Photos by Daniel Caso
Looking over the cliffs of Big Sur, the universe seems whole. Perhaps it’s only romanticism that sees rock faces and crashing polyphonic waves as the harmonious tinkerings of God, but there is obviously something sacred about this place. Peering off seaside cliffs, you glimpse otters traipsing through kelp beds for sea urchins. Looking to the sky, you see the wingspan of a California condor as it casts an imposing shadow on the roof of your car. Looking out toward the horizon, you see the cadenced spouts of humpback whales heading north toward Monterey to feed. Drive inland, and you encounter towering redwoods and the Bixby Canyon Bridge.
This place, though not technically a national park, holds special significance for me. Similar to the condors and giant otters that were once nearly extinct, I see Big Sur as a place of rebirth and resurgence. It is a place where I found healing during a multi-day bike trip, and it is where I return to satiate my appetite for magnificence. I know every curve in the road. I have stories of hitchhiking and camping under the stars in areas far from the general public. The background on my phone is a sunset that overlays the coastal Pacific, and the familiarity I feel when entering Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is akin to home.
The first time I cycled through Big Sur, the morning fog was so dense that I could not see the ocean or the ground below. I could hardly see the road itself. But I remember feeling a unique sense of calm — like I was soaring through the air and diving into water at the same time. Every breath was bracing and cold. The distant echo of sea lions were muffled in the morning fog. I was at once engaged with the world and completely alone. I was in Big Sur, and Big Sur was in me.
Follow Nate Barton on Twitter: @NateBarton