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.

Sunday Photos, 2/14/21

Got a nice surprise last night:

Yes, you are Brendon

Happy Valentine’s Day. Rock Knocker and I celebrated early when we had to make a trip to Monterey last week. We had dinner at The Sur in the Barnyard with two friends: Vilia and Rose. Vilia was late and I forgot to get her photo, but here is Rose:

This was definitely the highlight of my week and gave me great joy. Hadn’t done that since the beginning of the pandemic, coming up on a year, now. Thanks for joining us, ladies. So good to see girlfriends. And thanks Rock Knocker for being my designated driver!

Cal Trans update on Rat Creek, 2/12/21

Date:Friday, February 12, 2021 at 6:00 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 – Clean up and road repairs continue on large stretches of Highway 1 on the Big Sur coast as assessment continues at Rat Creek where a 150-foot section of road washed out on January 28, 2021.

Work continues unplugging numerous culverts both north and south of Rat Creek which were overwhelmed by debris flow from the recent rainstorm. Significantly, all the culverts have been located and their inlets exposed. Additional debris removal from the inlet areas and removal of mud and debris from inside the pipes continues.  

Caltrans maintenance forces continue work in the open sections of the highway clearing ditches and debris. Crews continue to work in support of emergency contractors inside the closed sections of highway with guardrail repairs and restoring drainage facilities. Crews will continue to work extended shifts through the holiday weekend.

Southern Closure Scheduled to Move North

The closure of Highway 1 south of Rat Creek is currently in place just north of Pacific Valley at PM 16. Given current progress on debris removal and road repairs, it is anticipated that this southern closure will move north on Monday Feb. 22, and relocate to the Big Creek Vista Point at PM 27.3 where a turnaround is being constructed.

Northern Closure in Place

A turnaround has been put into service two miles north of Rat Creek, just north of the Lime Creek Bridge at PM 32.1. This turnaround will serve as the landmark limit for public travel south on Highway 1 while repairs are being made at Rat Creek.

In upcoming weeks, the turnaround will be improved with permanent surfacing and enhanced striping. Work to restore impacted drainage systems on Highway 1 north of Lime Creek will continue using standard traffic control as necessary.

Assessment Continues at Rat Creek

Crews continue working at Rat Creek seven days a week as part of the ongoing assessment phase. Geotechnical and engineering crews continue to gather data and inspect areas in proximity of the washout and the surrounding canyon. To date, no design alternative has been selected. Given the complexity of the repair there is at present no timeline for when this decision will be made.

Excavators have mobilized on site to remove woody debris and mud from the canyon. Such work is required no matter the design alternative selected.

Caltrans reminds motorists to move over and slow down when 

driving through highway work zones.

Excavators Clearing Debris and Mud at Rat Creek 02.11.21


Kevin Drabinski

Public Information Officer

Caltrans District 5

Update from Supervisor Mary Adams

Greetings ~ 
I hope this message finds you well and drying out a bit from the recent atmospheric storm. As always, things are very busy in our beautiful District 5. The topic generating the most emails and voice messages this week is the confusion and frustration surrounding vaccinations. I understand the sense of urgency to get a vaccine and feel frustrated myself that it is not possible to vaccinate everyone who wants one immediately. Additionally, the changing guidelines pose many difficult questions.  Each morning, my team hears from many of you with messages conveying your frustrations. I ask for your patience as we navigate this current phase of COVID challenges – which has been difficult every step of the way. For those of you who may be wondering, I have not had a COVID vaccine. It is not my turn yet, so I have signed up for the state’s MyTurn system to be notified when it is my turn. Click this link to sign yourself up for MyTurn. 
Many of our constituents are 75 years+ and eligible to register online for vaccine appointments, but understandably, many are having a hard time navigating the system. (I have a hard time navigating it myself!). Sometimes it is because all the appointments are already taken, or because Google Chrome is needed to register, or simply because it is difficult registering online in general. My team has offered to help folks experiencing difficulty until there is an established hotline number to call for support. That hotline should be up and running soon.   

Right now, my office is trying to stay updated on available appointments (by refreshing the page on the County’s website and that of CHOMP) and, as time permits, calling back constituents who are 75+ and have asked for help. We go over the information needed while on the phone, and click through or enter all of the information until the appointment is (hopefully) confirmed.  In some instances, the sign-up process is cumbersome and time-consuming.  Unfortunately, our capacity to help is limited and we may not be able to help everyone who calls. We will do what we can to assist until the hotline is ready and available to fill the need for those without a computer, internet access, or who have difficulty navigating the online system, so please be patient. If you have left a message or sent an email, rest assured you have been added to our list and we will get back to you as soon as we can. 
In addition to our COVID-19 challenges, the devastation caused by the atmospheric river  in many areas of District 5 remains at the top of the list. County staff have been assessing the damages over the last week. We will have more information to share during the Fire Recovery webinar on Thursday (see information below). We are working with County staff, other legislative offices, and State and Federal agencies to plan for repairs on County roads and other public facilities. We also are doing what we can to make resources available for private property owners. It is heartbreaking to see the continued impacts from the 2020 fires on so many of you. What a hard and traumatic time this has been. 
I continue to have faith for better days ahead, and hope that you can share some of my optimism. My thoughts remain with you and your loved ones. Please stay well and enjoy a Happy Valentine’s Day.  
Best, Mary 
COVID-19 Vaccine UpdateCalifornia is continuing to adjust the Statewide Vaccine Phases. Monterey County has been vaccinating healthcare workers and residents 75+. California’s latest adjustment will allow individuals in Phase 1b including ages 65+ and at risk of exposure at work in the following industry sectors:  Education & Child CareEmergency ServicesFood and Agriculture   Our biggest constraint with the vaccine distribution continues to be the amount of doses we are allocated each week. Monterey County’s capacity to administer vaccines is 17,100 doses per week, but we currently only receive a supply of 2,000-4,000 doses per week. Monterey County has secured sites that will be used for large scale vaccination clinics for when we begin to get greater supplies. Until we receive more vaccine allocations, we will continue to focus on the most at-risk residents in Monterey County.  As you may know, the reason we do not receive the number of vaccines neighboring counties do is because we do not have any Multi-County Entities (MCEs) in our county. MCEs are those health care facilities present in multiple counties such as Kaiser, Sutter and Dignity. They are allocated an additional amount of vaccine before the rest of us get ours. Options for Veterans 

The VA Palo Alto has received approval to administer 600 doses of Moderna vaccine at the Gourley Clinic in Marina, CA on Saturday, February 13, 2021.  As of now appointments are limited to Veterans in the area who are 75 years old and above.  
To schedule an appointment, local veterans may call VA Palo Alto at (650) 496-2535 Monday through Friday between 8AM and 6PM.  Second dose vaccines will be available 28 days later to those who receive the first dose on February 13.
The Palo Alto Website will be regularly updated to share new vaccine information through the VA.  Thank you Congressman Jimmy Panetta and Monterey County Military & Veterans Affairs for your strong support of Monterey County veterans. 
COVID-19 Metrics Update 
COVID-19 data in Monterey County is trending in the right direction. The cases and case rates are decreasing, ICU capacity has improved and is now up to 37% availability. This change means more lives may be saved as well as moving the county closer to levels which could reopen K-6 schools.   
The adjusted case rate has continued to decline, and although we are in the purple tier, these trends are showing that we are getting closer to the red tier within the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The diligence of Monterey County residents who continue to social distance, wear masks and wash their hands regularly are responsible for this improvement in our situation. We are so thankful for everyone’s efforts to keep working together and heading in the right direction. 
Fire Recovery Townhall Webinar – Thursday, February 11, 2021, 5:30 to 7:30 pm We are continuing the fire recovery townhalls for residents impacted by the River, Carmel and Dolan Fires, as well as those who sustained damages from debris flows and flooding during last week’s atmospheric river. Please join us this Thursday, February 11, 2021, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. for a continued discussion with our emergency responders and others supporting the recovery process. There will be ample time for questions and answers. 
Online: and enter Passcode: 675448 
OR Via Telephone: 1-669-900-6833 Webinar ID: 934 4580 0301 
Support for Small Businesses
The Monterey County Workforce Development Board, on which I serve, is providing a second round of financial assistance to local small businesses that have experienced a loss of revenue due to COVID-19. The Monterey County CARES Small Business Relief Program provides up to $10,000 in grant-funded reimbursement for eligible COVID-19 related operating expenses to businesses with 5-25 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees. 
NOTE: The application period is now open until February 22, 2021. Please visit the Monterey County Workforce Development Board’s website or for more information and for the online application.  
Community Feedback for Transportation Agency for Monterey County The Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC) and Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) would like feedback on the SURF! Busway and Bus Rapid Transit Project. 
If you are interested in supporting this effort, please take the survey.  Just click on this link 

Cal Trans Seeks public input

Caltrans District 5 Seeks Public Input On Draft Active Transportation Plan

CENTRAL COAST – Caltrans District 5 is looking for public input on its draft Active Transportation Plan. The Plan will identify locations where bicycle and pedestrian improvements might be needed on the state highway system. The public can play a key role in establishing the community priorities for Plan implementation by participating in this review.

The draft Plan review begins February 8, 2021 and is available for comment on the District 5 website through March 9, 2021. Visit the  website for more information, the final Plan will be available in May.

“We look forward to hearing from the public on what they believe are the most important priorities in their communities and how we can best integrate them into our transportation projects moving forward,” said Caltrans District 5 Director Tim Gubbins.

Caltrans wants to align the state’s bicycle and pedestrian network with the needs of local communities, with an emphasis on improving social equity, reconnecting neighborhoods and improving access for all modes of transportation, including people who walk or bicycle. Caltrans is actively engaging with partners and community members in areas where previous transportation decisions may have created barriers to adequate transportation.

For more information about the Caltrans Active Transportation Plans, visit

Do humans really need access to every place on Earth?

There is a wonderful op-ed in the LA Times that Nadine Clark sent me last night. It is written by a Pulitzer prize winning author. She asks the question — Do humans really need access to every place on earth? She asks this after we lost 150’ of highway into the ocean. She uses Heath Johnston’s now famous photograph to headline this op-ed piece. It is short, but a fine piece of writing.

“Sometimes I wonder if people even belong in the world’s most fragile and beautiful places. The other day, my cousin, who lives in St. Louis, told me we should leave California — that I should be wary of the fires, the earthquakes, the mudslides. He told me that living in the state is becoming too risky because of overpopulation and climate change. And then I went out and looked at the glen above our house, at the deer trotting through, pausing to glance at me, at the ground squirrels, the sparrows, and the hawks floating on the breeze.

Why don’t I leave? What am I waiting for? Well, the daffodils that are blooming and the lupine soon to come. I have never lived anywhere like this.”

She lives on the Monterey Peninsula, I would guess from her writing. You can find the rest of her op-ed piece here:

Photo Sunday, 2/7/21

On Friday, I got a first hand look at what Nacimiento-Fergusson looks like and got to meet a supervisor for the San Ardo crew. This road crew, the FHL road crew, and my neighbors are who and what I am most grateful for this week. The MoCo road crew worked all last weekend, and they continue to work through the end of this week, to get and keep one lane open for residents who were all but trapped, or who had to drive five hours to get around the slip-out at Rat Creek to get from home to work. The FHL road crew made South Coast Ridge Rd passable for those of us in the back country. Our elected representatives, particularly Mary Adams’s office, Jimmy Panetta’s office, and state reps. Laird and Rivas’s offices as well as our local MRD of the FHL all worked together to make this happen. It is not over, and any future rain may well undo this work, but for now, we are able to get where we need to go. Thank you all. And to the Big Sur Big Share — thank you for the share and for making us not feel so isolated from our neighbors on the other side!

Nacimiento is ONLY open to residents, and has locked gates at both the Highway One side and the FHL side. It is NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. The debris flows were devastating, as you will only get a glimpse into with the photos I took. I have several dozen more photos, but you get the idea.

There is a road under there…
Chalk Peak
Dolan Fire Devastation

I will leave you with this poignant photo of the flag again flying as a reminder that we all owe so much to the men and women fire fighters and first responders who sacrifice so much to protect us and aid us. This is the Nacimiento Station which was burned out in the Dolan Fire and trapped 14 firefighters, one of whom is still recovering. We send our well wishes and love, Casey.

Distance between closures on Highway 1 to shorten

Date:Friday, February 5, 2021 at 6 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 – Due to steady progress by crews on both sides of Rat Creek to clear plugged culverts, remove standing water and debris, clear rockfall, and repair roads, the northern and southern limits of the closure on Highway 1 on the Big Sur coast are scheduled to change.

As of 6 pm today, the northern end of the Highway 1 closure on the Big Sur coast will move south from Post Mile 34.1 to PM 32.6 just south of Esalen Institute. This will permit full access to the last businesses on the coast before reaching Rat Creek.

Crews will be working throughout the weekend behind this new closure limit to fortify a turnaround point at Lime Creek at PM 32.1 which is expected to be in operation by early next week. Located one mile above Rat Creek, the Lime Creek turnaround is planned to be the landmark limit for public travel south on Highway 1 while repairs are being made at Rat Creek.

The southern closure on Highway 1 will be moved north at 6 pm next Monday Feb. 8, from its current location at Willow Creek Rd. at PM 11.1 to PM 16.0 just north of Pacific Valley. In approximately two weeks this southern closure is expected to move north up the coast again to the Big Creek Vista Point at PM 27.3 where a turnaround is being constructed.

There is still much repair work to be done on Highway 1 between Rat Creek and Big Creek Vista Point. This stretch of road will continue to be a high priority for crews and contractors. This section of road contains multiple locations of plugged culverts which were overwhelmed by debris flows. Rockfall still needs to be cleared behind the netting at Cow Cliffs, and stabilization and repair of sections of roadway must be accomplished before this section can be opened to the public.

Intensive assessment continues at the Rat Creek site. Surveys by land and air have provided necessary data to describe the topographical conditions now in place after the immense debris flow. Geotechnical and environmental studies also continue. Crews have also begun to edge out into the debris flow basin itself to start to remove woody debris.

Crews are working at the site seven days a week. There is no current estimate of a timeline for when this assessment phase will be completed. Ongoing efforts to continue unplugging culverts and removing debris within the newly reopened segments of Highway 1 will continue with flagging operations. Travelers are advised to use caution and may find short delays.

Big Sur Roadway Damages Coordinator Meeting Summary

From the Office of Representative Jimmy Panetta, Katie Moon, assistant:

“2/2/21 Big Sur Roadway Damages Coordinator Meeting: Summary
Congressman Jimmy Panetta, Senator John Laird, Assemblymember Robert Rivas, and Supervisor Mary Adams’ staff met with federal, state, county, and local agencies to discuss the status of storm damage, assessment, and reconstruction of Highway 1 at Rat Creek, Nacimiento- Fergusson Road, and adjacent roadways. Monterey County, US Forest Service, and Fort Hunter- Liggett are working on road clearing and repair on County and Federal roadways including Nacimiento-Fergusson and adjacent roads. Monterey County is doing a damage assessment with an expectation to have more detailed information next week. Caltrans is continuing assessments of Highway 1 and coordinating residential access to their homes in collaboration with CHP and law enforcement agencies to ensure public safety. The legislative offices and agencies are actively working on making sure that Big Sur residents have ongoing information about alternate access routes and supporting residents by coordinating with the appropriate entities to ensure the continuation of essential services like mail delivery and trash pickup.

[Ed. Note: Southside roll outs for trash will be here as soon as payment is arranged for SLO Rollouts. WM is generating the purchase order as I type, so it won’t be long. Many people worked to make this happen. Northside trash will be handled by WM as always.]

We are in the very early stages of assessment and repair, however the reopening of these critical roadways is a priority at all levels of government and we as legislative offices will continue to work with and support agencies to safely restore access to the Big Sur coast.
Meeting Participants: Office of Congressman Panetta, Office of Senator Laird, Office of Assemblymember Rivas, Office of Supervisor Adams, Caltrans, Fort Hunter Liggett, US Forest Service, Monterey County Public Works, Monterey County Sheriff, CHP, Big Sur Fire