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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!

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

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

Sitting in a park in Paris France
Reading the news and it sure looks bad
They won’t give peace a chance
That was just a dream some of us had
Still a lot of lands to see
But I wouldn’t want to stay here
It’s too old and cold and settled in its ways here
Oh but California

California I’m coming home
I’m going to see the folks I dig
I’ll even kiss a Sunset pig
California I’m coming home

I met a redneck on a Grecian isle
Who did the goat dance very well
He gave me back my smile
But he kept my camera to sell
Oh the rogue the red red rogue
He cooked good omelettes and stews
And I might have stayed on with him there
But my heart cried out for you California

Oh California I’m coming home
Oh make me feel good rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m your biggest fan
California I’m coming home

Oh it gets so lonely
When you’re walking
And the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read
Just gives you the blues
Just gives you the blues
So I bought me a ticket
I caught a plane to Spain
Went to a party down a red dirt road
There were lots of pretty people there
Reading Rolling Stone reading Vogue
They said “How long can you hang around?”
I said a week maybe two
Just until my skin turns brown
Then I’m going home to California

California I’m coming home
Oh will you take me as I am
Strung out on another man
California I’m coming home

Oh it gets so lonely
When you’re walking
And the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read
More about the war
And the bloody changes
Oh will you take me as I am?
Will you take me as I am?
Will you?

© 1970; Joni Mitchell

 

There is treasure hidden there, on the coast of California.
El Diego hid it there when The Clara ran aground
On the coast of California, deep within a cave that’s never seen.
Treasure stolen from the Incas, we could capture for the Queen.

There’s a mountain in the ocean on the coast of California
and deep within its side the tides of night alone reveal
El Diego’s hidden cave where we’ll plunder the riches of Granada.
While the Spaniard, blind with pleasure plays ashore in Ensenada.

We will sail before the dawn along the coast of California.
El Diego is delayed. The wine and women hold their sway
And our map is clearly drawn to the dark and stormy shore.
On the coast of California lies a mighty prize of war.
Tell not a soul that you have seen me. Breathe not a word of what I say.
Tell not a soul that you have seen me. Breathe not a word of what I say.

Video shot one week before the mid-March slide at Rocky Creek.  Enjoy the trip while we wait for the road to be repaired.

GoPro Hero

Suction Mount

Dude gave me his name, but I didn’t ask his permission to share, so I’ll tell you that dude’s name is “Noah.”  Noah’s hitched rides from Shasta County to the San Mateo County coast.  He has no specific destination.  New Mexico, ultimately, then back home.

“Lightning Fields, New Mexico,” I suggested.  Noah hadn’t heard about Lightning Fields.  I told him about Just John, riding a tricycle, heading south a couple of years ago, and that his plan was to reach the southern end of the Coast Road, then turn east to New Mexico, bound for the Lightning Fields.

“An electrical dude,” observed Noah.  “I’ve been reading about Tesla and his inventions.”

Noah’s traveling south, dependent on hitchhiking to reach the next destination.  “Riding a bike would be better,” says Noah after I tell him about Just John riding his tricycle.  “More independence, travel at one’s own pace, stop wherever and whenever, and, more room to pack more supplies.”

Noah’s belongings fit within a modest-sized backpack, larger than what we slung across our backs when in school, but smaller than an expedition backpack, which may be more suitable for Noah’s coastal trek.  A black canvas shoulder bag holds items requiring frequent use, such as Noah’s bullet-shaped, stainless steel thermos.

Noah’s tanned skin from the past couple weeks of unseasonably warm temperatures contrast to this week’s winter weather of snow at 1,000 foot elevations and hail storms at sea level.  After a long rainy hitch that brought him through Marin County and across the Golden Gate, and a complicated navigation through the drizzly city, Noah got a ride from San Francisco, through Pacifica, around Devil’s Slide, then down the coast and up to Apple Jacks in La Honda.  “I’ve enjoyed two good woodstove fires and really good music in the past 24 hours.”

Atop Noah’s long, brown, sun-kissed curls, sits a green felt hat, with a stubby brim, adequate-enough to provide sun and rain protection.  Noah’s summer-weight, black pin-striped suit is layered underneath by a red tee, and a green wool v-neck sweater, topped by two thick scarves.  Birkenstocks on Noah’s sockless feet display signs of wear at the heels.

Next stop Santa Cruz, then maybe Monterey, unless Noah hitches straight into the Sur.

Keep an eye to the Coast Road for “Noah,” and, if you’re headed to the next town south, maybe offer him a lift.

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I said, Let’s go to Los Olivos! Totally not considering situation. As we drove into SY Valley, smoke, ash, just like all last summer in Big Sur. Firemen all over Solvang.👍🏽👨🏽‍🚒🎖❤️ #ThomasFire, Lat. 36N. Smokey 200 miles north of #ThomasFire. A charm of finches, gold and emerald, lit up this sycamore with singing and chatter.

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Days until manuscript completion

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