Double Cone Quarterly
Spring Equinox 2003-- Volume VI, Number 1

Stories from the
Show-Me Tours

Wilderness Soothes Anxious Souls
at Pico Blanco Camp

By Reverend Paul Danielson
The calming pool at Pico Blanco Public Camp

It was shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the average American was still reeling from this event and a bit on edge. Our scheduled show-me tour for the Little Sur Proposed Wilderness Area would take us from a permitted parking spot at the Boy Scout Camp below Bottchers Gap, up the ridge, and over to Pico Blanco Public Camp. There had been several inquiries, but the difficulty of the hike ("moderate to strenuous") had whittled us down to myself, the leader, and three others. One was a young, fit Turkish military officer, on a special study exchange program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. The other two were a couple in their 30's from the East Bay area who had heard about the hike.

Well, we were huffing and puffing up the steep early section of the hike, except of course for Ali, who was in commando-like shape. The woman began to engage Ali in conversation. When she found out he was from Turkey, she blurted out, "You Arabs are all the same, you just want to kill people!". Ali remained calm, and said nothing. Then, when she found out he was a Turkish Military officer, things got worse. "You military people are all the same, all you want to do is to kill people!" Again, Ali was cordial and said something (that I could not hear) in a calm, respectful, and courteous tone of voice.

Being the astute person that I am, I instantly recognized that we had a lady with a problem. But there was more to come. We had a man with a problem as well. The boyfriend, who was NOT in great shape, and had been lagging behind, apparently had sensed the drift of 911 in the conversation, and stormed up to the three of us and began cursing and swearing: " That's all that &*%#@!** people want to talk about these days, the September 11 thing, and I am sick and tired of it !!! I drove all this ##@*&!*<% way down here to this beautiful wilderness to get away from it all, and to find some peace and solitude. Why don't you just knock it off ?!!!

Well, I, with my great skills of diplomacy, immediately agreed with this irate man, and said : "You are absolutely right. We DO need to knock it off, and get our minds on these peaceful surroundings and refresh our spirits and talk about OTHER things, if we need to talk at all!"

A little later, I caught up with Ali and offered profound apologies. "Not all Americans are like this," I said. He was so wise and cordial, and simply stated, "You know, I get a lot of this right now. People are upset. I can understand that. A terrible thing has happened to America. I try to use these encounters as an opportunity to tell and teach people that Muslims - Turks, Arabs and others - are kind and good, and not to judge us by a few extremists and fanatics."

The hike DID get better after that, with the wonders of Wilderness working their magic on even the most angst-ridden souls . We found the alleged site of the old Al Clark mine-shaft opening at the base of Pico Blanco Mountain, ate and bathed at the waterfall-pool beneath Pico Blanco Public Camp, agreed that this unique place should indeed be preserved and protected by Wilderness Legislation, --- and yes, the irate boyfriend (by now long calm, and awestruck by the natural splendors around him) even apologized: "I guess I acted like a jerk back there." We assured him that we all have been under a few pressures in recent days and not to give it a second thought.

I am happy to report that their letters of support, together with hundreds of others, helped to ensure the passage of Sam Farr's splendid Big Sur Wilderness and Conservation Act of 2002 (HR 4750) --- which included the special piece of God's good creation to which we had made our pilgrimage in the wake of September 11. Well done, good citizens, Americans and Turks alike.


Reverend Danielson is a Director-emeritus of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance, and now sits on the VWA Advisory Board.

Terrace Creek and the Coast Ridge

By Meade Fischer
Coast Ridge View

If youšve never hiked down the Terrace Creek Trail when the delicate flowers are in bloom, you've missed a special experience. During the course of the Wilderness Bill effort, I led several "Show Me" hikes up the Coast Ridge Road out of the Ventana Inn to view the Coast Ridge Proposed Wilderness Addition, then down the Terrace Creek Trail and back out to the Big Sur Ranger Station via the Pine Ridge Trail.

The best of these was on the President's Day weekend in 2002. The sky had been building clouds for two days, and rain threatened constantly. However, a patch of blue sky had taken hold with tooth and nail, and it looked like it would be a lovely day.

I wasn't the only one who read the weather that way. A dozen people showed up for the hike. We used the hike up the road to get acquainted and talk about the breathtaking views and the various flowers we found lining the road. Then, at the Terrace Creek Trail junction, we stopped for lunch, a mixture of everything from granola to gourmet.

Our group, which ranged in age from 9 to 72, started down the Terrace Creek Trail, which at its worst is incredible. In February, when the Central Coast starts its absurdly long spring season, the wildflowers keep appearing, seemingly without end. We couldn't go a hundred yards without stopping to inspect splashes of color. I wish I could remember the names of even a fraction of the hundreds of species of flower that are native to the Ventana.

I do remember the wild iris, the Indian paint brush, the first blooms of monkey flower, and those tiny blue flowers, the name of which always escapes me. Our nine year old, struggling to keep up, was in ecstasy, lost in a subtle sea of color. She is definitely a future environmental activist.

Once down to the Terrace Creek Camp, we found party after party of back packers heading toward Sykes. After a time, we started warning them that there may not be room for the hundred or so who had planned to weekend there.

It's wonderful to know that now the Wilderness begins a couple of hundred feet from the Coast Ridge Road, and the entire magical Terrace Creek Trail is within protected wilderness.

Skinner Ridge Show Me Hike

By Meade Fischer

Leading "show me" hikes has been a joyful experience. I concentrated on the Little Sur, the Coast Ridge area, and Skinner Ridge, and I led these in every season, in rain and sun shine, with big groups and small.

Skinner Ridge was a delight. It consists of a hike up the ridge from Bottchers Gap, down to a saddle and the intersection with Turner Creek Trail and down Turner creek to the road that leads down to The Hoist.

On my preview hike of the area, I made the mistake of starting from The Hoist. That dirt road is a serious climb.

Once in the canyon, I sat at the table in the Turner Creek campsite and watched the creek roll through. I was the only one there, and the only sounds were the water music and the breeze high in the trees. The dappled light playing through the moving leaves made patterns on the ground.

On that hike, while crossing one of the tiny feeder creeks that drop from the south into Turner Creek, I saw a swarm of ladybugs, clustered on the bank. Seeing thousands of them swarmed like that is a rare treat.

On the next trip I was joined by Paul Danielson, a VWA activist. He managed to find native American mortar holes on the trail up to the ridge and up on the far bank at Turner Creek Camp. This lovely, sheltered valley was once home to local tribes who had basked in the abundance.

On one scheduled hike, that luckily landed on an incredibly clear day, we walked out at the top of the ridge to see the ocean and the "window" at the same time.

A couple of months later I had a winter hike scheduled for Skinner Ridge. That morning it was drizzling. I figured no one would show up, but since I'd committed and confirmed, I drove, windshield wipers flapping, to Carmel, expecting to wait fifteen minutes before heading home.

Three people showed up, and they were enthusiastic. They'd heard about how great the hikes were, and they could hardly wait. I noted the rain, asking if that might be a problem for anyone. One person remarked that it was only a drizzle. I tried to explain that a drizzle at the beach could be a downpour back in the mountains, but my little group was unfazed.

As we climbed out of Bottchers Gap, the rain grew steadily harder, and by the top of the ridge, even the biggest optimist couldn't call it a drizzle. The visibility could be measured in yards, and still they were excited about pressing on. When we started down the Turner Creek trail, we had to watch our footing. The wet leaves were slippery. Both Apple Tree and Turner Creek camps were flooded. The trails within the camps had become minor tributaries of the creek.

I tried, without much luck, to capture the moment on film as we all huddled together under a tree at Turner Creek to wolf down our lunches.

We were all soaked by the time we reached our other car at The Hoist, but strangely enough we all had a good time. My three companions thanked me for a wonderful day in the wilderness.


Meade Fischer has been a member and ardent supporter of Wilderness and the VWA since the very beginning.


footer image