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The Camper's Secret: The Day Pass

Even though the road trip down to Big Sur on the supremely picturesque Highway One is a no-brainer in terms of worthy staycations, the recent feature in the March issue of Budget Travel, while stacked with some decent Central Coast recommends, failed to mention one important little secret privy only to the region's campers. After a recent car-camping trip to the "family friendly" (to put it nicely) Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, a ranger informed my boyfriend and I that our camping pass, the one stuck to the inside of our windshield, would be good for free entry into any state park in California for the remainder of the day. At Andrew Molera, we hiked through grassy meadows to reach beautiful ocean bluffs, and at the precious redwood pocket named for the legendary pioneer woman Julia Pfeiffer Burns, I felt a tinge of regret for not having the foresight to reserve one of the park's few secluded, hike-in environmental campsites months in advance. However, a quick jaunt from the parking lot through a tunnel under the highway reveals a most spectacular trinity, a truly glorious antidote for remorse: infinite blue-green ocean plus waterfalls plus wildflowers galore. A breathtaking scene that would have remained undiscovered by us were it not for an informative park ranger and that unassuming little ticket stuck to the windshield.