Monday, April 8, 2013

The Mighty Big Sur Coast--Morro Rock to Monterey

After leaving Templeton I headed due west on State Rd 46.  An hour later when the Big Sur Coast came into view, I turned south for a short distance to Morro Bay for a lunch of locally-caught fish and chips.

The two main distinguishing features of Morro Bay are the electric plant and Morro Rock.

But this small town is also famous for its fresh fish,  clam chowder, and for its bird refuge where the great blue heron rules supreme....

...although Jonathan Livingston here would debate the supremacy of the heron. And if numbers count at all then the seagull rules the coast,  beyond any doubt.

When I started north again, I realized that the fog was rolling in and beginning to cast a chill over the sunny day. 

I thought about another tour of Hearst Castle, however, over my lifetime, I have visited there twice and felt I'd seen enough of William Hearst's little summer getaway cottage.  Besides, the day was fading and there was much to see--including one amazing display of indolence that appears just beyond the castle,  and it made me surmise...

that if reincarnation exists may I come back as an elephant seal...

so that I might spend all day, every day, lying on the beach, on the sand, in the sun, side-by-side, with all my friends. It can't get better than that.

All along the way I began noticing 'NO OVERNIGHT PARKING' signs with threatening warnings about what would happen if I should try to stop for the night. Twenty years before, my husband and I would often drive into Big Sur on a weekend with our camper pick-up truck,  pull onto one of the overlooks, and park for the night.  That was one of the simple pleasures of life--that is now gone--and probably for good.

Okay, I would break down and stay in a campground for the night--but when I pulled into the first state operated RV park I learned that every campground--state and private and all the way to Monterey--was full for the entire week!  It was Spring Break! The absolutely last thing I wanted to do was drive 60 miles of curvy, narrow, slide-prone road after dark.

I must have looked stricken because the nice ranger told me to pull across the road to the picnic area, park out of sight of the road and I could stay until morning--but I had to be out by 8AM when the next shift arrived.
I was on the road by 7 AM.

And it is a treacherous road.  Every serious winter storm brings mud and rock slides and can close the road for months at a time.  The Big Sur coast is so rugged and remote that electricity did not even arrive until the 1950's.

But the road is so spectacular that great efforts are made to keep it clear and repaired. Besides Hearst, Big Sur was the vacation home or favored visiting grounds for Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Hunter Thompson, John Steinbeck, Robinson Jeffers,  Edward Weston and many other luminaries through the years.

Orson Wells and Rita Hayworth bought a cabin where this restaurant sits today--but they never lived in it.

I am certain they stood in this very spot and were so overwhelmed by the view they just had to own a part of it.

The centerpiece of the Nepenthe terrace is this sculpture of 'Phoenix Rising'.  The restaurant and its location epitomized the new age movement and no wonder--it invites long hours of staring out to sea while contemplating the 'wonder of it all'.

Any aspiring writer, photographer or poet should spend time here in apprenticeship.

Perhaps the most popular place during the time of the hippies was the River Inn.  My husband, Roger, worked here for a while as auditor then general manager and always had interesting stories to tell about the odd assortment of patrons and personnel.
The Inn is known for the rock sculptures that would get built in the river that runs through the property, but I didn't find any on this visit except for the candle holders on the tables.

On hot summer days families will come to this spot and watch the kids play in the cold, shallow stream while a blue grass band plays on the terrace.

Drinks and food will cheerfully be served to you wherever you are sitting.

The fog continued to roll in and out through the day so I decided to go on into Monterey rather than attempting to find a parking place for the night.

The Point Sur lighthouse.

Clint Eastwood's Malpaso Production Company derives its name from the Malpaso Creek in Big Sur. Translated, mal paso means bad crossing or bad step and the steep banks of that creek and its sharp drop to the ocean are probably why it carries that name. But the name could have been used for the entire stretch of this coast until the roads and bridges were constructed.  And even today, it is not a road to be driven lightly.

1 comment:

  1. Haven't been there since I was a teenager. It looks the same. Californians have done a good job of preserving some areas even as the population has soared.
    I really enjoy your plucky adventures!