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Spectacular Nature at Treebones Yurt Resort in Big Sur, California

My yurt overlooking the Pacific

A yurt interior

San Antonio mission at sunset
by Carolyn Clark Beedle

[From Summer 2011] “A yurt resort in Big Sur, CA…you want me to meet you where?” When the call came with that invitation for a long weekend, the opportunity was too intriguing to pass up. This is nature at its most spectacular. To get to the Big Sur area on the California coast is now a challenge to even the heartiest traveler. Rainstorms have washed away portions of coastal Highway 1, requiring detours of all kinds.

Our party had made plans to converge at Treebones Yurt Resort, arriving from northern and southern California by car. To get there we all had to drive inland from Paso Robles on Highway 101, over the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road around Fort Hunter Liggett, past Mission San Antonio then through the hills of the coastal range. That was just the beginning of the adventure; directions were loose and road signs were scarce. I first ended up lost at the Mission San Antonio de Padua. The “mission that time forgot” was founded by Padre Junipero Serra in 1771, when he and his party hung mission bells on oaks trees in the Los Robles valley to convert and colonize Indians from a number of hunting and gathering bands collectively referred to as Coahuiltecans.

After I wandered through this now peaceful moment from history, the kind lady in the Mission gift shop gave directions back to the road to Highway 1 and told me she’d met all sorts of people since the detour started. My back track took me through U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hunter Liggett, where “war games” were in progress. Signs said, “Stop for military training exercises”, but there were none visible from the winding road through the rolling green hills dotted with yellow coyote mint. I did see one lonely tank in the midst of ancient oaks that looked more like a monument, and some decoy structures in fields.

The road continued through a state park up over the hills in weather that turned to dense fog and moisture, so reaching the summit gave no clue to the majesty in store. One hour later Highway 1 appeared, and in the mist the turn south to Treebones. I had been following three other cars and two of them also turned left at the resort sign. We tumbled out at the top of the hill, ran for the restrooms then met up at the front desk. A delightful young woman gave us an overview: 16 yurts, main lodge, bathhouse, pool and hot tub, restaurant and sushi bar, quiet time (9 pm to 8 am) and then gave us our yurt assignments.

My friends had not yet arrived from Los Angeles, so I settled in my yurt and did some reconnaissance. Tucked in redwoods on the side of a mountain hanging over the Pacific, the location can’t be beat. The yurts are tent-like circular fabric structures with wood lattice frames sitting on hardwood pedestals. Fitted with a comfy bed covered in fluffy warm quilts, a vanity sink, table and chairs and a futon couch, my yurt had lots of room and a central skylight looking up to the sky. Oh, and the toilets and showers are up at the main lodge; I missed that part in the invitation. A small price to pay for ocean breezes full of pine and florals, views for miles, and a vegetable garden that fed us divinely.

Dinner that night at the Wild Coast, the resort's on-site restaurant, was delicious and fresh. The vegetables grown on the property, eggs from the resort's chickens and local dairy made for true farm-to-table dining. The delightful front desk gal was now our hostess, and the fellow I’d seen bringing in fresh vegetables was our waiter and sommelier (the resort stocks good California wines). All staff members live at the resort and do everything including encourage the guests to make the most of their stay. After dinner, my friends, their two teen daughters and I played Scrabble (from the shelves of games and books,) while another guest played the grand piano. We stayed at the lodge later than “quiet time,” so had to whisper our way back to our yurts with flashlights. Sleep came quickly and deeply.

Day two after simple breakfast and a visit to the vegetable garden, we sat at the pool for a bit to decide our plans. Hike the mountains, head down to the beach, or drive up to the heart of Big Sur? Sand Dollar Beach won. A brief hike and a climb down 99 steps brought us to a classic California sand beach with tide pools but … no sand dollars. Some years the tides bring in too many rocks, which keep the delicate sand dollars away, so we drew our own in the sand. The waves crashed, the salty wind blew and the sunshine created that beach tired that makes you want to take a nap. Fortunately, we had scheduled in yurt massages and there was plenty of time for reading.

Treebones Resort is located at the far south end of Big Sur, just 25 miles north of San Simeon, and is completely self contained so guests don’t need to look elsewhere. For those who crave nature but aren’t quite the tent camping type, this is just the place. Other guests during our stay included Silicon Valley hikers, families with students on break from college tours, and a few foreign visitors who found this unique resort.

Morning three, really well rested, we spent friend time together at the lodge looking over the Pacific, playing word games and discussing books we were reading. We had to drive north that day, so we wanted to savor Treebones and each other. At the last possible minute, we checked out, said goodbye to all our new friends (including the three dogs and two cats who live at the resort) and headed up the coast. The spectacular views make keeping your eyes on the road a challenge.

If You Go:
For more information on our yurt stay, go to Treebones Resort. From the resort, it took an hour to reach the town of Big Sur: restaurant Nepenthe (48510 Highway One, 831.667.2345), the Post Ranch Inn (888.524.4787), Ventana (Highway One, 800.741.5072) and more. Our choice for an organic local meal, great coffee and fond farewells was Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant.

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