Big Sur /
We parked on the shoulder at a blind S curve in the highway. We waited for the whir of distant cars to fade before bolting across the two lanes toward an unmarked trailhead. We descended down the side of the coastal San Lucia mountains with afternoon sun pouring through the redwoods and an ocean mist, creating heavenly shafts of light. We crossed through a tunnel on the trail and as our eyes adjusted the vast and rugged Big Sur coast came into focus.
It’s hard to write anything about the 90-mile stretch of California Coast that hasn’t already been written. The region has been the catalyst of authors and artists for decades, so we'll let Kerouac do the talking for a moment. "Big elbows of Rock rising everywhere, sea caves within them, seas plollocking all around inside them crashing out foams, the boom and pound on the sand, the sand dipping quick (no Malibu Beach here) ----- Yet you turn and see the pleasant woods winding upcreek like a picture in Vermont ----- But you look up into the sky, bend way back, my God you’re standing directly under that aerial bridge with its thing white line running from rock to rock and witless cars racing across it like dreams! From rock to rock! All the way down the raging coast!" Big Sur, 1962
The surf on this coast is predictably unpredictable, charging and changing by the minute in reaction to the San Lucia’s launching straight out of her depths. Great Whites loom off the coast, darting, waiting, while cetaceans migrate swiftly past the coastline, while otters eat mussels and bob up and down on the waves. Soaring high above, searching for their next meal, are the endangered California Condor, saved from the brink of extinction. The redwoods- “ambassadors from another time” as Steinbeck puts it - watch over each generation of humans as they gawk in awe at the big beauty which gives this coast its international reputation.
Among the winding roads and shrubby backwoods of the Texas hill country you might just come across something outstanding - Enchanted Rock. This massive, pink, granite dome rises 425 feet above the surrounding terrain. Millions of years ago the rock formation was a mass of lava underneath the earths crust, over eons it has risen and cooled. Wind and erosion worked away the surrounding earth uncovering the mass. Geologically this is where the land mass we call Texas began.
From the ground, the dome is outstanding, but from the summit it is awe-inspiring. The eco-system atop and surrounding the rock is both dramatic and subtle, as the desert is. Flora and fauna have adapted and evolved to the harsh, erratic weather patterns. Vernal Pools, temporary blue gems which provide habitat for fragile species, like fairy shrimp and lichen, stipple the summit of Enchanted Rock.
As the wind, unimpeded due to acres of smooth granite, whips around your body, you begin to feel a part of the thousands of years of human history which occurred on that spot. Treaties, wars, mediation, ritual, RV vacations; humanity seems to be drawn to such geologic wonders. Local Kamanche, Tonkawa, and Apache tribes considered the dome sacred. An abundance of legends and folklore depicting portals to other worlds, a home for spirits, and hauntings surround the dome’s mysterious energy.
The Tonkawa people referred to the stone as “crying rock” due to its habit of making groaning noises in the night. Scientists now believe this is due to cooler nighttime air, causing contractions in the rock, an ancient exhaling granite lung in the middle of the vast rolling hills which disappear deep into the horizon.