Categories: Features
July 14, 2020
| On 3 weeks ago

SoCal Distancing: The Central Coast

Something about California’s central coast never gets old. It’s not just a single something though, rather a whole lot of somethings. The color palette plays a part for me. The way the wind-swept Monterey Cypress’ deep green leaves contrast with its pale gray bark as it hangs hundreds of feet above jagged cliff faces. The ominous dark blue of the ocean that transitions to turquoise in the shallow waters where the Pacific meets the coast. And the coastline itself, a melange of Franciscan assemblage topped with golden coastal prairie scrub. 

It’s scenery that I’ll never tire of riding through and camping in. As you venture further north toward Big Sur, the going gets twisty and even if you find yourself slowed by the droves of tourists, it’s not a bad place to get slowed down. Back off, relax, and enjoy the scenery.

Loyal MO readers may recall a story involving a Ural, my better half, and the central coast. Even before that though, the roads to and through Big Sur have been some of my favorite not-quite-local getaways for some time. There are so many little gems and treasures tucked away amongst the wilderness there. 

Amidst the beauty of the coastal redwoods and wild coves lies a reminder of the role that Big Sur played in the construction of the Bay Area. Behind one of the Pacific Coast Highway’s massive bridges sits what is now a small unassuming state park dubbed Limekiln. The park, creek, and bridge all get their name from the four massive iron and stone kilns set back into the canyon. A relatively short hike into the forest reveals these iron giants, which have now oxidized nicely to match the towering redwoods surrounding them. In a way, it would seem mother nature has done her best to take the structures back to the earth, though the strangeness of coming across these massive man-made furnaces in the midst of such tranquil, and seemingly untouched terrain, remains. 

The kilns were used for only three years beginning in 1887. The Rockland Lime and Lumber Company established the site primarily due to its limestone deposits as well as the availability of lumber to stoke the kilns. Each kiln was capable of smelting 100 barrels of powdered lime per day. Once filled, the barrels made their way via cable down to ships waiting in what was known then as Rockland Bay. The lime was brought to the Bay Area to be mixed into cement for construction. 

By 1890 the lime deposit had been depleted along with the redwoods that once filled the canyon. And as quickly as industry had come to the area, it left, leaving the massive lime kilns to slowly decay as the forest reclaimed the gorge. Thanks to the climate of the canyon, the area quickly recovered from the damage and is now home to what some have called the “oldest, healthiest, largest and southernmost redwoods” in Monterey County. 

Even the canyon itself is unique in that it’s one of the Pacific Coast’s steepest. From sea level to peak, the canyon reaches 5,000 ft in under four miles. Limekiln now belongs to the California Department of Parks and Recreation and boasts a few rather short trails, beach access and just a handful of campsites.

Limekiln State Park is just one of many little somethings that make the entire central coast a magnificent place to explore. The experiences and memories made will last a lifetime. Let yourself find something that speaks to you.