Off the Page: Big Sur

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Big Sur is one of the most mythic landscapes I’ve ever seen. Sprawling redwood forests hover on the edges of the coastline, breaking at cliff edges some 200 feet above sea level. It represents a preserved part of California, that has remained predominantly intact over hundreds of years because of its impenetrable landscape. Big Sur used to be only accessible by ship, and even then whalers and merchants would have to spend hours sailing up and down the coast searching for a safe mooring. Today the manmade roads leading to this destination some times fall away, as if nature is still trying to preserve its boundaries.

There are hundreds of rambling forest trails to explore, leading to hidden waterfalls and gorges. Some trails start at the Pacific with mist swirling along the path that magically dissipates a mile inland, as you reach the heart of the dark sequoia forests. The paths are marked with warnings of mountain lions, making you very aware of the fact that your time in these woods is borrowed from the forest creatures who live here.

If you’re lucky, you’ll wander upon a completely startling scene, like these lime kilns that had been abandoned long ago, several hours hike away from the coast. These ancient, behemoth structures are beginning to bleed in to the redwoods, with young trees and vines creeping up the cement walls, seeking openings in its manmade surfaces. When I first saw these, I felt as if I were wandering in to a scene from one of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, half expecting to see the witch from Hansel and Gretel stumble down the hill from her candy cottage. Or perhaps they were the relics of an industry long gone like the iron workers in Hiyao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. Walking through the hushed woodland, I could imagine forest spirits hurrying to cover my foot steps, soon after I left.

KH

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