomplished

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Courtyard of Mission Carmel

Courtyard of Mission Carmel

I have been meaning to do a circuit trip of missions around Bay Area. There are quite a few of these missions, so one can’t hope to cover all of them in a day. I have had eyes on a few – Carmel, Jolon and Soledad with possibility of San Miguel thrown in. Opportunity presented itself this memorial day weekend – so I packed some sandwiches, a few slices of the wonderfully moist and orange flavored cake ala Clotilde and, a thermos full of Chai. We left early on this Sunday summer morning – a perfect California day that held promises of a warm clear blue skied summer afternoon.

Kitchen in Carmel Misssion

Kitchen in Carmel Misssion

Couple of hours of driving brought us to Carmel-by-the-sea. The mission is called San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo. The first thing that struck me was the sight of well manicured homes adjacent to the mission building – nothing wrong, just incongruent. This mission holds Sunday mass – sounds of Hallelujah reverberated through the building as we walked about the adobe hallways that still preserves the living quarters of the monks from bygone days. The chairs were small – like the children’s seats in Ikea. The beds were sparse – often a hard plank with a thin blanket. Makes one wonder about the so called good old days.

Driving down Hwy 1 from Carmel

Driving down Hwy 1 from Carmel

After a cup of hot Chai and a slice of cake, we headed south on Hwy 1. We drove and took in sights of the beautiful blue sea, the cliffs and the waves frothing around the rocky protuberances off the shore. Other tourists like us were busy clicking photos at the numerous vista points. If we hadn’t packed a lunch, we could have picked up a burrito at the Big Sur camp ground – from a charming lunch shop shaped like a truck. Being the memorial day weekend, the campground was swarming with happy folks, some so drunk and unwashed that it would be hard to tell them apart from hobos.

Limekiln beach, an hour south of Big Sur, is a lovely place for relaxation but unfortunately for us it was an hour south of lunch time as well. So, we enjoyed our sandwiches sitting in our car at a vista point near Big Sur. From afar, sound of cars on the highway is awfully similar to waves breaking on the beach but not when the waves are only 100 feet below and cars whoosh behind only a few feet away. The only good thing about the car is the warmth it offered against the cold coastal wind.

Fort Hunter Liggett Military Base

Fort Hunter Liggett Military Base

Thankfully, the sandwich had time to settle in by the time we got on the windy Nacimiento-Fergusson Road to Jolon. It twisted and turned going up the mountain face – giving spectacular views of the sea at every turn. We saw several signs of roadside camping activity. I stepped out of the car at one such site and promptly got back in after experiencing a vertigo inducing moment. What goes up must come down and eventually, the mountain road deposited us on the valley floor and we found ourselves side by side to a big tank and signposts in Arabic. I must not have paid attention to the map – Jolon Mission is close to Fort Hinter Liggett Military training grounds. To be honest, the camp with its Arabic signposts was less obtrusive than rows of fancy homes.

Mission San Antonio de Padua is what I expect a mission to feel like – quiet, hot and empty. It is one of the few missions that estill exists in its rural environment. The first sight to greet your eyes is a giant olive tree – a tree of unusual proportions and apparently of unusual quality as well. There are a few pomegranate trees from the olden days.  We saw a few folks, slumped in the heat engrossed in reading and writing – perhaps students from archaeology class by California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo – the quietness of the mission discouraged conversation so I can’t be sure. The mission kitchen appeared in full use – smell of food wafted past us and we noticed a few pots of well cared for herbs. Apart from a few satellite dishes and neon lightbulbs, we could have walked into late 1700s.

Front yard of Mission Jolon

Front yard of Mission Jolon

We lost our way getting out of Jolon. Our GPS unit led us confidently to a unmetalled road that was closed off due to a rockslide. In wandering about that part of Los Padres National Forests, we found a few campgrounds that were perfect for camping – quiet on a busy weekend and surrounded by rocks made for bouldering. While we had a pair of jammies and toothbrush with us and could have slept in our Forester, we eventually found our way to Hwy 101 – unfortunately, not in time to catch open hours of Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad. Two missions short of the intended trip but one that really hit the spot – not bad for a day trip.

View Missions of California in a larger map. For more photos from the trip and photos of other missions in California, click on one of the photos above.

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  1. […] had a good time. If you are up for a longish day trip or an overnight trip, combine with a trip to Mission San Antonio de Padua. For a slideshow, click here. Rate this:Share […]


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