Experiencing Mud Creek …
I live not on Big Sur Island, but on Big Sur Peninsula. I can get out east, and have 4 times in the last two months – once going east to go south, once going east to go north, and twice just to go east. Friday, I decided to go south, across Mud Creek. Photographs just do not tell the story. I took none. I was too busy dodging people, big trucks, small trucks, cement trucks, loaders, and watching rocks come down off the mountain, and of course, driving, to take any photographs. It is not a story that can be told in photographs. I am not sure words can do it either. As another South Coaster said, “Mud Creek is a war zone.”
I have driven across that area hundreds, maybe even a thousand times. This was an eye-opener. CalTrans and contractors everywhere working. Drains going in, dirt being hauled away… and water coming down off the mountain in rivers. So much water. Three different slides happening simultaneously. There are many places where the road is only one dirt lane, dropping off into the ocean. There is one place where the road has dropped at least 2-3 feet and one drives off into an abyss in the making. There is impermanence here. Mother Nature is making herself heard. She was too subtle for us to hear, before, so now she roars.
On the way down, I stopped at one location and the flagger did not look at me, but kept his eyes up the mountain, watching for movement. I watched, too. On the way home I was following a truck through the same area, to have him stop on the northern end to turn around and head down to his “spot” to receive all the excess dirt he was to haul away. Of course, I had to stop and stay out of the way. I looked to my right, and saw pebbles coming down the mountain right there – right where I was. First pebbles, then rocks, then boulders, is the way it happens, Rock Knocker taught me. I did not want to stick around for the boulders. I got out of there, as soon as I could scrape by the truck.
All my life I have been an optimist. I am not optimistic about this spot, right now. Maybe after a couple months of no rain, things can stabilize, but for now, I don’t see it opening to the inexperienced and sometimes unconscious travelers that want to come up Highway One, not to mention that a high clearance vehicle is now a requirement to get through the drop-offs. I would like to have better news, but I do not.
I was going to see what Paul’s Slide was like, but I just didn’t have it in me. Maybe next week. Mud Creek was enough.
Cal Trans photograph