Motoring down Highway 1 along the Central Coast, the path is a scar on an otherwise pristine landscape of mountainous terrain rolling down into the sea. It also is the innovation that enables drivers to experience the majesty of Big Sur.
Unlike other coastal communities, there is no one-mile square with tree-lined streets and Murphy houses, and little public access to the beach.
“Big Sur is the drive down the coast from Point Lobos to Nepenthe,” said the late photographer Cole Weston, son of Edward Weston and lifelong resident of Big Sur. “Thus, Highway 1, with its twin bridges and vistas, turns and grades, is an integral part in the Big Sur experience.”
Visitors drive with their peripheral vision alert to the yellow line but their attention drawn to the coast and surf bathing and battering the shore.
Big Sur is a tightly woven community of residents whose ancestors tamed the wilds to raise them there. They live in the hinterlands, in family cabins and cottages, and gather to bake bread, serve coffee, teach school, and make art.
Artist, writer, and Big Sur native Erin Lee Gafill, who wrote Drinking From a Cold Spring, is a granddaughter of Bill and Lolly Fassett, who in 1947 established Nepenthe restaurant to sustain their family. Gafill raised her family in the home her grandparents built at the legendary way station, where guests still dine, dance, and abandon their cares as they look out to the ocean. “Drinking from a cold spring is what living in Big Sur means to me,” Gafill says. “It is about being in a place so awesomely beautiful, so pure, so revitalizing, and remembering to go back to the source and draw from it to replenish myself.
“Every morning, after walking along the highway before the cars set in, I find myself taking in this unbelievably clean air and watching the hawks on the wing. Once I breathe in this amazing place we live in, I can go back to my writing about Big Sur.”