John & Anne Wiley

2015/07/09

Coasting

Now that the fire and oil crises have passed, my thoughts turn again to our glorious flight along the CA coast between Oceano and Pescadero. Would you like to fly along? Next to Oceano Airport we saw two worlds not far apart.

6132 Wheels

6132 Wheels

This first world is all about wheels and speed, but at the other end of the runway it’s all about hooves and slower times from a century ago.

6130 Hooves

6130 Hooves

Coasting to the North often starts with Pismo Beach with mountains and coast beckoning from beyond.

6125 Pismo Marker

6125 Pismo Marker

The beautiful Chapman Estate at the edge of town is now scene of local events, like the SLO Opera’s gathering that will contrast with this quiet moment.

6095 Chapman Estate

6095 Chapman Estate

Things open up more beyond Avila, with Morro Bay and over the Los Osos mudflats where we’ll soon get the first good look at the Big Sur coast.

6039 Los Osos Mud Fan

6039 Los Osos Mud Fan

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2015/07/10

Morro to Piedras Blancas

In another way our Coasting trips often begin here at Morro Bay, because we don’t seem to fly beyond there unless going at least to Monterey.

6024 Good Morro

6024 Good Morro

There’s usually a softness about this place, often with the halo of cloud over the rock and the row of her Sisters lined up from blue bay into the gentle distance. Cutting across inland a little toward the hills above San Simeon we see smaller siblings like this standing silent among the trees where few will see more than a glance from afar.

6002 Sibling Rock

6002 Sibling Rock

Then our trusty Tripp dutifully lofts us up for a glance at Hearst Castle. Renovations and drought have converged to drain the iconic aquamarine pool where William’s parties once blared into the night.

5999 Hearst Castle

5999 Hearst Castle

We glide quietly past and back down to the beach where motorists pause to stroll between two parking lots and gaze at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery.

5965 Piedras Blancas Seals

5965 Piedras Blancas Seals

Then we look off past Point Piedras Blancas to what is for us properly the start of Big Sur, into the distance where flat meets mountains and brown yields to green.

5971 Past Pt. Piedras Blancas

5971 Past Pt. Piedras Blancas

2015/07/11

Piedras to Vicente

The lighthouses along Big Sur saved many vessels from ending on the rocks in the days before electronic navigation. Now these sturdy towers are beacons from another era, and monuments to our grandfathers.

5958 Piedras Blancas Light

5958 Piedras Blancas Light

This one at Piedras Blancas looks a bit embarrassed to not be wearing the fresnel lens “hat” that once qualified it as a serious structure. Once touched by the beam of this light, San Carpóforo Creek offers the last look at flat land going North.

5934 San Carpóforo

5934 San Carpóforo

Ragged Point offers a ledge on a cliff over the raging Pacific where visitors can now rest safe from storms.

5930 Ragged Point

5930 Ragged Point

One of our favorite secret spots is next, masquerading as a wide spot at a deep bend in the highway just past the Monterey County line where you can pull over to let faster traffic rush by. Most who stop there look out to sea, but a path leads off into the forest in the opposite direction along a creek where you can find waterfalls and discover why this is named Redwood Gulch.

5901 Redwood Gulch

5901 Redwood Gulch

For years there were roadside fountains here and elsewhere along this highway, refreshing wearing travelers who paused there with cool water from pure mountain springs and streams. Plaskett Creek offers trails to water and views, including the point where visitors can watch the action on the offshore rock.

5852 Plaskett Creek

5852 Plaskett Creek

Mill Creek offers picnic spots and the rustic camping area at Kirk Creek is popular with hikers.

5849 Kirk Ck & Mill Ck

5849 Kirk Ck & Mill Ck

Next to Limekiln Creek is a new section of highway where rocks used to routinely fall onto the road. Now they can slide under the new long bridge and fall harmlessly on the roof of a rock shelter.

5839 Limekiln Roadwork

5839 Limekiln Roadwork

With all these wide views you might not notice the innumerable sea caves that are only visible to people in aircraft.

5827 Sea Cave

5827 Sea Cave

This one is next to Vicente Creek where yet another bridge is all but unnoticed by most people, who rush along this highway to reach some destination while missing most of the journey.

5825 Vicente Creek

5825 Vicente Creek

2015/07/12

China Basin to Dolan

I have wondered about this beach with its palm trees, and was happy to have looked it up this time because I love the name China Basin Beach.

5818 China Basin Beach

5818 China Basin Beach

I’ve wondered if there’s a micro-climate here that has enabled those trees to survive where it’s so cold. I’ve wondered how they haven’t been killed by the salt water that surely reaches them on storm tides. I’ve wondered who has the key to that gate at the top and drives down onto the beach. I like wondering. 🙂

5817 Gamboa Point

5817 Gamboa Point

Then there’s the beauty of Gamboa Point. Variations in rock and water color. Crevices and sea caves that I imagine riding the surge into on a calm day with the echo of vast Pacific and lone gull behind me. Always the road is so near yet centuries away, and at most every creek it leaps across a bridge like this graceful arched one at Big Creek.

5814 Big Creek

5814 Big Creek

Along the hills and sometimes close to the cliffs are houses like these near Rat Creek. They beg the question of where these people earn a living when a commute outside the Big Sur area is practically impossible.

5801 Big Sur Homes

5801 Big Sur Homes

Nearby at Dolan Canyon another cluster of homes hint at where their residents might work.

5796 Dolan Canyon Homes

5796 Dolan Canyon Homes

Close across their canyon and John Little State Reserve at Lime Creek is a place that probably offers many nearly year round jobs for the hardy souls choosing to live on this coast. I plan to make that place, named Esalen, the focus of my next post.

2015/07/13

Esalen

The famous Esalen Institute has grown for many decades into a thriving Big Sur community.

5794 Esalen

5794 Esalen

It’s not just thriving economically, and as a center for consciousness workshops but also as an experiment in “intentional living.” The first known residents were a Native American tribe known as the Esselen traced back to about 4,600 years ago here. In the 1870s, Thomas Slate used the natural hot springs there and even in this drought the springs are still running and still bear his name.

5788 Slate Hot Springs

5788 Slates Hot Springs

In the 1960s Michael Murphy and Dick Price referenced the ancient name to plant the seed of what it is today. Now there are a few homes, many cottages there for people attending workshops, and some rooms available for private retreats.

5786 Cottages

5786 Cottages

Nestled among the cottages there’s a magnificent swimming pool and grand old lodge (here’s a map) with new construction behind it.

5781 Lodge

5781 Lodge

Point House and more cottages bracket the main garden where organic produce is lovingly tended.

5779 Garden Of Delights

5779 Garden Of Delights

Next to a ravine is a Meditation Building and then we see the Big House and a yurt.

5776 Big House

5776 Big House

Next are the Farm House and other buildings of various creative forms spread among the sheltering trees.

5771 Farm House

5771 Farm House

Nearly hidden behind trees at bottom-right is the Art Barn and standing proudly near the middle is the Dance Dome.

5767 Dance Dome

5767 Dance Dome

Completing this fly-by of Esalen proper is the Farm with a few small huts but the community permeates this region of Big Sur and far beyond, influencing people and communities around the world. That influence is felt strongly here in Santa Barbara, in a way joining the two communities closely.

5766 The Farm

5766 The Farm

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