A Road like no other, in peril like never before — Highway One & Climate Change

There is a lengthy and interesting article featured in the Washington Post today. The full article can be found here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/interactive/2021/highway-one-big-sur-wildfires-climate-change/

“Feb 27, 2021, Gorda, CA — Life here in this tiny town built on the continent-ending cliffs of the Pacific coast has always had an anxious “when,” not “if,” quality to it. And much of that uncertain fate, season to season and year to year, has been tied to the two-lane road that runs through it.

Highway 1 is a California spectacle, a Depression-era monument to the state’s quixotic ambitions and stunning beauty. It runs from the Orange County surf haven of Dana Point in the south into cannabis-cultivating Mendocino County, carrying heavy traffic over the Golden Gate Bridge and under the bluffs of Santa Monica, where it is better known as the Pacific Coast Highway, on its 650-mile route.

But it is here in the middle, in one of the highway’s emptiest and most awesome stretches, where it is also most in peril. California’s shifting weather patterns are presenting new threats to this exotic road as wildfire reaches into places it has never been, leaving raw landscapes and fresh dangers in its burn path.

Late last month, pounding rains brought a torrent of mud and tree trunks the size of small boats through the narrow culvert at Rat Creek, about 25 miles north of here, where a wildfire had burned just months before.”

As climate change and overpopulation both increase, and https://www.visitcalifornia.com/ and https://www.seemonterey.com/ continue to reach out to encourage more visitation, the threat of wildfire is only going to increase proportionally. We will be facing more and more of these multi-month closures on the highway that is the life blood of not just Big Sur, but of the county and the state as well. That is why when it closes, residents enjoy the silence and peace it brings. We are reminded of why we came here in the first place, and can enjoy it again for a few days, weeks, or months — in road closure season and wildfire season, when the strains put on her resources by visitors are lessened.


Date:Thursday, February 25, 2021
District:05 – Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz Counties
Contact:Kevin Drabinski or Jim Shivers
Phone:(805) 549-3138 or (805) 549-3237




MONTEREY COUNTY – Caltrans announced today that major emergency repairs of Highway 1 on the Big Sur Coast at Rat Creek will begin March 1 and that it estimates it will reopen the famed roadway early this summer. Debris flow from the Dolan Fire burn scar washed out a 150-foot section of roadway January 28, causing a full closure. 

After assessing the damage, removing debris and making minor repairs, Caltrans will reconnect the roadway at Rat Creek with an enhanced fill option. Caltrans will fill the canyon with dirt in a large V-shape and construct a new road on top of the fill.

“Caltrans crews have been onsite since this highway section washed out in the recent storms to assess the damage, and we’re pleased to announce emergency construction begins next week to repair and reconnect the highway,” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin. “Highway 1 is an iconic roadway that connects travelers with small businesses on the Central Coast, and we’re focused on restoring travel on this section by early summer.”

The enhanced fill option also involves replacing the main drainage system at Rat Creek with an oversized main culvert, a secondary culvert and smaller overflow culverts closer to the highway grade. This will increase the capacity of the drainage system, add redundancies designed to withstand future debris flows and enhance the resiliency and sustainability of the highway against rising sea level and coastal erosion.

“The repairs for Highway 1 at Rat Creek include improvements that can prevent similar damage from future debris flows,” said Caltrans District 5 Director Tim Gubbins. “We look forward to swiftly making these repairs so that all travelers will have a safe and resilient stretch of highway.”

Caltrans estimates the repairs will cost $11.5 million, including $5 million in ongoing emergency repairs north of Rat Creek. The contractor is Papich Construction of Arroyo Grande.

Approximately five miles of Highway 1 will be closed to all vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle traffic during repairs. The northern turnaround is two miles north of Rat Creek at the Lime Creek Bridge at PM 32.1, and the southern closure is at Big Creek Vista Point at PM 27.3.

The plan calls for work seven days a week during daylight hours, with longer shifts possible as the project progresses. The repair work involves the manipulation of tens of thousands of cubic yards of material, and rain could cause delays. Caltrans will adjust the timetable, as necessary. 

All businesses and activities south of Rat Creek in communities including Lucia, Gorda, Treebones, Ragged Point, San Simeon and Cambria will continue to remain accessible from the south on Highway 1. Similarly, the entire stretch of Highway 1 north of the closure, from Monterey and Carmel to the businesses and recreational facilities of the greater Big Sur area will be open for business and unaffected by the closure. Only through traffic on Highway 1 is affected by the washout at Rat Creek.

Above: Rat Creek on California’s Highway 1; looking south on the morning of January 29, 2021.

Aerial photo showing debris and the washout of Highway 1 on February 1, 2021.

Excavators removing debris from the canyon February 11, 2021.

Caltrans reminds motorists to move over and slow down when 

driving through highway work zones.

For traffic updates on other state highways in Monterey County, travelers may contact Caltrans District 5 Public Affairs at 805-549-3318or can visit the District 5 website at: https://dot.ca.gov/caltrans-near-me/district-5

Notification of Film Shoot (2)

Date: February 22, 2021To: Big Sur ResidentsFrom: Peloton ShootRe: Film Production Activity Scheduled for Thursday March 4rth, 2021 & Friday March 5th, 2021 on Highway 1 in the Big Sur Area (Rocky Creek & Point Sur Lighthouse)

In an effort to better communicate with Big Sur residents and business owners regarding upcoming film activities in the area, this is to notify you of a permitted film shoot to take place on Thursday March 4th, 2021- Friday March 5th, 2021 from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm. Our work will require intermittent traffic control (ITC) at and near Bixby Bridge and Hwy 1, Mile Markers: MON 60.1 to MON 51.2. As per our permit, a portion of parking at the Bixby Bridge turnout will also be used for staging.

We will be hiring California Highway Patrol officers to facilitate the ITC and to ensure public safety and access with only brief traffic holds.
We have taken all necessary steps to ensure that the required permits have been obtained and will comply with restrictions necessary for a safe and efficient shoot.

The production company would like to show its appreciation to the community with a donation to the Big Sur Fire Brigade & Big Sur Health Center.

Thank you for your cooperation and understanding. I hope this advance notice is helpful for you to plan your day.Sincerely yours,Rod WeinerLocation Manager 415.606.1146rweiner8@gmail.com

Cal Trans Rat Creek Update

Date:Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 12:45 pm
District:05 – Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz Counties
Contact:Kevin Drabinski or Jim Shivers
Phone:(805) 549-3138 or (805) 549-3237



MONTEREY COUNTY – The southern closure of Highway 1, currently in place just north of Pacific Valley at PM 16, will relocate north to the Big Creek Vista Point at PM 27.3 on Friday Feb. 19, at 5 pm. This is three days earlier than originally anticipated.

This will open up an additional 11 miles of the highway on the south side of Rat Creek. 

Once established, the southern turnaround at Big Creek Vista Point at PM 27.3 and the northern turnaround just north of the Lime Creek Bridge at PM 32.1 will serve as the landmark limits for public travel on Highway 1 while repairs are being made at Rat Creek.

In upcoming weeks, these turnarounds will be improved with permanent surfacing and enhanced striping.

Sections of Highway 1 on the approach to these turnarounds will continue to be subject to one way reversing traffic control at various points as cleanup operations continue. Motorists can expect delays of up to 10 minutes.

At Rat Creek, woody debris and debris flow material continue to be hauled out of the upstream basin and is being trucked off site.

Engineering teams continue to study possible repair options. No repair method at Rat Creek has been selected and there is no timeline at present for when that decision might be made.

300th Anniversary of the Brandenburg Concerto, a JS Bach masterpiece.

March 24th, 2021
 is the 300th Anniversary of the Brandenburg Concerto, a JS Bach masterpiece. 

Zoom Links

March 24th, 2:00pm Showinghttps://csumb.zoom.us/j/85276768706

March 24th, 7:00pm Showinghttps://csumb.zoom.us/j/88080717562

Monterey, California will be hosting a worldwide celebration with two Livestreams – one at 2 to 3:30 PST, and the second at 7 to 8:30 PST. Sponsored by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and the Music and Performing Arts Department at California State University Monterey Bay. and its partners the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, California Rodeo Salinas, Carmel Bach Festival, Monterey County Pops!, Monterey Jazz Festival, Monterey Symphony, and Palenke Arts.    All free – a gift from Monterey to the world.

This unprecedented range of major classical, jazz and traditional arts organizations in our area came together to celebrate the first music on the Golden Record that will still be orbiting the Milky Way long after our sun explodes in 4.5 billion years.  The Brandenburg Concerto heads 26 other pieces that were selected to represent the whole of earth by a Carl Sagan/Jet Propulsion Lab team in 1977.  Arguably it is the most important recorded music ever.  The Carmel Bach Festival has performed one of its concertos over 275 times since 1935 – easily the most performed classical music in the history of Monterey County.

As part of the program we are asking anyone who wishes to answer a question:
What music would you like to have heard on the Voyager Golden Record that they did not include? Or put another way, what list of music would you want to represent all of humanity and human history that might be launched on a future Golden Record that would travel through space for the next 5 billion years?  Why?

Please answer either through the website (or in the chat room during the Livestreams):  https://brandenburgconcerto300thanniversary.com/what-music-would-you-like-to-have-been-on-the-voyager-golden-record/

For links to music being played in the program:  https://brandenburgconcerto300thanniversary.com/brandenburg-concerto-300th-anniversary-program/
To register (optional) please go to: https://brandenburgconcerto300thanniversary.com
Or email us: Brandenburg300Project@gmail.com

Please join California State University Monterey Bay and its partners the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, California Rodeo Salinas, Carmel Bach Festival, Monterey County Pops!, Monterey Jazz Festival, Monterey Symphony, and Palenke Arts in celebrating wonderful music, great art and photography.  All free – a gift from Monterey to the world.

The “Personality One” by Don Harlan, or How Elephant’s Trunk Got its Name – Introduction

I first ran this multi-part series in 2014. If you are a long-time follower of this blog, you will remember it. Given the recent Rat Creek slip out. I thought it would be fun to run again. Don has been gone for many years, and the road surely misses him. He was born in town, but brought back to the Harlan homestead near Lucia by horseback before the road was completed when he was only days old. He was on the original Willow Springs Station road crew and eventually became its foreman/supervisor.

Don Harlan is the original road warrior. He worked Highway One for many, many years. He was the Supervisor at Willow Springs when Rock Knocker first came to work there in 1980. Don was part of the Lucia Lodge Harlan’s and grew up and was schooled down here. He had many road stories, dating back to the 30s, when he watched the north and southern portions connect.

In 1971 he wrote an article which is passed on to the Supervisors (foremen in Don’s time) who work this section of the Highway. Greg DeAlba, the supervisor in 2014 shared this with me, and I think it would make an interesting serial for this blog. In it, Don describes the various trouble spots and how they came to be named. There is nothing PC about this piece, but it is a delight to read, both for the historical value and for Don’s writing style. He was one of a kind. Long after he retired, he showed up to Rock Knocker’s and my wedding in his hard hat. He never left home without it.

On Mondays, absent an emergency fire, flood, or road closure, I will be offering a segment of this piece, as it is 11 pages, single spaced. I am taking photographs of each portion, rather than re-typing it so that it is entirely true to the man Don was – and I can’t mess it up! Look for part 1 next Monday.