A Winter’s Sojourn

A Sojourn is a temporary stay in a foreign local. Typically they involve an immersion in the local culture and environment, offering a respite and a fresh perspective. I like to make seasonal sojourn’s, taking small trips every three months or so to a different locale to refresh and rejuvenate.


South facing view from the New Camaldoli Hermitage.

Winter in California is probably my favorite time of the year. On the coast the weather is usually better than it is in the summer; there is no fog, no marine layer, and no wind. The surf is usually excellent this time of year as well, so it is not unusual for me to take an extended trip, and sojourn somewhere along the PCH to enjoy the weather and catch some waves. This year I decided to not only hunt for surf, but to also visit a pair of monasteries that I had been meaning to visit for a long time: the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, and the San Francisco Zen Center. I traveled up the PCH from LA to SF, surfing along the way in Ventura, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco.


An onlooker watches a surfer making a top turn at C street in Ventura, CA.


An epic winter’s sunset at C St. with the Channel Island in the background.


A local pulling into firing beach break at Pebble Beach in Monterey, CA.


Dawn Patrol at “The Lane” in Santa Cruz, CA.


Perfect conditions and “A” frame waves at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.


Ocean Beach, SF.

This year, however, I decided to make this trip a a bit more spiritual, and I spent some time at two monasteries I’ve been meaning to visit for awhile: the New Camaldoli Hermitage located in Big Sur, and the San Francisco Zen Center.

The New Camaldoli Hermitage is a Catholic Monastery, operated by Monks who have dedicated their life to spiritual practice. They have numerous rooms, guesthouses, and cottages for visitors to stay in.


Entrace to the New Camaldoli Hermitage.


Chapel at the Hermitage.

The surroundings are quiet and tranquil, sitting on the foothills of the Los Padres Mountains in Big Sur. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, New Camaldoli is about 2 hours South of Monterey, and 2 hours north of San Luis Obispo. In one of the most remote and undeveloped stretches of the Pacific Coast Highway, the Hermitage is a great place to get some space, quiet, and solitude. Visit their website at


Western lookout from the hermitage.


The Hermitage grounds.


Smoky sunset due to unusually late wildfires because of severe drought.

They offer simple meals that are vegetarian three times a day that you can pick up yourself in the guest kitchen and bring back to your room to eat. I supplemented their light fare with some locally smoked salmon that I bought in Morro Bay.


After staying at Camaldoli Hermitage for a few nights, I moved on north to San Francisco, and checked into the Zen Center. The San Francisco Zen Center is the first Zen Buddhist Monastery in the Western World. It was founded by Zen Monk Suzuki Roshi in the 60′s, and has continued to be an epicenter for Buddhism in the west ever since.


The Zendo at the San Francisco Zen Center.


A room with a view, third floor of the SFZC.


View from my room at the SFZC.

The Monastery is located right in the heart of San Francisco. They offer vegetarian meals three times a day, and you are free to join in the meditation and services that they hold throughout the day. The building is very old and beautiful, the architecture is stunning. It is well worth the trip is you are ever in SF, whether to stay or just a visit.




Central Abbot Myogen, who tragically passed away recently, was interviewed by Urban Warrior Academy in the fall of 2013. Abbot Myogen talked a bit about the rich and important history of the SFZC and about Zen Buddhism in general.