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in all weather—such a spectacle of ocean's greatness, such beauty of
changing color, and so much thunder in the sound—as at Monterey."

The climax of the seventeen-mile drive is Cypress Point, with its weird
old trees. Description and picture are weak to give any true conception
of these fantastic, wind-blown monsters. It is, indeed, as Stevenson
wrote—and who was able to judge of such things better than he?—"No
words can give any idea of the contortions of their growth; they might
figure without a change in the nether hell as Dante pictured it." And
yet, with all their suggestion of the infernal regions, there is much of
beauty and charm in their very deformity. There is about them a certain
strength and ruggedness, born of their age-long defiance to the wild
northwestern winds, that is alike an admonition and an inspiration to
the beholder. If you would get my idea, select one of these strange
trees standing by itself in solemn majesty on some rocky headland—as
shown in Mr. Moran's splendid picture—and note how its very form and
attitude breathe defiance to the forces that would beat it down and
destroy it. Or take another which lies almost prone on the brown earth,
its monstrous arms writhing in a thousand contortions, yet its expanse
of moss-green foliage rising but little higher than your head, and note
how it has stooped to conquer these same adverse elements.

[Illustration: OLD CYPRESSES ON THE SEVENTEEN-MILE DRIVE, MONTEREY
From Photograph by Pillsbury]

Among the most familiar objects of the Point is the "Ostrich," two
cypresses growing together so as to give from certain viewpoints a
striking resemblance to a giant bird of that species. It is not the
forced resemblance of so many natural objects to fancied likenesses,
but is apparent to everyone at once. The traveler of to-day, however,
will look in vain for this curious natural freak; it was swept away with
hundreds of other ancient pines and cypresses in the violent hurricane
of April 1917.

At the extremity of the Point, the road turns and enters a second grove
of cypresses which, being farther removed from the storm and stress of
the sea, are more symmetrical, though all of them have, to some extent,
the same wind-swept appearance. Their branches overarched the fine road
and through their trunks on our right flashed the bright expanse of
Carmel Bay. Our motor was throttled to its slowest pace as we passed
through the marvelous scenes and there were many stops for photographs
of picturesque bits that struck our fancy.

The cypresses were superseded by pines when we came into the projected
town of Pebble Beach, which is being vigorously exploited by a promotion
company—a rival, we suppose, to Pacific Grove, which lies directly
opposite on the peninsula. In the center of the tract is Pebble Beach
Lodge, a huge rustic structure of pine logs from the surrounding forest,
which serves as an assembly hall and club house for the guests of the
Del Monte. A short distance beyond Pebble Beach the drive swings across
the peninsula and returns to the Hotel Del Monte.

In addition to the route following the coast—the seventeen-mile drive
proper, which I have just described—there is a network of boulevards in
the interior swinging around the low hills in easy curves and grades.
A moderate-powered car can cover the entire system on high gear, even
to Corona Del Monte, the highest point of the peninsula, which takes
one nearly nine hundred feet above the sea and affords a far-reaching
outlook in all directions. The dark blue bay of Monterey, the white
crescent of the beach, the drives, the pine and cypress groves, the
red roofs of the town, and the Hotel Del Monte near by, half hidden
in the dense green of the forest surrounding it, make a lovely and
never-to-be-forgotten picture. The mountain to the east is Fremont Peak,
forty miles away—a name that reminds us how much the Pathfinder figured
in the old California of which Monterey is so typical.

[Illustration: A FOREST GLADE
From Original Painting by Percy Gray]

They told us that Point Lobos, the rocky, cypress-crowned headland which
we saw across Carmel Bay, is the equal of anything on the peninsula in
scenic beauty, and there we wended our way on the last day of our stay
at Del Monte. Crossing to Carmel, we glided down the hill past the old
mission and over the river bridge at the head of the bay. From there a
road following the shore took us to the entrance of Point Lobos Park,
which is private property, and a small fee is charged for each vehicle.
A rough trail led to the cypress grove on the headland, where we found
many delightful nooks among the sprawling old trees—grassy little glades
surrounded by the velvety foliage—ideal spots for picnic dinners. In one
of these is the complete mounted skeleton of a ninety-foot whale, which
might serve as an argument against the learned critics who discredit
the story of Jonah and his piscatorial experience. Like the pavement of
San Carlos Church, it is another reminder of one of Monterey's vanished
industries.

A good authority testifies that there are few more strikingly
picturesque bits of coast on the whole of the Pacific than Point Lobos.
The high, rugged promontory falls almost sheer to the ocean, which raves
ceaselessly among the huge moss-grown boulders that have yielded to the
stress of storm and tumbled down on to the beach. The play of color is
marvelous; scarped cliffs of red-brown granite, flecked with gray and
green lichens; black boulders with patches of yellowish-green moss;
and hardy, somber trees which have found a footing on the precipices,
here and there, almost down to the water's edge. Out beyond we saw
a steely-blue ocean, with frequent whitecaps, for it was a fresh,
bright day with a stiff breeze blowing from the sea. I believe there
may be finer individual trees on Point Lobos than on the Monterey
peninsula—some of them in their kingly mien and grim solemnity reminding
us of famous yews we had seen in English churchyards such as Twyford,
Selborne and Stoke Pogis. A great variety of wild flowers still farther
enhanced the charm of the place. It is a spot, it seemed to us, where
anyone who admires the sublime and beautiful in nature might spend many
hours if he had them at his disposal.

Returning, we noticed a good-sized building on the bay with the sign,
"Abalone Cannery," and our curiosity prompted us to drive down to it.
It was not in operation, a solitary Jap in charge telling us that the
season was now closed. He was an obliging, intelligent fellow, and
showed us the machines and appliances of the plant, explaining as best
he could in his scanty English. The abalones are taken by Japanese
divers, who find them clinging to rocks under the water. The mussels are
removed from the shells, cooked in steam drums, and tinned, the product
being mainly shipped to Japan. In this connection it may be remarked
that the fishing industry about Monterey produces a considerable annual
total, several canneries being in operation in the vicinity. Many kinds
of fish are taken—and as a field for the sportsman with rod and line
the bay is quite equal to Catalina Island waters.

A narrow, little-used road runs down the coast from Point Lobos for
a distance of about thirty miles. Some day this will be improved and
carried through to Lucia, ten miles farther, forming a link in the real
"Coast Highway"—a road actually following the ocean—which Californians
have in mind; nor will there be a more magnificent drive in the world.
An artist acquaintance of ours—his name is familiar as one of our
greatest landscapists—had established his studio on this road three
or four miles below Point Lobos and his realistic paintings of this
marvelous coast were creating a furor in the artistic world. We drove
down to visit him one glorious evening when the sea was full of light
and color and the air resonant with the turmoil of the waves among
the rocks. We were just a little concerned as our heavy car crossed a
high, frail-looking bridge on the way, but maybe it was stronger than
it appeared. Our friend had built a studio on a headland commanding
a wide sweep of the rugged coast and here we found him busy at his
easel. He had made an enviable reputation painting old-world scenes,
but before the World War had abandoned this field of work for the lure
of California, to which a brother artist had called his attention. His
enthusiasm for his new field of art knew no bounds. "I have seen much
of the most impressive coast scenery of the world," he declared, "but
nothing that approaches the beauty of the Pacific about Monterey. The
coast of Greece is its nearest rival, so far as I know, but even the
coast of Greece did not appeal so strongly to my artistic sense." His
judgment would seem to be borne out by the instant popularity of his
Point Lobos marines, which have found an eager demand at record prices.

On our return from the studio to the hotel we had such an enchanting
series of views as the sunset faded into twilight that we could
understand our friend's enthusiasm and only wished that the state of
our finances permitted us to carry away a permanent reminder of this
wonderful coast in the shape of one of his paintings—an indulgence which
we had to reluctantly forego.

We gave our last afternoon to the gardens about the hotel. In these
are nearly all the trees and flora of the Pacific Coast. There are
over fourteen hundred varieties of plant life, among them seventy-eight
species of coniferous trees, two hundred and ten evergreens, two hundred
and eighty-five of herbaceous plants and more than ninety kinds of
roses. In the Arizona Garden are nearly three hundred species of cacti,
comprising almost everything found in the United States. Most of the
plants and trees are labeled with scientific or common name, but we
gained much information from a chance meeting with the head gardener.
He confessed to being a native Englishman, which we might have guessed
from the perfect order of the grounds and gardens.

We spent the evening in the gallery, a spacious apartment which also
serves as a ballroom. Frequent concerts are held here in which a
splendid pipe-organ plays a principal part. Several hundred paintings
form a permanent exhibition, exclusively the work of California artists.
We were surprised at the uniformly high artistic merit of the pictures.
The collection is quite the equal of many of the best exhibits of the
East. The uniform excellence of these pictures is due to the fact that
every one accepted has been passed on by a committee of distinguished
California artists. California subjects predominate, as might be
expected, and land-and seascapes are probably in the majority. The
pictures are for sale, a fact which enabled the writer to secure several
of the fine examples reproduced for this book.




XII

MEANDERINGS FROM MONTEREY TO SAN FRANCISCO


Usually we were only too willing to leave a hotel for the open road,
but we must confess to a lingering regret as we glided away from the
fairyland of Del Monte and its romantic environs. Our first words after
leaving were something about coming back again—a resolution fulfilled
but a year later. The road to Salinas was rebuilding and pretty rough
part of the way, but we found a fine boulevard when we returned after
the lapse of several months. During our tours we had bad going in
many places where state highway work was in progress and this is an
inconvenience that the California motorist will have to suffer for some
time to come—though I fancy that few obstacles to his smooth progress
will be more cheerfully endured.

[Illustration: CHURCH AND CEMETERY, SAN JUAN BAUTISTA
From Photograph by Dassonville]

Our objective was San Juan Bautista, the next mission of the ancient
chain. Like the pious pilgrim of old, we would visit them all—though
their shrines be fallen into decay and their once hospitable doors no
longer open to the wayfarer. San Juan lies beyond the San Benito Hills,
the blue range rising to the north of Salinas. We began the ascent with
some misgivings, for at Monterey they declared the San Juan grade the
steepest and most difficult on El Camino Real. They did not tell us
that a longer road by the way of Dumbarton entirely missed the grade or
we probably should have gone that way. We are glad we did not know any
better, for most mountain climbs in California well repay the effort
and this was no exception. The ascent was a steady grind for more than
a mile over grades ranging up to twenty per cent and deep with dust.
There was a glorious view of the mountain-girdled valley and the ancient
village from the hill; we paused to contemplate it—and to allow our
steaming motor to cool. The descent was a little over two miles and
steeper than the climb; we had a distinct feeling of relief when we
rounded the last corner and glided into the grass-grown streets of the
village.

I hardly need say that to-day a broad, easy, paved road swings around
the mountain instead of attempting the arduous route of the old trail.
The little run between Salinas and Bautista is only a joy ride for
driver as well as passengers. But we are none the less secretly pleased
that we "did" the nerve-racking old grade—now almost abandoned—for such
things are usually done only of ignorance when an easier and safer route
is the alternative.

San Juan Bautista's excuse for existence was the mission and now that
the mission is a shattered ruin the village still lives on without any
apparent reason for doing so. It is one of the least altered towns of
the old regime in California—not unlike San Juan Capistrano, which,
according to the 1910 census had exactly the same population as its
northern counterpart, some three hundred and twenty-six souls. But San
Juan Bautista is more somnolent and retired than Capistrano, which lies
on the San Diego highway. Sheltered behind the mighty hills, with their
formidable grades, it is missed by a large proportion of motorists who
go by the more direct route between Salinas and Santa Cruz. Its very
loneliness and atmosphere of early days constitute its greatest charm;
in it we saw a village of mission times, little altered save that the
Indians here, as everywhere, have nearly disappeared. There are many old
adobe houses—just how old it would be hard to say, but doubtless with
a history antedating the American occupation.

The village surrounds a wide, grass-grown plaza upon which fronts the
long, solid-looking arcade of the mission. Through this we entered
the restored dormitory and a portly Mexican woman left her wash-tub to
greet us. The padre, she said, was old and blind and seldom received
visitors. We were disappointed, but soon found this apparently ignorant
housekeeper fully equal to the task she had assumed. She led us to
the church, which was unique in that the auditorium had three aisles
separated by arches—something after the style of many English churches
we had seen. It was in use until the great earthquake of 1906, which
had cracked the arches, shattered the walls, and left it in such a
precarious state that one could scarcely stand within it without a
feeling of uneasiness. The walls still showed the original decorations,
though sadly discolored—these were done in paint made by the Indians
from ground rock of different colors. The original tiles covered the
roof, though they were rent and displaced, allowing the winter rains to
pour through in places. Early repairs and restoration would preserve
this remarkable church, but if allowed to remain in its present state
its complete ruin is inevitable. The bell-tower had already disappeared
and was replaced by a ridiculous wooden cupola totally out of harmony
with the spirit of the mission builders. And yet we can hardly censure
the fathers in charge for such structures as this and the angle-iron
tower at San Miguel, when we consider the scanty means at their
disposal—public funds should be available to maintain these historic
monuments.

It was a relief to step from the dismal ruin of the church to the
well-kept cemetery, with its carefully trimmed evergreens and flower
beds. Here in the old days the Indians were buried, though it is not
in use now. Our guide showed us, with a good deal of pride, her flower
garden on the other side of the church; most of the flowers and plants,
she said, had been collected from the other missions—she had visited all
of them except one. Then she led us into the plain—almost rude—quarters
of the old priest and showed us the relics of which San Juan Bautista
has its share. There was a curious organ which worked with a crank and
was sometimes used to call the Indians; there were old books, pictures,
and furniture; articles in wrought-iron, the work of the natives under
the tutelage of the padres; images from Spain and many rare embroidered
vestments. All of these were shown, with evident reverence for the—to
her—sacred relics of the olden days. It was a labor of love and we could
but respect her simple faith and evident loyalty to the aged priest,
who manifestly endured many hardships in his humble field of work.

San Juan Bautista Mission was founded in 1797 by the indefatigable
Lasuen, who, next to Serra himself, was the most active force in
promoting the work in California. The site was a favorable one and the
enterprise was successful from the start, its converts exceeding five
hundred in less than three years' time. Attacks from hostile Indians
and several severe earthquakes disturbed its earlier progress, but its
population went on steadily increasing. Twenty-five years after its
establishment there were twelve hundred and forty-eight neophytes and
it ranked as one of the most successful of all the chain. The beautiful
valley surrounding the town responded luxuriantly to tillage and San
Juan was able to assist its sister missions from its surplus.

The present church was completed in 1818 and a curious bit of the record
is that the decoration was done by a Yankee—assisted by Indians—who
assumed a Spanish name for the occasion. In 1835, the date of
secularization, the mission had already begun to decline, the population
having fallen to less than half its greatest number. This state of
affairs was true of so many of the missions that there is reason to
believe that even if the Mexican Government had never molested them,
their ultimate extinction would only have been delayed. Semicivilization
did not breed a hardy race and the white man's diseases more than offset
his improved methods of making a living. The records state that there
were only sixty-three Indians remaining at the mission in 1835, when
the decree went into effect. At this time the property was valued at
about one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The Mexican governor,
Alvarado, declared that secularization was a success here and at San
Antonio, though nowhere else, but it was a queer kind of success at San
Juan Bautista, for all traces of the community disappeared a year or
two later.

The village was occupied by Fremont in 1846 and the stars and stripes
were hoisted over the mission at his command. Here he organized his
forces for the conquest of the south and marched as far as San Diego,
as we have already seen.

Out of San Juan the road was rough and dusty, though we came into a fine
macadam boulevard some distance out of Watsonville. Here we entered one
of the great fruit-producing districts of California; vast orchards of
apples, prunes, and cherries surrounded us on every hand. The blossoming
season was just past, and we missed the great ocean of odorous blooms
for which this section is famous.

Watsonville is a modern city of perhaps five thousand people, the
capital of this prosperous fruit and farming district. It is only a
few miles from the ocean and the summer heat is nearly always tempered
by sea breezes. Its broad, well-paved main street led us into a fine
macadam road which continued nearly all the way to Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz lies on the north bend of the bay, directly opposite
Monterey, and is known as one of the principal resort towns of the
California coast. Its population, according to the last census,
was nearly eleven thousand and I ran across some "boom" literature
which claimed only twelve thousand—an unusual degree of modesty and
conservatism for a live California town. There was also a mission here,
though it has practically disappeared.

Santa Cruz was associated in our minds with neither seaside resort nor
mission, but with the grove of giant redwoods second only to the mighty
trees of Mariposa. Our first inquiries were for the road to this famous
forest, and we learned it was a few miles north of the town. We followed
the river canyon almost due north over a shelflike road cut in the
hillsides some distance above the stream. It commands a beautiful view
of the wooded valley, which we might have enjoyed more had we not met
numerous logging-wagons on the narrow way. The drivers—stolid-looking
Portuguese—frequently crowded us dangerously near the precipice along
the road; in one instance, according to the nervous ladies in the rear
seat, we escaped disaster by a hair's breadth. According to the law
in California, a motorist meeting a horse-drawn vehicle on a mountain
road must take the outside, even though contrary to the regular rule.
The theory is that the people in the car are safer than those behind a
skittish horse, though in instances such as I have just mentioned the
motorist faces decidedly the greater danger. We climbed a gradual though
easy grade for six or seven miles and turned sharply to the right down
a steep, winding trail to the river bank.

We left the car here and crossed a high, frail-looking suspension
foot-bridge which swayed and quivered in a most alarming manner, though
it probably was safe enough. The trees are at the bottom of the canyon
in a deep dell shut in by towering hills on either side. They are known
as Sequoia Sempervirens (a slightly different species from the Sequoia
Gigantea of the Mariposa Grove) a variety never found far from the
sea. The grove is private property and the guardian nonchalantly said,
"Two bits each, please," when we expressed our desire to go among the
trees. He then conducted us around a trail, reciting some interesting
particulars about the tawny Titans.

"There are eight hundred trees in the grove," he said, "and of these
one hundred and fifty are over eleven feet in diameter and two hundred
and twenty-five feet high. This is the only group so near the coast and
generally they grow much higher above the sea level. I saw two of them
fall in a terrific storm that swept up the valley a few years ago, and
the shock was like an earthquake. You can see from the one lying yonder
that their roots are shallow and they are more easily overthrown than
one would think from their gigantic proportions. This old fire-hollowed
fellow here could tell a story if he could speak, for General Fremont
made it his house when he camped in this valley in '48. Yes, it is a
good deal of a picnic ground here in season—the grove is so accessible
that it is visited by more people than any of the others."

All of which we counted worth knowing, even though recited in the
perfunctory manner of the professional guide. One needs, however, to
forget the curio shops, the pavilions and picnic debris and to imagine
himself in the forest primeval to appreciate in its fullest force the
solemn majesty of these hoary monarchs. They are indeed wonderful and
stately, their tall, tapering shafts rising in symmetrical beauty and
grace like the vast columns of some mighty edifice. Millenniums have
passed over some of them and all our standards of comparison with other
living things fail us. The words of William Watson on an ancient yew
recur to us as we gaze on these Titans of the western world:

"What years are thine not mine to guess;
The stars look youthful, thou being by,"

—but our musings were cut short when we noted that the shadows were
deepening in the vale. We had some miles of mountain road to traverse
if we were to spend the night at San Jose and we retraced our way to
Santa Cruz as fast as seemed prudent over such a road.

We could not think of leaving the town without a visit to the mission,
even though they told us that little but the old-time site could be
seen. We climbed the hill overlooking the sea to a group of buildings
now occupied by a Catholic convent; among these was a long, low,
whitewashed structure, now used as quarters for the nuns. This, they


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Online LibraryThomas D. MurphyOn Sunset Highways → online text (page 17 of 25)