California’s Coast is a National Monument

big surHighway 1 in Big Sur feels different from the rest of the coast. The rolling San Lucinda mountains parallel the sea for miles, corrugating beside the short sandy shore. Pale green hills rise a thousand feet into the sky. Ochre cliffs have been bitten away by erosion, and forest pines cling to the moss-speckled granite.

The forests have the first redwoods and are more heavily and deciduously wooded than farther south.

Red succulents sideline the highway as aquamarine pools and navy ocean shelf give way to gray sea at the horizon. Low cumulus clouds rise and float like fog above, evaporating like dried ice from the warm yellow sun. Hearst cattle, fat red and black angus, feed off the rich grassy lands and from the cliffs cattails flicker in the wind. I know why Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac were inspired.

I visited Kendall last night in Petaluma, and opened up his copy of Leaves of Grass, and rather fortuitously, came to the Song of the Redwood-Tree. In Mendocino and Humboldt county, there are more evergreens and it begins to resemble the Great Northwest. I stood at the base of the 265-foot Grandfather Tree and felt its little yellow hairs and its ancient energy and nearly broke down and cried.

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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