True, it’s not a secret. Nothing really is anymore thanks to people like us who blab about everything we find on the internets. But if you’re looking for an up-close encounter with wild and endangered sea otters you may not find a better location than Moss Landing, California.
It was our second visit to Salinas, California and this time, just as last, we found ourselves spending the afternoon with an old friend; one whose own Great American Road Trip had not only significantly preceded, but also strongly influenced, ours.
During our stay it occurred to us that we really should share his story with our readers; some of whom may already know it but would nonetheless profit from a reminder. And as a writer of some accomplishment in his own right, we figured there could be no better way to introduce the trip that so inspired us than to hand over the reins and let him simply speak for himself.
So mighty is Big Sur, its riches were too many to be showcased in a single post. Our tour through el sur grande continues…
With only an approximate location and vague instructions to look for an iron gate along Hwy 1, we found the unmarked trail to Partington Cove on our second try. A short, steep hike leads through a wooded, wildflower-bedecked canyon before branching in two directions, one toward a secluded patch of rocky beach.
The other way leads through a century-old, 60-foot tunnel, once used to transport cargo onto ships and later a rumored rendezvous point for liquor smugglers during Prohibition. A wooden walkway leads to another rocky outcropping, where we spied on an otter frolicking in the water—our first sighting in the wild of the elusive creature, once nearly hunted to extinction.
Spanning a canyon along Hwy 1, the arched Bixby Bridge was completed in 1932 and styled to blend in with its surroundings. One of the world’s highest single-span bridges, topping out at 260 feet, it’s a popular backdrop for car commercials and a favorite spot for camera-wielding visitors, including us.
A $5 admission fee buys access to striking Pfeiffer Beach, where massive sandstone rocks stand among the waves just offshore. One boulder features a cutout in its center, as if framing the ocean vista, while purple-hued sand brightens up the beach, stained by minerals washing down from a hillside.
Henry Miller Memorial Library
Since novelist and one-time Big Sur resident Henry Miller makes a cameo in my forthcoming book, Writers Between the Covers, stopping by his namesake Library—a nonprofit bookstore, arts center and live music venue (the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers have played there)—was on the agenda. As it turns out, it happened to be the only place in Big Sur where we could connect during our media blackout. The Library offers wi-fi to customers, and we lounged on their porch among the redwoods checking email and sipping Earl Grey tea in exchange for a small donation.
Before we showed up I had affectionately dubbed the place the “dirty Henry Miller” Library because of what I had learned about his salacious relationship with the writer Anaïs Nin in Paris during the 1930s. And the Library does indeed manage the interesting combination of being both literary and playfully dirty. Along with copies of Miller’s books, including Tropic of Cancer, which was banned for obscenity in the U.S. for nearly thirty years, on display were tomes for those looking to spice up their sex lives.
One of many writers and artists drawn to Big Sur, Miller lived in the area for fifteen years. In Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, he summed up the striking landscape by saying, “This is the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look.”