Big Sur Magic


“Big Sur has a spiritual quality; its natural majesty emphasizes our insignificance. The mountains are high; their presence defines the precious space between them and the ocean, the place available for people. Giant redwoods dripping morning dew provide a protective effect, as does the mist rising from waves breaking on beaches a hundred feet below.”

— Fear of Failure, James Aarons

I visited Big Sur the summer before the rains ruined the road. It was when I was dating Nancy. We drove up the coast to sight-see. After entering the giant redwood stands in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, we passed the quaint town of Big Sur and pulled into Nepenthe’s Restaurant. I recalled this place as I had passed it on my bicycle probably five years earlier on my trip from Davis. Like the hippy residents of Big Sur, Nepenthe's was as different as they were. The mythical setting and the people who call this place home made the place famous.

You have to climb a hundred stairs to get to the restaurant. Ferns and subtropical plants populate the space under the oak trees adding to the botanical uniqueness. As one approaches the top landing, the southern ocean coastline comes into view, and there are miles of it. There was and still is something else about Big Sur besides the throwback to the hippy era. Big Sur has a quality some call spiritual or mystical. It calls to me everytime I visit, asks me to slow and linger, maybe stay a tad. But it isn't a place I would like to live; it's too remote and rugged for anything except occasional hikes and overnights, and sometimes scuba diving off the rocky beaches looking for jade.

Once inside Nepenthe, you can be seated at the bar, at an inside table or can take a spot outside on the western patio which allows a wider view of the ocean vista. Our waitress was wearing a long dress. She had a flower in their hair and wore sandals. Very sixties style, I thought.

A few weeks later Honey called, the animal owners of Esalen needed a vet to come out for a day for routine maintenance including wormings and vaccinations. Laurie and I were invited to be guests for the evening, including dinner, and offered us use of their natural hot springs, along with a place to sleep.

On Hwy 1 about twenty miles north of Honey’s place, Esalen is an interesting and intriguing place. It started out as a resort in the 1960’s, evolving into a place of spiritual revelation, combining learning with introspection. Like all things in Big Sur, the tubs at Esalen are unique, being built into the side of cliffs, the spas promise very relaxing hot waters along with a million dollar view. Laurie and I were guests for vegetarian dinner, we used the spa, and stayed overnight as their guest.

Esalen is on Hwy 1 about twenty miles north of Honey’s place. It started out as a resort in the 1960’s, and it evolved into a place of spiritual revelation, combining learning with introspection. I joked with Honey about the resort is a place rich people visit to find themselves. I didn’t have enough time there to find myself, but I sure did enjoy the hot springs.

I traveled through Big Sur the next summer after Hwy 1 reopened. Nancy and I were on our way to meet up with one of my new clients, Mary Macgregor. Mary was a pop singing superstar coming into prominence a decade earlier when her most famous song, “Torn Between Two Lovers” made it to the number one spot. Currently, she was headlining at the Double Tree Hotel Lounge in Monterey.

Last: Big Sur Slide


Next: Monterey




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