9780871560841-usT.H. Watkins’ book On the Shore of the Sundown Sea, published by the Sierra Club, tells of the T.H.’s experience camping with his big family at Salt Creek, exploring the southern Orange County coastline during the post WWII years to the passage of Proposition 20 in 1972.

I was introduced to T.H. Watkins’ book by reading writing excerpts in Orange County. A Literary Field Guide.  This compendium of poems and samples, published by Heyday Books, was compiled by Lisa Alvarez and Andrew Tonkovich and a complete review is available at The Daily Pilot.

Writings are organized by Orange County regions:  Anaheim, Irvine, Santa Ana and Orange, Santa Ana Mountains and Canyons, and the Flatlands, and the Coast and Beach Towns.  T.H. Watkins’ prologue is one of about twenty chapters and verse in Orange County each describing sandy beaches, surfing, and driving the Coast Highway.OCOUcover_web800px-200x300.jpg

In a 1939 eight-passenger Buick, named the Yacht, the Watkins family loaded up “six kids, two parents, one dog, camping gear, clothing, and a three-week supply of food and drove the seventy miles between the little town of Colton and the coast.”  The drive on the two-lane highway was a southern California “not yet coalesced like some particularly virulent biological culture, and its air was not fouled by what Wallace Stegner called the “taint of technology”.  The family passed through orange groves, dairy pastures, vineyards, and alfalfa fields.  “Two miles dead west of the village of San Juan Capistrano, we would come to the Coast Highway and a decision:  should we drive five miles to the south for San Clemente State Park, simply cross the highway for Doheny Beach State Park, or turn north for Salt Creek Beach?  The last lacked amenities, but the campsites were on the beach, and anyone could choose their camp spot as there were no assigned sites.

From these camp trips a connection to California’s coast drew T.H. to every cove and stretch of the coast road.  He supported Proposition 20 and considered its commission, the create of the Coastal Commission, to be a “profound shift … from mindless worship of the growth ethic” to an ecological movement.  In T.H’s time he saw planners and developers “had put wealthy tacky-tacky on the bluffs of Salt Creek Beach, and laid a parking lot for boats in the cove below Dana Point, and the citizens of Big Sur forced Caltrans “from jamming a multilane freeway through the ancient mountains that meet the sea.”  He mentions San Mateo county coast residents fight against Caltrans and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “decided that the area could support a population in excess of one hundred thousand people” … and laid plans to build a dam on Pescadero Creek with an expanded highway system to accommodate “these nonexistent thousands of people.”

On the Shore of the Sundown Sea ends with T.H. musing about freedom and illusion.  “Landwreckers” have been held back, but for how long is the question?

Earl Thollander, the artist who provided us the Back Roads books, drew the pictures for On the Shore of the Sundown Sea.FullSizeRender

How to buy:

Orange County. A Literary Field Guide site. or at Heyday.  or Amazon.

On the Shore of the Sundown Sea.  Amazon.  Abe Books.

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If you see this guy cycling the coast, be nice. This is Marcus, 24 years old, a fellow Scorpio from Switzerland. Marcus has rode that bike from Switzerland, through Africa, Argentina, and most recently from Las Vegas to San Diego and up the coast to where we found him yesterday. That’s a Swiss flag flying at the tail of his bike.


Caltrans workers informed Marcus that he could not travel north on Highway 1 all the way through Big Sur, this conversation was at Mud Creek Slide. We came through just after this discussion and our buddy David, who drives a truck for Winsor told us, “Someone needs to explain to that guy!” So we stopped at our turn home and Marcus stopped too as he saw us and he asked, “Why can’t I travel on this road?”

We explained about Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge.

Marcus explained that he and his bike forded rivers in Africa, climbed mountains in Argentina, and again he asked, “So why can’t I get around this bridge?”

And we explained that the bridge is guarded by CHP. Maybe he could do a 1 a.m. attempt to cross, maybe he could take an old dirt road down into the State Park and wade through mud and creek, but even there the Park Rangers will cite him if they see him.

We asked if he wanted a beer, he declined.

In the end, we told him to do what he wants, it’s his adventure, but we also described Nacimiento Ferguson Road, that it too is Closed, but perhaps he could use it as an outlet over to 101 then River Road to return to the coast. Being a mom, I also told him that it will be very cold tonight and that he should ensure that he camps somewhere warm. He assured me that he’s prepared.

So be nice to Marcus if you see him. He’s courageous and has the enthusiasm of youth!

img_7885 You’re saturated with online political posts, memes, and tweets.  Or you’re stuck inside because of rain and no swell.  Or both.  Now’s a good time to read a book.  Jeff McElroy’s short stories, Californios and Californios 2 will occupy your mind, immersing you in waves of sketchy situations and native splendor.

I’ve wanted to review this two-volume collection, Californios published in 2012 and Californios 2 in 2015, except I’ve been stymied by the author’s copyright instructions:  “All rights reserved.  No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever including Internet usage, without written permission of the author.”  No part.  Whatsoever.  Including Internet.

As you’ve read in previous book reviews here on The Coast Road, I enjoy sharing passages from the books to get you fired up to buy and enjoy the read.  I could write Jeff and ask permission for a few outtakes, but it’s not that important for this little blog.  Out of respect for his copyright, I’ll not share Jeff’s writing, which I assure you, his writing is wonderful.

I’ll tell you that his stories will remove you from this overcharged political world and fill your head with words such as Rincon, goofyfoot, right-handers, Sandspit, Humqaq, and you will share beers at Lee’s parking lot campfire out at Emma Wood, and, in another story, you will listen to Chumash history at Shimilaqsh.  You’ll be so absorbed reading Californios, your mind will refresh and you’ll reconnect with your stoke.

You must take my word for it, both Californios and Californios 2 are worth your purchase and reading time.

Buy direct from Pierpont Press.  Only $17.00 each.

If you don’t want to mail check or cash, buy via Amazon: Californios and Californios 2.

 

It’s been one month shy of two years since I posted a book review on this blog (not for want of California coastal books, of which there are many terrific titles released), because I was otherwise occupied and neglected this site.  After reading Chris Chapman’s Stories of Arroyo Hondo, the end has arrived for this book review drought and I’ll post some favorite reads from the past two years, but first, Chris Chapman’s art and history book of a little canyon on the Gaviota Coast.

As we know Arroyo Hondo today, it is a nature preserve managed by the Land Trust of Santa Barbara, located about 30 minutes north of Santa Barbara or about 10 miles south of the Gaviota Pass on U.S. Highway 101/California State Highway 1.  Visitor access for hiking its short trails is limited to two weekends each month and the preserve rents for events of up to 100 people.  Five streams form as the headwaters and converge and flow as Arroyo Hondo Creek under the highway and Southern Pacific’s trestle to the Pacific Ocean.  You can jog down the stairs to the beach and walk the 6 miles of sandy beach from Arroyo Hondo to Gaviota at low tide.storiesofarroyohondo

Stories of Arroyo Hondo begins as Tucumu (later, Tuxmu), a Chumash village recorded by Cabrillo during his contact with the Santa Barbara channel in late October through early November of 1542.  Chris Chapman writes, “Radiocarbon dates from artifacts such as pestles and projectile points indicate initial occupation of 3,000 B.C.”  In the 225 years from Cabrillo’s contact, Tuxmu was a vacant site by the time the Portola Expedition journeyed this coast.

Arroyo Hondo was a section of José Francisco Ortega’s ranch, a grazing permit named Nuestra Señora del Refugio.  Ortega enjoyed only three short years at La Nuestra.  “He became obese and eventually could not mount his horse without help.”  The Ortega family continued life on the rancho and one son petitioned for legal title from the Spanish, and then Mexican governments, but the family did not receive official title until 1866.  Bit by bit the Ortega family sold portions of the rancho.  “Arroyo Hondo was the last of the Refugio lands to remain in Ortega hands.”  Stories of Arroyo Hondo displays black and white photos of the Ortega descendants, their adobe houses, a grist mill, and a schoolhouse.

“In 1908 W.W. Hollister’s daughter Jennie Hollister Chamberlain Hale purchased the 782 acre Arroyo Hondo ranch” from E. Cordero, to whom the rancho was sold previously in 1889.  “The Ortega family continued to live at Arroyo Hondo,” through both Cordero and Hollister-Chamberlain-Hale ownership.

Transportation developments are covered in both text and black and white photos starting with stagecoach travel, then the effects of the railroad and herding of cattle by the Hollisters, and the automobile.  “Vicente lamented that the cool ocean breeze could no longer drift up the canyon,” once the Arroyo Hondo Creek culvert and highway closed the canyon at the coast.

Chris Chapman and her husband John Iwerks painted Arroyo Hondo while they ranch-sat for the Hollisters.  Watercolor landscapes and pastel coastscapes by Chris and oil roadscapes and beach scenes by her husband generously fill many pages of Stories of Arroyo Hondo as a colorful and “lasting gift.”

Stories of Arroyo Honda would make a nice holiday gift!  Purchase at:

Book Loft in Solvang
or in Santa Barbara at Chaucer’s Books, and the Presidio gift shop (Trust for Historic Preservation)
or Montecito, at Tecolote Books
and of course at Arroyo Hondo Preserve in the Ortega adobe.

Retail is $19.95 plus tax.  Shipping is possible if you cannot visit the above locations.

Note: I do not personally know the author, nor do I receive any benefit from book sales.  I think people should know about these California coast books and I’m happy to write about them.

 

dcm_cover

Almost four years ago I enthusiastically reviewed Elizabeth C. Ward’s Coast Highway 1 as “a fairly essential Coast Road Read,” and now Ms. Ward returns with another must-read for California coast enthusiasts or for anyone who enjoys a good mystery: Death in a California Landscape.

Set in Laguna Beach, Ms. Ward gracefully depicts the type of people who characterize Laguna: “Everyone who’d lived in town more than a dozen years knew Millicent. They called to offer help or stammer out their grief. They all expressed shock and disbelief. The Laguna family, that great, motley collection of eccentrics and artistic sensibilities, beach lovers, wildlife activists, gay, straight, old, young, every political philosophy on the map, con artist, best selling novelists in view houses, unsold poets living out their Waldens in the canyon, physicist and feng shui counselor shacked up together, the larger than life egos; this whole sprawling, prickery, generous, opinionated, cantankerous Laguna family was coming together to stand by one of their own.”

The callers phoned Jake Martin, the same Jake Martin from Ms. Ward’s Coast Highway 1, returning as our noir narrator and unintentional private eye. Jake’s dear friend Millicent is found shot to death. Detective Swann suspects foul play, maybe even suspects Jake.  Jake knows that Millicent, albeit in her eighties was full of life and not planning to die.  Jake senses murder, but why and by who?

Millicent was the last living member of the original California plein air artists who painted the landscape that is now covered with cities sprawling across the hills and along the coast. Could the killer be one of those who make their fortunes off subdivisions and model home communities? The art museum curator informs Jake, “Developers are the largest collectors. They seem to feel that it is their responsibility to preserve the vision of the land as it was before they sliced it up and built malls and housing tracts on top of it. One would think they’d want to get rid of the evidence of what it was before they ruined it.”

To solve the mystery in Death in a California Landscape we travel with Jake Martin up and down the California coast from Laguna Canyon to Crystal Cove, with a few trips up to Newport Beach, a side trip to Ensenada, and then north to Big Sur. Death in a California Landscape delivers on its title by including the scenery in the text. Jake Martin puts us in the passenger seat as he drives up the coast, “I drove PCH through the coast cities to the traffic circle in Long Beach, north on the 405, then west to Santa Monica and Coast Highway 1. The morning fog burned off just past Oxnard where the road widened and 101 came in from the valley. From there on the sea was blue, the kelp beds rising and falling in the swells until the road curved inland and the sea was lost behind it. I turned onto the narrower and less traveled Coast Highway 1 towards Morro Bay and the Big Sur. I made San Simeon by eleven. Hearst Castle shimmered in the distance, sun turreted and dream veiled, a mirage that had floated out of the Arabian Nights, taken a wrong turn somewhere and come to rest on the far crest of the California foothills. From there on the road began to climb along the edge of the Santa Lucia range. The Big Sur is not for the faint of heart. Cliffs drop a thousand feet straight down into the Pacific Ocean on one side. Mountains rise steeply on the other. The road unwinds between the two.”

Elizabeth C. Ward’s Coast Road Mystery, Death in a California Landscape, serves as a retreat from the holiday frenzy this December. Download to your Kindle or pick-up the book. Death in a California Landscape also makes for a fine gift. Happy Holidays!

Click for Ms. Ward’s website.

 

 

 

 

Since Tassajara Springs Fire has our attention, let’s talk about Fire Monks, the book written by Colleen Morton Busch, about the Tassajara Five, the five monks who remained onsite at Tassajara, the oldest Zen Buddhist monastery in California, nestled within backcountry south of Carmel Valley, to battle the 2008 Basin Complex fire.Fire Monks by Colleen Morton Busch

“On June 21, 2008, lightning strikes, from one end of drought-dry California to the other, ignited more than two thousand wildfires in what became known as the “lightning siege,”  opens the Prologue, setting the scene through the senses, “If you lived in California, you smelled the smoke.”

Lightning strikes in two places ignited two fires near Tassajara: one at Big Sur (10 miles west), named the “Gallery fire” because lightning struck at Coast Gallery, starting the blaze; and another at Bear Basin (8-10 miles north) the “Basin fire,” and then a third fire began three days later when a single lightning bolt enflamed a tree.  The three fires converged on Tassajara, becoming 2008’s “Basin Complex fire.”

46 guests were unpacked and in session for the summer season, with an additional 70 residents occupying Tassajara.  All of the guests were first evacuated with some students, then the residents  removed themselves to safe locations, so that only 14 remained to prepare the center in defense of the blaze.

As the fire approached nearby, burning up the other side of the ridge, Tassajara was ordered to evacuate all remaining residents.  Five returned to the site, not wanting to complete the evacuation.  These five determined to remain at Tassajara.  The fire’s Branch Director didn’t argue with their decision, but he insisted that his staff obtained each of the five names.

Fire Monks is about awareness, Dharma Rain, and remaining in the moment.  Fire Monks is about taking responsibility when agencies are unable to act.  Fire Monks exhibits Zen practice in a real life situation, as well as sitting zazen upon a cushion.  Most surprisingly, Fire Monks is about attachment, attachment to one’s place and the desire to save it from harm.

Buy the Book.

Information on the current (2013) Tassajara Fire.

This post written by Anneliese Agren

Whatever Happened to the Hippies? by Mary Siler AndersonIn my never-ending search for writings on the Coast Road, I discovered this little book that documents the people who moved to the Mattole and Eel watersheds, the “Mateel,” located in southern Humboldt County (SoHum). Twenty-three individual narratives intertwine to tell the stories of settlement, stereotyping of hippies, rednecks, loggers, straights, and the rowdy bikers, conservation and restoration of anadromous habitat, establishing Sinkyone Wilderness SP, and C.A.M.P.

“Between the years of 1968 and 1977, several hundred people migrated to the remote southern portion of Humboldt County, California,” writes Mary Siler Anderson, the author of Whatever Happened to the Hippies? These people moved into a landscape reshaped by seventy years of logging and two one hundred year floods that further eroded the hillsides, filling the rivers with sediment. “We didn’t know what the land looked like before and so didn’t recognize the signs of ecological distress all around us. We came from cemented-over human-constructed landscapes that lacked life and the wild naturalness of this place was beautiful to us.” Heart of the Mateel by M.J.M. 1990

Most of the people did not settle in the small towns, but instead bought 40-, 60-, 80-acre parcels, “which in the beginning could be had for little or no money down. Land was very cheap when we first arrived, because it had all been heavily logged.” If it weren’t for real estate agent Bob McKee no one would have sold land to these long-haired newcomers. Rumor had it that Bob was “giving away land out by the ocean,” which was hyperbole. Land was inexpensive, but not free. Written in the chapter by Rick, Bob “wrote letters to the editor in those days, saying, ‘Why don’t we give these new people a chance because the land’s been logged over and deserted and no one else wants it anymore except these people.'” In another chapter written by Peter, “We negotiated a very good deal, largely because of Bob’s generosity, concern, and genuine interest in having a community center and a school.”

“Smoking marijuana was as common to our lifestyle as love beads and brown rice, only more important,” writes Mary II of the early days of the SoHum marijuana economy and culture. “When pot first began to be grown for sale, we had our Jeremiahs predicting disaster from earning money in this way. The lure of being able to finish your house or replace your broken-down vehicle was just too great.” Earning an income by growing marijuana “was stronger than the will to question what we were doing to our environment by using rat poison and chemical fertilizers that washed into our creeks, … We were beginning to be more like the rest of America, staying in our comfortable houses, watching our color TVs, eating imported food, all things that we couldn’t afford before.”

Growing pot wasn’t the sole income opportunity. David, who had previously worked for the Defense Department as an electrical engineer, moved to the country to build a house and make his own electricity. David and Roger opened Alternative Energy in Briceland, selling hundreds of solar panels to the amazement of their then-supplier, Atlantic Richfield. A competitor came out to meet them, asking if they’d try his solar panels. David and Roger placed an order for 40 panels, to which the guy said that, “as long as he’d been working for that company, he’d never sold 40 panels at once.” David writes, “We have a big wholesale business now and sell solar panels around the world. We’re still selling more solar panels than anybody else.”

Whatever happened to the hippies is a question answered in Mary Siler Anderson’s book. The hippies created new communities and retained some American comforts; they both improved and damaged fish habitat: the conservationists versus the pot growers; and they continue to be active in the community as writers, watershed professionals, and caregivers.

Many still have long hair.

Buy the book.

This post written by Anneliese Agren

Doc Mishler and friends

Doc Mishler last rode the coast road fifteen years ago with the two horses pictured on the right: Chief Free Spirit and Keep The Faith. At that time, Doc trotted from Montana to Washington D.C., by way of California, after surviving a cancer diagnosis and its treatment and reading the book, How Then Shall We Live, a text that weighs the question, “How shall I live, knowing I will die?”

What was then a personal journey to celebrate life after beating a terminal diagnosis is now a ride to raise our awareness of hunger, in particular regard to starving children.  Doc says, “There are children in the world who are so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of food.”

This ride is Doc’s mission. For more information about his church community, please stop him on his way south along Highway 1.

Doc can use a place to board his horses each night, so stop to offer your place when you see him.  Today he’ll depart Pescadero to travel to Santa Cruz, then on to Monterey, and then El Sur Grande, a day’s ride southbound until San Diego, where he will then head east-northeast to D.C.

This post written by Anneliese Agren

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Days until manuscript completion

Final DraftNovember 30th, 2013
Dot i's and cross t's.
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