CALIFORNIA COAST TRAILS
CHAPTER XVI

From trail to road — The Big Sur River — Cañon of the Little Sur — Point Sur lighthouse — A Robinson Crusoe and a great discovery in mineralogy — Portuguese friendliness once more — The perfection of coast scenery — Point Lobos — Cypresses and pines — The Mission of San Carlos, Carmel: beauty of its situation: the resting-place of Serra — Carmel-by-the-Sea — More delightful coast — Wonderful cypresses — Monterey, the old capital of California; as Dana saw it: historic objects: the Stevenson house: whaling days: the old church.

THE change from sidehill trail to graded road, agreeable enough to Anton, gave me some regrets as implying a tamer country. For the first time for some days I got into the saddle and rode. The morning and the road were both delicious. A cool air came from the sea, which we now left out of sight, and the scents from bay, redwood, and under-brush were spicy and stimulating. The road wound downward between the wooded ridge that shut the ocean from sight and high, steep hills of yellowed grass, slashed, as ever, with timbered cañons. Unwelcome signs of what, I suppose, we must call civilization, began to occur in the guise of warnings against "hunting, fishing, or camping on this ranch."

From time to time I caught the sound of a large stream running in the cañon below, and before long we dropped into the valley of the Big Sur River and came upon a little Noah's Ark affair, with "Post-Office" painted upon it. This place has long been known as "Post's," after an early settler, but lately some person with a craving for change has persuaded the authorities to rename it "Arbolado," a monstrosity of mongrel Spanish of which the department should not have been guilty. From here a stage runs on alternate days to and from Monterey, twenty-five miles to the northward.

For five charming miles the road accompanied the stream under grateful shade of redwoods mottled with golden green of filtered sunlight. Then, climbing in long curves, it opened a fine view of the valley of the Sur, lying open, as on a map, the stream itself hidden in deep forest almost to where a bar of surf marked its meeting with the ocean. A strong wind was blowing from the water, and as the fog broke away from time to time the warring white-clawed waves could be seen far out at sea. Near by, and on my left, stood the lonely rock of Point Sur, its summit hidden in mists; and on the other side rose a striking white mountain called Pico Blanco, the second highest point of the range. It looked strangely white, almost as though it were snow-covered, against the blue of the eastern sky. From north and west, masses of gray sea-wrack came driving every moment in imposing volume, and, encountering some opposing air current, maintained a sullen battle among the hills.

Descending the steep grade we entered the beautiful cañon of the Little Sur, where, to my surprise, I found a mountain hotel and a "resort" of tents on the bank of the river. The place was deserted by the summer visitors, for September had now begun; but hay was there, and I judged it best to stay for the night, for fodder was now the matter of first importance in my calculations.

I devoted the rest of the day to a visit to the lighthouse at the Point, five miles away. The afternoon was delightful, with a clear sun and a Kiplingesque sort of wind; and Anton, relieved for once of impediments, bethought himself of his Arizona youth, and was bent upon rounding up all the cattle he saw on the hillsides. The ocean was of a splendid, windy purple, though far to seaward the fog lay furled along the horizon in a band of pearly gray. Quail whistled in the brushy gullies, and overhead the gulls strained and screamed against the wind.

A little black steamer was shouldering her way doggedly up coast, the white water churning by her sides and the smoke tearing away from her funnels as she fought her way along. I suppose that Ruskin, in his quaint dogmatism, would not have included the smoky little bull-dog in his eulogy of the Sea-Boat, but it seemed to me to show all the dutiful hardihood that roused his admiration, "baring its breast, moment after moment, against the unwearied enmity of ocean; the subtle, fitful, implacable smiting of the black waves, provoking each other on endlessly, ... still striking them back into a wreath of smoke and futile foam, and winning its way against them, and keeping its charge of life from them."

The Point is an abrupt rock connected with the shore by an isthmus of sand. A narrow path cut in the rock leads up to the lighthouse buildings. Anton was excited when he saw the surf crashing below him, and gazed from it to me with an "I say, you know!" kind of expression that was comically human. I was kindly received by the lighthouse folk, and shown over their spick-and-span domain. The light, which is a powerful one of the "first order," stands two hundred and forty feet above the water, — rather too high, I was told, since at that height the fog is more frequent and dense than nearer the surface.

In the course of a walk up the stream next morning, I came upon an original who for many years has lived a Robinson Crusoe life in a coign high up on the cañon wall. His ramshackle dwelling was more shed than house, and I found the ancient himself seated beside it, in a rather alarming state of undress, under the shelter of an umbrella which he had hung obliquely from the roof to intercept the morning sun. With his bright blue eyes, skin originally ruddy but now tanned to Indian hue, and shock of long white hair, he made a most odd appearance.

He was talking to himself as I approached, but hailed me hospitably to come in and sit down for a chat. The chatting was a passive affair on my side, for he himself did not cease talking for a moment, and after one or two vain attempts to stop him, I only sat and listened. His great topic was minerals, concerning which he had a theory, new to me. that every metal has a father and a mother. This great discovery had been revealed to him by an old Indian woman, once of these parts, who had bequeathed him a "map," by which, he declared, he was able to make his theory effective. To discount the palpable discrepancy between his apparently poor circumstances and his potential wealth, he explained that he cared nothing for actual money, being content with knowing that he could at any time procure it: a philosophy which, as he appeared to hold it sincerely, was an admirable one, and worthy to be recommended to our captains of finance.

The wind blew more strongly after sundown, and tassels of foliage from the redwoods overhead came thumping all night on the tent in which I slept. It was blowing half a gale when in the morning we took the road, which, after crossing the Little Sur River, climbed a long rise that brought us again into company with the sea.

The birds had collected in the sheltered cañons, and their unusual numbers made those parts of the way specially attractive. So steep were the sides of some of the cañons that where the road ran high up on the wall, I could look down upon the tops of the redwoods close below me as if I were an aviator; and the scent that came up from the forest was such as (to speak it humbly) I hope to find in heaven.

In one cañon I found a school-house, the first I had passed for a week, and a post-office named Sur. The latter gave no token of its use, for mail-boxes and sign-board had gone out to sea together during the winter rains. When I learned that the stream was Mill Creek, I wondered how many more of that name I was to meet. I think Mill Creeks in California could be numbered by the score.

All day the road wound along a rocky shore, beside a bright sea broken by surf-ringed islets and the glistening fringe of kelp that lies for league on league unbroken along this coast. To landward still rose the monotonous drab hills sprinkled with gray sagebushes or grayer outcroppings of rock. At long intervals, stark-looking ranch-houses appeared, but there was little travel on the road, and the human voice was still a rarity to the ear. Wreaths of fog came drifting in now and then from the sea, and the faint coughing of the syren at Point Sur, miles in the rear, seemed to add to the loneliness of the scene.

On rounding a bend I saw the hills before me crested darkly with pines. Even at three miles' distance their vigorous manner of growth marked them as of the radiata species, and I knew by that token that we were coming to the neighborhood of Monterey, where, almost alone, the tree is native.

It was nearing sundown, and I should have been glad to camp among them, but again the necessity of fodder forbade, and I turned in at the next ranch to inquire the prospects for a night's lodging. The Portuguese woman received me kindly and found me a bed in a little outhouse. The husband was away, but five jolly children took possession of me with such enthusiasm that it was evident that a visitor was regarded as a prize of the first degree. In five minutes Avelino was on my back, Ernesto and Braulio were punching me jovially, Angeles of the soft brown eyes was filling my hands with her best-beloved flowers, and fat José was planning a rescue in order to show me a phenomenal farrow of pigs. Supper was an uproarious event, and afterwards the whole battery of phonograph records was ground off for my delight.

I left them next morning while the boys were milking the herd of thirty cows, and dear little Angeles, in enormous sunbonnet and gloves, skirmished about waiting to carry the pails to the milk-house. It was a superlative morning, with neither wind nor fog. The first hint of autumn was abroad in some elusive fashion, though in brilliancy the day was more like May than September. The sea was a splendor of deep Mediterranean blue, and broke in such dazzling freshness of white that one might have thought it had been that day created. How amazing it is, that the ancient ocean, with its age-long stain of cities and traffic, toil and blood, can still be so bright, so uncontaminated, so heavenly pure! It seems an intentional parable of Divinity, knowing and receiving all, evil as well as good, yet through some deathless principle itself remaining forever right, strong, and pure, the Unchanging Good.

Pines grew here along the cliff, outlining with tawny stem and dark magnificence of foliage the most exquisite of vistas. The coast was broken by little bays full of brown seaweed that rose and fell indolently with the slow breathing of the sea. Islets were scattered along as if they had been dropped like pebbles out of a full hand. I do not think there can be anywhere on our shores a more enchanting piece of coast than this and the next ten miles to the north. It is the acme of what is generally named the romantic in sea scenery, and is calculated, I should think, to throw an artist into a frenzy in which he would paint one final and conscious master-piece, then close color-box, camp-stool, and umbrella, and hurl them all over the cliff together.

IMAGE: At Point Lobos, Near Monterey

AT POINT LOBOS, NEAR MONTEREY
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Noon found us at Point Lobos. It is a superb headland overgrown with pines and cypresses that lean in perilous balance over the crashing sea, or stand statuesquely on rocky ledges, ideally pictorial. The cypresses are monarchical fellows, wonderful in size and evident age, and Lear-like in their storm-thrawn attitudes. Like the pines, they are strict natives of this locality, and give a unique charm to this delightful coast. By their manner of growth they reminded me of the monumental yews of English churchyards; and, indeed, there is much of the same solemnity in their gnarled stems, far-reaching, bony arms, and rich but gloomy foliage.

I was courteously entertained at lunch by the owner of the ranch which includes this enviable piece of coast, and then pursued my way, soon crossing a bridge over the wide, shallow stream called the Carmel. A beautiful valley here opens inland. I had long wished to explore it, as well as to try my flies on the river, which has a good reputation among fishermen. But Anton was badly in need of a blacksmith, now near at hand, and I decided to keep the road towards Monterey.

A turn brought me to the Mission of San Carlos, generally known as Carmel, one of the oldest and most interesting of all the Missions. There is a peculiar beauty in the simple, rather heavy building that I could not easily explain to myself. I think it lies in the perfect balance which has been kept between solidity and ornament. The tower is a model of proportion, and the facade is only broken by one star window of simple but beautiful design. The star is a little out of the symmetrical, as is also the cupola of the tower, but the variation is too slight to be jarring, and, if anything, adds a pleasing and humane touch to the modest building, as a token of the artless sincerity of the poorly skilled workmen.

Situation is another element of its charm. Tranquil hills, clouded here and there with pines, rise on two sides; a peaceful river flows silently by; and at a little distance lies the blue and golden curve of the bay, broken by flash of surf where the tide is leaping on the river-bar. The only houses in sight are a quiet farm and the little flowery dwelling of the Mexican who acts as caretaker.

In the church the body of Junípero Serra himself lies buried near the altar, with those of three of his comrades. A tablet on the wall above commemorates them thus: —

Hic jacent exuviae
Adm. Rev. Patris
Juniperi Serra
0. S. F.
Missionum Californiae fundatoris
ac Praesidis
in pace depositae
die XXVIII mensis augusti
A. D. M.D.CCLXXXIV
atque sociorum ejus
R. R. P. P.
Johannis Crespi
Juliani Lopez
et
Francisci Lasuen
Requiescant in pace.

It seemed to me a pleasant spot to be the resting-place of the weary old priest. Swallows were weaving all about the place, and had built against the painted windows above the grave. Their eager little voices filled the air, and came mingled with the dreamy iteration of the surf. For a moment I was in Assisi, an auditor of St. Francis, "the Jongleur of the Lord," and of his little brother jongleurs.

From here, half an hour brought us to Carmel-by-the-Sea, where I tasted the luxury of a comfortable hotel, while a livery-stable received my good Anton. The village is pleasantly rural, with its houses scattered through a pine wood that slopes to a beach of whitest sand. It is a notable place of residence for artists and university dons from Stanford and Berkeley, and one is conscious of a mildly Bohemian, or scholastico-artistic air. Carmel certainly has an unusual range of attractions: its own happy situation, the exceptional beauty of the adjacent coast, a soft and equable climate, and facilities for a variety of sports. And over all there hangs a tinge of romance from the neighborhood of Monterey, the capital of the Spanish and Mexican California of no very long time ago.

I might have been in Monterey in an hour from Carmel by crossing the neck of the Monterey peninsula. But I could not bring myself to miss any part of this enchanting coast, so next morning I took the road that follows the shore. This is part of the renowned Seventeen-Mile Drive which figures on the itinerary of California tourists, and its fame is certainly justified. In its fine grouping of the beautiful and striking elements the scenery might really be called classic; and, indeed, I doubt whether it could be surpassed, unless in Greece or Italy.

The shore-line is ideally broken and wonderfully rich in color; the water a play of emerald and sapphire hues breaking momentarily in sudden blaze of surf, or shaded to deeper tones by the brown sea-banners of the kelp. Promontory and cliff are peopled with fantastic forms of pine and cypress, sumptuous in sombre green or shagged with gray pennons of moss. Once the road ran for a mile or two under a deep cypress arbor, a green and brown tunnel lighted dimly by windows that opened on brilliant seas, and echoing with cadence of surf and scream of roving gull.

Many of the trees lie prone on the brown floor, mere tumbles of mossy green. Others are amorphous monsters with huge rheumatic knees and elbows, gray as the very bones of Time. At Cypress Point, the outer headland of the peninsula, where winds career most wildly, the gaunt wardens of the cliff have been torn, twisted, hunched, wrenched, battered, and hammered to the limit of tree resemblance. They make a Homeric-looking company, and tell a stirring tale of battle with

"... every gust of rugged winds
That blows from off each beakéd promontory."

Beyond Cypress Point the shore falls to dunes of white sand, splashed with creeping sea-herbage, and trending northeasterly to Point Pinos, at the southern horn of Monterey Bay. Inland the ground rises wooded everywhere with pines; and it was deep pleasure to ride slowly along, hour after hour, in that fine companionship; on one hand the comfortable sigh of forest, on the other the long, solitary surge of the Pacific.

By evening we were entering the pretty seaside town of Pacific Grove. The tolling of a train-bell sounded strangely in my ears, for we had parted company with locomotives at San Luis Obispo, several weeks before. As we passed the Military Reservation the sunset gun boomed from the Presidio, whereat Anton performed first a spectacular jump and then a little pas seul which furnished some excitement for the smart soldier boys.

Complicated odors of fish and antiquity met us as we entered Monterey, where the street-cars wrought Anton's nerves to a point of desperation. I piloted him by back ways to a stable, and found myself a lodging at the house of a charming Spanish lady to whom I brought a letter of introduction from my good friends at Lompoc.

Monterey forms almost a compendium of the history of California. It was only half a century after the first voyage of Columbus that Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed into the bay, and the first civilized anchor dropped into its quiet waters. Sixty years later came Sebastian Vizcaino, and claimed the soil for Spain, giving the port the name of his patron, the Count of Monte Rey, then Viceroy of Mexico. That would be in 1602, five years before the Jamestown settlement was made on the other coast; and from that time down to the end of Mexico's ownership, Monterey remained the capital of the province of Alta California.

Dana gives a picture of the town as he saw it in 1835, towards the end of the old régime: — "The pretty lawn on which it stands, as green as sun and rain could make it; the pine wood on the south; the small river on the north side; the houses, with their white plastered sides and red tiled roofs, dotted about on the green; the low white presidio with its soiled tri-colored flag flying, and the discordant din of drums and trumpets for the noon parade."

Much of the air of its early days still pervades the place, and makes it in a way the most interesting town in California. The green lawn has gone, but many of the low adobe houses remain, and a good part of the population is Spanish or Mexican still; and my hostess, Doña Carmelita, herself a resident of Monterey from girlhood, has not a few compatriots with whom to talk over the old, gay, easy days that lingered here long after the rest of California had become charged with American energy. Monterey, and not the Mission Dolores in San Francisco, as Bret Harte expected, seems "destined to be 'The Last Sigh' of the native Californian."

Many of the buildings are ticketed with some legend to attract the interest of tourists. Generally a claim to being the first or the last of their kind or purpose in the State is the theme. Here is the first brick house, and here the first one built of lumber. That low shady house was the home of Governor Alvarado, one of the last governors of the Mexican province; and at the bottom of the street that bears his name is the Custom-House, where, on the 7th of July, 1846, the flag of the United States took the place of that which Dana saw flying. Near by is the first theatre, and on the hill is a large frame building which served as the first State Capitol.

A ramshackle wooden house on a side street hoists the sign, "R. Stevenson House." I was not sorry to find that the authenticity of this particular relic was denied by my hostess, who declared that Stevenson was merely an occasional visitor at the house in question, and that he lived in a house (now pulled down) adjoining the one which professes to have been occupied by the last American Consul, Thomas 0. Larkin. As circumstantial evidence, the señora confessed how she and others of the vivacious damsels of Monterey used to watch, from the windows of the opposite house, where she lived, Stevenson, Keith the painter, and other cronies as they smoked and joked on the veranda of the Larkin house.

It must go hard with every lover of the gentle Scot to think of him as inhabiting that other dismal shell, the ugliest house, I think, in all Monterey. I looked in at some of the windows, and saw only bare whitewashed rooms with broken walls and floors. There was a notable débris of empty bottles, and in one room it seemed that some conscience-stricken carouser had sought to dispose of his incriminating evidence by stuffing it under the flooring, whence the necks of more bottles protruded in a waggish fashion, as though they were "tipping the wink" to the spectator. At one end of the house an outside stairway led to the upper floor. At the other was a square of garden ground, in a corner of which a few nasturtiums and stalks of mint grew in a secret and furtive manner. Over all there ruled a quaint, olden odor, rare in this country, which oddly reminded me of English almshouses.

In a walk about the outskirts of the town I came upon the old church, often called the Mission, of San Carlos. Having always been the parish church of Monterey, it escaped the ruin that fell upon its sisters, and is to-day, at the age of nearly a hundred and twenty years, a handsome, solid building. I was struck by the strange appearance of the pavement of the courtyard, which was laid with circular blocks of some whitish material that was like, and yet unlike, stone. They proved to be the vertebrae of whales, and reminded me that Monterey had once a whaling industry of some importance. Near the bay I found a building which was formerly the office of the Monterey Whaling Company. The last of the old whaling-men of Monterey may still be seen haunting the water-front, and in the marine-store you may see a bomb-gun awaiting the purchaser who will never appear. On the bay, the mixture of dories, lateen-sailed fishing-craft, steam-launches, and glass-bottomed observation boats from which tourists may spy out the wonders of Davy Jones's locker. mark the intermingling of the old and the newer interests.

It was evening as I walked again up the long street. As I passed along, I encountered now a tinkle of mandolins, now an odor of Spanish cookery and roses tangled together, quite unspeakable. Children played in the cypress-shaded gardens, or sat at the doors of the hunchbacked adobes with their fathers and mothers. On a side street a modern wooden church with a painful spire was lighted up, probably for choir practice. Protestant as I am, I turned away and walked again past the old Catholic Mission. The last swallows were wheeling home, and the sparrows in the ivy were sleepily querulous. The fading light lingered on the crumbling cornices, and the tile-capped belfry rose peacefully into the clear dusk of the sky. After all, age is a kind of sacrament.