How Paul’s Slide got its name …

I received this from a local (South Coast) businessman:

“Sorry kate..i don’t follow the ‘local vernacular names of slides..’ not sure where ‘Paul’s Slide’ is.” Hmmm… You don’t follow?? What does that mean? You think these are just the names we locals made up for each other? Paul’s Slide is north of the Rock Shed, and south of the Hermitage. It is listed on Cal Trans  – and many other Mile Markers guides. As I was answering him/her, I realized that many of you are relatively new to my blog or the South Coast and may not know the history of the names of our most re-occurring slides.

Paul’s slide was named after Paul Collins who worked with Rock Knocker in the 80’s and 90’s at Willow Springs. Some of these names have persisted for over 60 years. Long before many of us were even here. Paul’s Slide, as a name, has only been around a bit over 30 years. I have been sworn to secrecy as to WHY Don Harlan named this one Paul’s Slide.

Here is what I responded to the South Coast business man.

“XXXX, these aren’t “local vernacular names of slides.” Don Harlan named them. And all Cal Trans and the locals follow the tradition Don started.

Don Harlan was born and raised here. His family dates back to the 1800’s. [He watched the North and South sections of Highway One get connected in the 30’s.] They had equipment on the ranch which he learned to run as a child, and when Cal Trans needed an equipment operator, they hired him. He was sent up to Livermore, where he was a lead worker, and then he was returned to the South Coast as Supervisor at Willow Springs in the 50’s until he retired in the 80s. He taught Rock Knocker every thing he knows. He came to Rock Knocker’s and my wedding (in 1993) wearing his hard hat when he was in his 80’s. He was never without it.

Don Harlan typed up the names of all the slides in an 11 page document, how the names came to be, and a hand drawn map of the area indicating where they were. I scanned and posted all of this in a continuing story on my blog a few years ago. Don Harlan was an Original Road Warrior, and there was no one like him then, and none now. Cal Trans has a copy of this historic document, as do I. I scanned it.

If you are interested in the area in which you live, look it up on my blog. Then read it….”

Here is my introductory piece to get you started. Now it is up to you to learn the rest. (Enter Don Harlan or Personality One in the search box for more.)

How Elephant Trunk Got its Name

Also, one might be interested in reading the geological history and definition of terms about rock falls, rock slides, debris flows etc. with maps etc. which can be found in the pages links to the right on the History of Highway One.

This is an absolutely fascinating study on the history of mud and rock slides along Highwsay One in Big Suri from the opening of the hiway until 2000. MUST read for all of us interested in this,

History of Closures of Highway One in Big Suro (Thanks Jeff Mallory for finding this and sharing it.)

14 thoughts on “How Paul’s Slide got its name …

  1. Thanks Kate, that was so informative. I am not as familiar with the south coast. You are a born teacher!

  2. thanks Kate, love learning about local history! grew up around here so some of these names ring a bell. what’s important for people to know is that the coast highway didn’t just “appear” out of nowhere – people risked “life and limb” to build it – and they still are right now as they maintain it and patch it back together – putting themselves in harm’s way so that locals can survive and get food to eat, and motorists can have that “once in a lifetime” drive up/down Highway 1 that they dream of. Those awesome pics you posted recently of the top of rock slides, taken by Rock Knocker, show JUST how dangerous it is to be anywhere near the bottom (or top!) of a slide area. Whew! Thanks for sharing – do you have any pics of Don Harlan? Would love to know if I met him as a kid, or if he knew my folks. Sounds so familiar. Thanks for the great stories!

  3. Martha, the only pics Ralph or I have of Don Harlan are regular photos in boxes. We will have to find them and digitalize them, but will do that.


  4. Jeff, that is an amazing study contracted for by Cal Trans and covers from 1919 until 2000. Absolutely fascinating,. Good find. .Thanks for sharing.


  5. it’s funny: I was searching for images of Don Harlan and that study link was one that came up!

  6. Thanks to all for sharing. The slide history and Don Harlan’s name brought back fond memories. My father (Todd Nelson) worked for Cal Trans for most of his career, as a geologist and soil engineer, first with road crews and later heading up the Bridge Department, working on foundation studies and soil geology throughout the state and often in the Big Sur area. His career with Cal Trans began in the mid-1950s until about 1974, when he accepted a position as San Jose City’s Senior Geologist and then as Contra Costa County’s Senior Geologist (until multiple sclerosis impacted his ability to work and forced his retirement). Much of his personal photography collection was of work he documented for the state (in the collections used to create the 2001 report) and included Cal Trans crews and numerous slides. On our frequent family visits to Big Sur, Dad always made sure to point out the slide areas described so well in your posts this year, Kate! His favorite (and in early days the only) place to breakfast was Deetjen’s. I had been living in the Monterey Bay area since graduating from UC Davis in 1980, so after my mother’s death in 1997, my father chose to relocate to be near me so that he, too, could be near the area he had worked in and loved for most of his life. Until his death in 2001, I was able to take him on drives to Big Sur, where he could still breakfast at Deetjen’s and reminisce. I too will have to dig into a few photos to see if I can find the one I remember of Don Harlan–hard hat included. 🙂

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