Big Sur

In January 1965 I enrolled in Stanford graduate school in the Engineering department. This was the beginning of five years as a California resident, three in Palo Alto and two in Santa Monica.

I looked for work in the summer of 1965, and found an invitation from Texas Instruments to apply for a summer internship in Dallas. They hired me and I set out in June after the spring quarter had ended.

I had earlier became interested in the Big Sur area of California, partly because the Sierra Club was trying to protect it from development. This led me to the poetry of Carmel’s Robinson Jeffers. His craggy and hawk-like poems, along with his dislike of society, appealed to me and inspired me to write my own poetry. I have continued to write poems to the present day, and I believe they are sign-posts on my journey through life.

My interest in visiting Big Sur increased after reading a large-format Sierra Club book titled Not Man Apart, whichfeatured stunning photographs of that area along with quotations from Jeffers’ poems. 

So now, I had the opportunity to drive the length of the Big Sur country from Carmel to San Simeon. I started driving south past Carmel and then onto the remarkable, scenic Route 1, ending the first day at Big Sur State Park where I slept overnight. The next day was one of the brightest and most memorable of my life.

It was a glorious, bright blue summer day, and I spent some time hiking around the park taking photographs. My camera was a simple Kodak that took many good photographs over the next few years until a valet stole it out of the car a few years later. I then drove slowly south along the coast road. Those were the years of the gentle hippie scene, and I passed a young man walking down the road playing a flute. I had lunch in the restaurant near the park, where folk music by Joan Baez and others was playing. I gave a ride to a hitchhiker, who turned out to be one of a number who were living in the hills. He would come in to the highway for a few weeks to earn cash in the restaurants or hotels, enough to buy staples such as beans and rice for the next period of subsistence in the hills. He was a committed dropout.

I took the trip slowly, stopping many places and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the ocean, beaches, rocky shores and hills. As the sun was setting I arrived in San Simeon and stayed in the hotel there. The next day I went on a tour of the Hearst Castle. It was interesting but mostly due to its magnificent location. Then I turned east toward what used to be Route 66 leading toward Texas.

This was an experience that I have always remembered and cherished; many people have felt what I felt, that the areahas some kind of spiritual center. And the State of California saved it from development! Every time I go back there, it is almost the same.

Morning, Big Sur State Park, June 1965

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