Every last one of our Bucket Lists ought to contain this line: See Point Lobos before I die.
And for those who have once experienced it: See it again!
As for me—it has been way too long since I’d last immersed myself into this sensual experience on the Carmel Coast of California. A month ago, we returned to it.
As we headed south from Monterey, I thought back to my last visit to this magical place. The Pacific had been raging that cold, clammy, foggy, rainy day—so much so that I could not see Point Lobos, only hear the booming surf from my cozy little perch high above in another Bucket List destination: Highlands Inn. The equally fabled Amalfi Coast has its Hotel le Sirenuse and Palazzo Sasso—the Highlands Inn rules supreme over the Carmel Coast. The great fireplace is the place to be near in stormy weather—but to really hear the surf, you need to experience it from one of the inn’s glorified bedroom huts.
But this time, though clouds threatened to close in, we knew we’d actually see Point Lobos. Also its spectacular northern prelude.
Many years had passed since we’d slowed down the pace of our lives long enough to take that legendary self-standing destination that calls itself a drive: Seventeen Mile Drive. But alas! The days were long gone when one could revel in it on the cheap. Now you pay the requisite $9.50 baksheesh just to drive onto it—but it is well worth it! The deep blue Pacific can be seen from almost every turn, as is the fabulously expensive to play on Pebble Beach Golf Course. Afterwards, the road snakes its way through the cypress world of the Italianate cliff-side palaces of some of the world’s wealthiest people. A number of stunning vistas of the rugged coast cause people to stop for photo shoots along the way.
Carmel itself is part and parcel of this almost overpowering affluence. For us, as glamorous as this Xanadu is, it was still a relief to escape it and head south a couple of miles to Point Lobos.
After paying the entrance fee, we drove through the cypresses to what America’s most beautiful coast once was before the super rich parceled so much of it out for themselves. Fortunately, Point Lobos, the crown jewel of California’s state park system, has mercifully escaped the fiscal axe during the Golden State’s current budgetary crisis. A citizen’s watchguard group, the Point Lobos Association, helps to preserve it for us. Many other state parks have not been so fortunate.
David Starr Jordan famously declared that “Point Lobos is the most picturesque spot on the entire Pacific Ocean.” Awed tourists ever since have agreed with him. But mighty commercial forces later moved in on it—only the Panic of 1893 gave it a reprieve. A full-scale war then raged for 40 long years. Finally, thanks to the vision of A. M. Allan, funds from the Save-the-Redwoods League, and a public determined to save it at all costs, in 1933, Point Lobos State Reserve came into existence (554 acres plus 775 submerged acres).
After parking, we wended our way through the iconic cypresses to our long dreamed-of-destination. And then: the reality that never fails to exceed expectations! Mere words are totally inadequate to capture the sensory overload. We passed people of all ages, from all over the world. Even some with walkers and in wheelchairs. One local young couple told me they come often— “it’s always different, and we can never capture it all.” How I envied them!
Though the emerald aquamarine breakers smashing into the great cliffs would alone make the experience of watching the scene unforgettable, it is the juxtaposition of the cypress trees that elevates the totality into the realm of the mythical.
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And just to share the experience with others (on the back covers of our books and on the website), Connie took the photo of yours truly that will now replace the earlier one taken on La Selva Beach some 50 miles north.