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Big Sur Pfeiffer State Park is proudly celebrating its 75th anniversary. Originally homesteaded by the children of Big Sur pioneers, John and Florence Pfeiffer back in 1902, their children came to make their home on the north bank of Big Sur River.
Named after Julia Pfeiffer Burns, a respected pioneer around the Big Sur country, the park expands from the Big Sur coastline all the way to the 3,000 – foot ridges. The tall redwoods, tan oak, madrone and chaparral grow wild and lead you to an 80-foot waterfall whose cold water spills over granite cliffs and tumble down to the ocean from Overlook Trail.
John and Florence settled into their wildlife paradise and into their own habits. John was a devoted, although untrained, botanist who loved to study the local plants, coastal weather patterns and habits of birds and animals. An avid beekeeper, John’s buzzing buddies produced sixteen tons of premium honey in a year. This was not enough to make a living on so the Pfeiffers made ends meet with farming, ranching and logging.
The Pfeiffer home was well known to travelers of the road and Florence’s cooking was taken advantage of by many looking for some old fashion ranch hospitality. Although John was a generous host and graciously invited people to stay for days at a time, it didn’t occur to him to charge for the food or lodgings. After all, it was Florence that dealt with the majority of the chores; cooking, cleaning, washing the dishes, making the beds, laundry and hauling the water.
While John was content to take care of the cattle and hunt and fish with their guests, it was Florence that ran the homestead. The Pfeiffer’s reputation for hospitality spread and as number of guests increased and their stay lengthened, Florence’s patience got shorter.
One day, according to Florence’s memoirs; A man whom Mr. Pfeiffer really disliked had stopped at the house to stay all night. He had four of his friends with him and a string of five pack animals. They had their supper, bed and breakfast. The next morning his friends left on the stage without even 'thank you.' Upon his departure the packer began to strike one of his mules with a stick, beating the animal relentlessly.
Finally seeing enough, Florence took a bold and brave move and confronted the man. It was unusual for women of that era to speak up to a man much less a guest, but Florence would not tolerate his actions any longer. She addressed him sternly and told him her mind and forbade him from beating the animal any further. As the man stood there, a mixture of astonishment and confusion, sudden inspiration took hold of Florence. She continued. “ From now on,” she said, “ I expect to charge you so much for each horse, so much for each bed, and so much for each meal every time you stop here.”
And without another word, in 1908 the Pfeiffer Ranch Resort was born. Florence’s home style cooking and rustic accommodations brought in families attracted to the natural beauty of the lodge’s surrounding and the couple’s down home spirit. John died in 1941 at the age of 79 while Florence continued on until she passed at age 85.Today, Big Sur Lodge sits on that very spot, dedicated to the same hospitality and open armed welcome so cherished by the original owners.
In 1933, the State of California bought the homestead lands from John and Florence and named the new park in their honor, unveiling the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The Big Sur Lodge has been keeping up the tradition old-fashion hospitality, excellent service and appreciation of their guests. Some things in life just aren’t meant to change.