Big Sur

Bluffs, Sea, and Sky

Point Lobos marks the north end of the Big Sur Coast. The next 90 miles have no towns, just countless cliffs, coves, and beaches linked by Highway 1. (

Bixby Bridge

This bridge  is an iconic feature of postcards, TV car commercials, and countless ads. The parabolic shape of the arch (a symmetrical U-shaped plane curve), the tall spandrel columns (the triangular space between the tops of adjacent arches) and the upright support of the superstructure contribute to its aesthetics.

It is 714 feet in total length and 24 feet wide. (

Completed in 1932 for just over $200,000, it’s concrete span soars 260 feet above the bottom of a steep canyon carved by Bixby Creek. Building the bridge was a challenge. First a massive wooden framework had to be built. Materials were brought in by truck on what was then a narrow, one-lane road full of hairpin turns. Forty-five thousand individual sacks of cement had to be hauled up the framework. Each bag was transported by a series of platforms and slings suspended by cables 300 feet above the creek.

The bridge span was completed before the rest of Highway 1 linking Monterey to San Luis Obispo. That would happen 5 years later. (

Squirrely critters steal the show in the parking areas…

Point sur Lighthouse Station

The lighthouse is the silhouette to the right, on the downwards slope of the volcanic rock just off-shore of the coast. The dwellings and supporting buildings rest on the plateau to the left.

On August 1, 1889 the first lighthouse keeper and 3 assistants reported for duty, bringing their families with them to live a very self-sufficient and isolated life.

Each family was allotted a garden area to grow fresh vegetables. There were no roads back then, only a long and treacherous trail to Monterey and a shorter mail/supplies run to what is now Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park in a horse and wagon provided for by the U.S. Lighthouse Service.

Bulk supplies such as coal, firewood, animal feed, and some food arrived every 4 months on a long broad ship called a lighthouse tender, specifically designed to service remote lighthouse stations inaccessible by land.

With the completion of Highway 1 in 1937, the lives of the lighthouse keepers and their families became so much easier. (

From Fresnel to Aero Beacon…

The lighthouse originally contained a first-order (the largest) Fresnel lens. It consisted of 16 panels of prisms, each with a “bullseye” in the center surrounded by concentric rings of prismatic glass. Each ring projects a short distance beyond the previous one. Additional reflecting prisms are located above and below the center. As the cylinder of prisms turns, each panel collects and bends light into a single focused beam. Light from Point Sur’s Fresnel lens was visible for 23 nautical miles.

This lens was in use until the 1970s when it was replaced by a modern aero beacon mounted on the roof of the fog signal room. In 1978 the aero beacon was moved into the lighthouse tower. In 1974 the last lighthouse keeper left Point Sur. Today a U.S. Coast Guard crew services the lighthouse regularly. (

Docent-led 3 hour tours are available Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday for $15. For $10 more, moonlight tours are offered once or twice a month April through September.

Last stop… Esalen

The Esselen people lived in the Big Sur region for thousands of years before Europeans came to California. It was once believed that they were completely destroyed by European contact and the domination of Spanish missions in the area. But now we know that some members avoided missionization by retreating far into the Santa Lucia Mountains until the 1840s, before dispersing to find work on local ranches.

Henshaw and Harrington interviewed native elders, such as Isabel Meadows in the early 1900s, in order to preserve some of the Esselen Language. (plaque at viewpoint off Highway 1)

plaque at viewpoint

plaque at viewpoint

The Institute

Esalen is a nonprofit retreat center and a planned residential community whose members hold a common social vision and often follow an alternative life style sharing responsibilities and resources.

Founded by Stanford graduates Michael Murphy and Dick Price in 1962, Esalen supported alternative methods for exploring human potentialities, strongly influenced by Abraham Maslow’s theory of self-actualization. They believed the net effect of individuals cultivating their potential would bring about positive social change. Their vision was to create a venue where non-traditional workshops and lecturers could present ideas free of the dogma associated with traditional education. (

In March of 1992 I attended a 2 week healing workshop at the Esalen Institute. What an unforgettable experience for me! Walking meditation… holotropic breathing… role-playing… seaside massages… natural hot springs soaking… goddess energy releasing… anger releasing… Feldenkrais… being naked… leading an aerobics class… jogging on Highway 1… peeling carrots in the kitchen… vegetarian meals… cleaning cabin rooms… an evasion of monarch butterflies…

A Little History…

The grounds of the Esalen Institute were home to the Esselen People as early as 2600 BC.

In September of 1882 Thomas Slate filed a land patent under the Homestead Act of 1862 and named the settlement Slates Hot Springs. This became the first tourist-oriented business in Big Sur as people seeking relief from physical ailments came to soak in the natural hot springs.

Henry Murphy, a physician from Salinas, California and the grandfather of Esalen’s co-founder Michael Murphy, purchased the land in 1910.

Turning around and Heading back…

Hikes Along the Way…

McWay waterFall trail

This 80-foot falls, named after Christopher McWay, a farmer from New York who settled here in 1874, cascades onto the sandy shore.

Until 1983 the waterfall poured directly into the Pacific Ocean, but a fire, landslide, and highway construction since then filled the cove with enough materials to create a sandy beach and push it out several dozen feet toward the ocean.

About a mile out and back, this trail is more of a walk than a hike, but well worth it. (

Partington cove

This 2 mile out and back trail is a steep hike through a tree-lined canyon leading to a rocky beach detour and then through a 60 foot tunnel leading to a secluded cove. In the late 1800s John Partington set up a business harvesting and hauling bark from the tanbark oak tree down to ships anchored in the relatively calm and deep waters of the cove. Mules pulled sleds loaded with bark, with wheels in front and rails in back, down through the canyon.

During Prohibition it was rumored that the cove was a favorite landing point for smuggling liquor. (

Heading Down…

The Fork…

Heading Out to the Rocky Beach…

The Bridge…

The Tunnel…

The Cove…

Heading Back…

The Beach Overlook

Up to the Trailhead…

Monterey, CA… Part 2

Cannery Row

We find a metered space and park under a brilliant blue sky, bright green leaves and luscious orange blooms.


The swift expansion of the Monterey fishing industry at the turn of the 20th century gave rise to the fish canning industry and the street that would be named Cannery Row. Frank Booth built the first cannery, a rudimentary salmon cannery near Fisherman’s Wharf. Cannery Row, however, would spring up farther out of town along Ocean View Avenue. On February 14, 1908 the Pacific Fish Company became the first major cannery on Ocean View Avenue.

Fishing and canning technology improved and prepared Monterey for the huge spike in demand for canned sardines brought about by World War I. The industry slowed during the Great Depression. World War II, however, revived the canning industry. (

After World War II the sardines disappeared from Monterey Bay, bringing economic ruin to Cannery Row.

The founding of the Cannery Row Company In 1976 began a revival of Cannery Row that transformed it from a street of burned and decrepit canneries to the number one visitor destination on California’s Central Coast. (

Clans,  cultures, and canneries

During the 1500s some 10,000 Native Americans lived along the coast between San Francisco and Big Sur. The Ohlone people comprised 40 different tribes each one with its own name, leader, and language. They boiled acorns to prepare thick porridge and bread, hunted deer, elk, and bear, and fished for whales, sea lions, and otters.

The Spanish came to the area around 1542 searching for the mythical Northwest Passage connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. In 1770 the first Spanish mission was established in Monterey near Cannery Row.

Fishermen from China arrived as early as 1814 to catch salmon. In the early 1850s they built stilted shanties against the coastal rocks. They tied up their flat-bottomed fishing boats at the back door. By 1853 some 600 fishermen were trolling the bay waters for salmon.

Portuguese whalers also arrived in the 1850s because of the abundance of humpback and gray whales. Blubber was used for lighting torches until kerosene replaced the need for whale oil.

In the early 1890s Japanese fishermen came to catch abalone. They introduced new techniques, insulated suits, and helmets to the diving process. Before their arrival the only way to collect abalone was to free dive in dangerous conditions in chilly water temperatures.

Italian fishermen from Sicily migrated here in the late 1800s. The overcrowded fishing conditions forced the Chinese to catch squid at night. In the early 1900s the Italians introduced the use of the lampara net named after the Italian word for lightening, “lampo”, because of its ability to quickly catch sardines. The strong round haul net revolutionized the fishing and canning industry and made Monterey the Sardine Capital of the World. (

Cannery row monument

Sculpted by Carmel artist Steven Whyte and unveiled on February 26, 2014, the monument pays homage to Cannery Row’s history. The $1,000,000 price tag was paid for through private donations. (

Author John Steinbeck sits at the top of the rock.

Born in Salinas, about 30 miles from Cannery Row, on February 27, 1902, Steinbeck lived in Pacific Grove with his first wife. Pacific Grove is next to Cannery Row and this area inspired much of the materials for his iconic books and characters, writing stories spiced with the vibrant tales of cannery characters and roughnecks he knew. (

Marine biologist Ed Ricketts sits toward the bottom.

Ed operated the Pacific Biological Laboratory at 800 Cannery Row. He met Steinbeck in 1930 and brought the author along with him to study the mysteries of the Great Tidal Pool at  Asilomar Beach and on a voyage to the Sea of Cortez.

Ricketts was the inspiration for the character, Doc, in Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row. (

The 4 entrepreneurs responsible for the revival of Cannery Row are also memorialized on the statue. And no monument would be complete without characters representing the canning industry, including Chinese fishermen. (

Cannery Life


Whistles called the immigrants to work, each cannery having its own unique sound. Most days began with the arrival of the night catch and continued until the day’s catch was canned.

In the earliest days of the industry, there were no rules regulating the hours or shifts, making the days long, cold, smelly, and unsafe.

A pier constructed far out over the coastline facilitated the unloading of fish.

Each fish had to be cut by hand to remove the heads and tails. Then the fish were spread out to dry on wooden slats called “flakes”. After drying, the fish were placed in large metal baskets, drawn through boiling peanut oil, drained, and packed into cans which were soldered shut. The final step in the canning process  was labeling and boxing.

Eventually machinery and conveyor belts took over the hand labor and enabled mass production. (

More pics

The Aquarium sits at the end of Cannery Row.

Monterey Bay

Monterey, CA… Part 1

Pebble Beach 17-Mile Drive

One of the most famous scenic drives in the country… for $10.25 per car, you can follow the red-dashed line in the roadway through the Del Monte Forest featuring beautiful coastline views and some of golf’s greatest landmarks.

A brief history

Before the automobile became a way of life, horse-drawn carriages explored 17-Mile Drive from Hotel Del Monte, now the site of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. It was 1881 and early excursions through Del Monte Forest marked the beginning of visitors to this legendary location. 

1919… Pebble Beach Golf Links and The Lodge at Pebble Beach open to the public

1929… The first national golf tournament, the U.S. Amateur Championship, is held at Pebble Beach

1972… The first U.S. Open is held at Pebble Beach and again in 1982, 1992, 2000, and 2010

2019… The centennial celebration of Pebble Beach will include the 2019 U.S. Open Championship 

(17-Mile Drive Map brochure)

Points of Interest along the Drive


This elevated view looks down on Monterey Bay and is named after Abraham D. Shepard who built the upper scenic route on 17-Mile Drive in the forest. (A typo on an early map, complete with illustrated sheep, changed the name from Shepard’s Knoll to Shepherd’s Knoll.

I am disappointed too. I have to circle the peek of the bay and you have to look closely at the skyline to see the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Huckleberry hill

These hills filled with huckleberry bushes sit on the highest elevations of the Del Monte Forest. Writers Robert Louis Stevenson and John Steinbeck were rumored to frequently visit here. Today these hills have been permanently set aside as preserved forest.

Spanish bay beach

Don Gaspar de Portula and his crew camped here in 1796 searching for Monterey Bay based on a description from 1602. It took them a year to find Monterey Bay but this beach was named for them.

The restless sea

Take a hook around Spanish Bay and note this turbulent and bouncy section of the sea where waves are constantly converging and crashing into each other because of the clusters of submerged rocks.

Point joe

Early mariners mistook Point Joe as the entrance to Monterey Bay, making it the site of many shipwrecks as their boats crashed upon the rocks.

In the early 1900s, a man named Joe lived in a driftwood hut here, selling trinkets to tourists and tending goats.

Was Joe named for the Point, or was the Point named for Joe? No one knows…


Golf course links…

And ocean views…

China rock

This was the site of a small Chinese fishing village of lean-tos in the late 1800s.

You can still see old cooking smoke caked onto the rocks!

Bird rock

During spring and summer nesting cormorants and gulls and perching pelicans flock here.

Bird Rock was actually covered in 4 to 5 feet of pelican and cormorant guano until 1930, when it was harvested as a fertilizer. Since then belching sea lions have been sun-bathing here. Harbor seals jump out of the waters near the rock like dolphins.

Closer to the beach, shore birds and ground squirrels strike a pose…

Fanshell beach overlook

The white sand is a primary pupping habitat for harbor seals who return each spring. This section of the coastline is closed from April to June.

Cypress point overlook

A preferred view of the dramatic Pacific coastline and a spectacular spot to catch sunsets, it overlooks an exclusive neighborhood populated with mansions from the Roaring Twenties.

Crocker grove

This 13-acre nature preserve is home to numerous species of native pine and to the largest and oldest Monterey Cypress trees in existence. It is named after Charles Crocker, the railroad baron responsible for building the luxurious Hotel Del Monte and the original 17-Mile Drive in 1881.

I spy a buck and a doe…

The lone cypress

One of California’s most enduring landmarks, the Lone Cypress has braved the elements atop its rocky pedestal overlooking the Pacific Ocean for more than 250 years. This iconic tree has been the logo for Pebble Beach since its founding in 1919.

Ghost trees

With trunks bleached white from sun and wind, these Cypress trees create spooky silhouettes.

Pescadero point

Ocean views beyond the ghost trees…

Pebble beach golf links

(pebble… 17-Mile Drive Map brochure… plaques at Points of Interest)

The Long and Winding Road… Again

Highway 1 to Bodega Bay

There’s no doubt about it. The road is narrow at times. The twists are hairpin curves. The views are gorgeous. But it’s no place for a 35-foot motorhome towing a car with a dolly! Especially with all the roadwork we encountered…

We took out 2 orange cones. Once the passenger-side mirror came too close to an obstacle and folded in on itself. And the tow dolly’s skid plate scraped many dips and steep turns. The electric cable that connects the dolly to the RV, to operate the brake lights and turn signals, now looks like a frayed piece of rope. We lost one of the small round protective screens on the propane heater exhaust. But the best mishap so far is still the one from September 17th where the cap to the leveling jack flew off and I had to walk back on Highway 1 looking for it.

Bodega Bay RV Park

We stop here for an overnight on our way to Monterey and Carmel.

Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds Movie

After rolling in, hooking up, and carefully checking all the overhead storage compartments for falling items, we head out to the town of Bodega to take pictures of the school and church featured in the movie classic, The Birds.

The Potter School is the location of the scene where screaming children flee the building in panic. Nearby St. Theresa’s Church is also seen briefly.

Most of the exterior shots of the movie were filmed in and around Bodega Bay and the marina. You can read more about The Birds on these 2 websites: and

Fort Bragg, CA

Pomo Bluffs

The views below are taken from Pomo Bluffs Park, 25 acres of land on the southern bluff overlooking Noyo Bay. Harbor RV Park sits adjacent to the Bluffs and our RV backs up to the park fence.

The red circle below shows the whereabouts of our RV…

A fishing vessel enters the harbor. That’s Noyo Headlands and Beach in the background.

Noyo Headlands

The name No’Yo is a Native American Pomo word meaning “under the dust.” It originally referred to a seasonal campsite where the Pomo settled further north of Fort Bragg. When the tribe relocated here they brought the word with them. (plaque on Pomo Bluffs)

These 3 gravestones in a pioneer cemetery on the headlands are believed to contain the remains of 3 soldiers from the Fort Bragg army post.

And here’s a view of the Noyo Bridge, Noyo Beach, and Pomo Bluffs… Look closely to see the white recreational vehicles at Harbor RV Park.

Noyo Harbor

Fort Bragg had an established lumber port at Noyo Harbor by 1873. The Union Lumber Company was founded in 1891 by absorbing most of the smaller lumber mills in the area. In 1901 the Union Lumber Company incorporated the National Steamship Company to carry lumber, passengers, and supplies. Manufactured creature comforts and necessary staples such as sugar and coffee were delivered by steamship because the wagon roads were long and impassable, especially during winter.

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake caused fires that threatened the saw mills and city. Coincidentally, however, the earthquake also brought prosperity as the mills furnished lumber to help rebuild San Francisco. (

Of course commercial fishing has also played an important role as a major economic resource. Tuna, salmon, rock cod, and ling cod are abundant in the ocean waters outside of the harbor. Today sport fishing helps support the local economy. (plaque on Pomo Bluffs)

Fishing vessels leave early in the morning and return throughout the afternoon, providing fresh seafood to local markets and restaurants. The Noyo Fish Company offers fresh salmon and rock cod to go as well as the catch of the day. Princess Seafood Market and Deli offers hook and line caught seafood by an all female crew of girls gone wild.

Several restaurants and cafes offer everything from fine dining to clam chowder, to fish tacos, to fish and chips… and for the landlubber, hamburgers. (

The Noyo Harbor Inn sits above the riverbank and features a restaurant, bar, conference room, deck, and sitting gardens.

Dolphin Isle offers RV sites, vacation rentals, and boat slips.

Sacred Woods is a garden of outdoor sculptures, Buddhas, and furniture. Two gift shop showrooms are loaded with mystical art and whimsically divine gifts from Thailand and Indonesia. (

Glass Beach

Between 1906 to 1967 the three glass beaches were city trash dump sites. Cars, batteries, bottles, cans, and appliances were pushed over the cliffs into the ocean. This was a common practice of seaside cities throughout the world for many  centuries. Battered by wind, waves, rocks, and weather, the trash eventually broke down into smooth, colorful sea glass. (

The website cautions visitors to snap a photo, but leave the glass behind for others to discover.

So, you can imagine my disappointment when no colorful sea glass was evident ANYWHERE!

Highway 1

The California Coast

From Fort Dick and Crescent City we continue south on Highway 101 until we pick up Highway 1 in Leggett.

What are we thinking? …The curves and swerves, twists and turns, narrow and steep roads of Highway 1 in a 35-foot motorhome towing a car on a dolly? The bungee cord on the refrigerator pushes the doors of the appliance open from the weight of beverages on a shelf. Then something flies off from somewhere as we hear a noise and see an airborne disc on the camera view of our car and tow dolly. We pull over when we find some turn-off space and I walk back along Highway 1 looking for our missing object. And there it is lying in the middle of the road… the base plate of one of our leveling jacks.

But these spectacular views make it all worthwhile…

After a long, stressful day of driving, (Jeff, you have earned the nickname Mario) we reach our 2-night destination in Fort Bragg.

According to, Fort Bragg was founded prior to the American Civil War as a military garrison where troops were stationed to guard the home base. It was never intended to be a military fortification for defending the territory.

But before all this, the area was home to Native Americans most of whom belonged to the Pomo tribe, prehistoric hunter gatherers who lived along the northern coast of what is now California.

In 1856 the Mendocino Indian Reservation was established along the Noyo River. A year later, Lt. Horatio G. Gibson from San Francisco established a military post on the Reservation and named it after his former commanding officer Capt. Braxton Bragg. During the Civil War, Bragg became a General in the Army of the Confederacy. In 2015 members of the California Legislative Black Caucus unsuccessfully petitioned the mayor of Fort Bragg to change its name due to its links to the Confederacy.

In October of 1864 the military post was evacuated and abandoned. The Mendocino Indian Reservation was discontinued in March of 1866. By 1869 small lumber mills were built at the mouth of every creek. The land of the Reservation was returned to the public and sold for $1.25 per acre to settlers who established ranches.

After crossing the Noyo River you can see where we will be staying. Notice the RVs in the upper left hand corner in the picture below.

Harbor RV Park in Fort Bragg

We are backed up to the Pomo Bluffs Park. See that dot of red in the center of the picture below? That’s Jeff, and to his left is our Georgetown Motorhome.

The view from our back window…

And here’s a view of Noyo Beach and the channel leading to the harbor…

The Pomo Bluffs…

Unfortunately the clouds interfere with the sunset. Instead of colorful swirls of orange, pink, and magenta, all we see is a bright white disk sinking below the horizon. We fall asleep to the lullaby of the constant foghorn announcing the approaching harbor… 💤