It was early in the morning and I couldn’t see the peaks of the mountains. The mist in the air was cool and no cars drove on Highway 1, also known as the pacific coast highway, in central California.
This was a place I’d only heard of but never seen. It lived in my mind like a myth, a legend; a place where writers and famous musicians and artists all had once lived while others disappeared; where a tortured Jack Kerouac had a nervous breakdown and wrote a classic novel of the same name, where Orson Welles had bought an enormous cliffside home that he soon abandoned, later to be turned into what it is today, a secluded and ghostly cafe known as Nepenthe.
The ghosts of Welles and William Randolph Hearst live down every mile of this road. Hearst’s own castle of lore stands far up in the hills of San Simeon, like a ghost in the fog with its lights clearly visible from the rocky shore, like two eyes staring out into the night.
California is no stranger to natural beauty. There are the deserts of Death Valley and Joshua Tree to the south, beaches and surf havens from San Diego to Pismo, Lake Tahoe on the Nevada Border, forests full of gigantic Redwood and Sequoia trees, and finally the great Yosemite.
But Big Sur is different, something unlike any park or national monument in America; and while few people seem to have heard of it, most have at least seen pictures of its singular highway winding tightly around every cliffside corner, with the mountains on one side looming high above, and the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean on the other, just below. If that sounds both beautiful and slightly terrifying, that’s because it is; and more so than on any other highway in America, you need to have your wits about you.
Maybe that’s part of what makes it so extraordinary. It’s mysterious, inherent dichotomy of beauty and terror. Maybe that’s what so many poets and authors found so alluring about it. Big Sur is no mere vacation spot or weekend getaway. It’s living, breathing poetry in nature.