Sur Kerouac Walk, December 2002
few days before the 25th Emily and I went down to Big Sur and went on
the famous Kerouac walk. My dad and I discovered it a few years back
when we parked at the north end of the Bixby Bridge and climbed down the
cliff to the beach. Then we walked along the river and up the canyon to
the cabin where the author stayed and wrote about in “Big Sur”.
From the cabin a dirt road takes you back up to the top of the bridge.
Before the bridge was built, the dirt road was the only way to get
across the canyon.
After we discovered the route we did it a few more times, including with
my mom, but in reverse since it is much easier to climb up the cliff
than down. It was a beautiful, sunny day as Emily and I descended down
the dirt road. The kind of wonderful December day in California when you
can wear shorts and a tee shirt. After passing the cabin we started
along the trail and found it inundated with water. Undaunted, we removed
our shoes and continued, feet freezing in the icy water. Eventually we
reached the beach, complete with tender feet and Emily having been stung
by a nettle. We relaxed on the beach for a while and then began our
ascent of the cliff. Had the trail not been covered with water we would
have gone back that way but Emily opted for the more direct route.
In the two previous times that I climbed out of the canyon with my
parents they went one way and I went another way. I chose a route on
exposed rock that allowed me to climb quickly and out of the brush while
my parents went closer to the bridge piers in a more vegetated area.
Emily and I chose the latter route. I chose the latter route because
Casey said that his parents went that way and I figured it would be
easier. Quickly it became obvious that our
route was not the one my parents had found but we were at the point of
no return. Actually, we were far beyond the point of no
return. I was scrambling the entire time, trying to find hand
holds and toe holds and grabbing onto scrub, which I would regret later.
Although we didn’t have any close calls, at one point, near
the bridge pier we had to climb on a 6-inch wide ledge with a vertical
drop of maybe 100 feet. It was the only point where I could not be in
position to help in case Emily fell. Her knees were trembling visibly as
she shuffled around and I am not sure how I contained my apprehension. I
wasn't trembling, I was shaking violently. Slipping would most likely have resulted in death.
I knew that! We made it to the top
without further incident and then had lunch at Nepenthe, with an outdoor
table looking south along the rugged coast. It would seem the worst was
behind us but this trip would remain with us, literally, in the form of
Emily got the worst case the doctors had seen and it
wasn’t until late January of 2003 that her skin finally returned to
So you know that scrub that I was hanging onto? Well, it turns
out that most of it was poison oak. I can identify the
leaves. Everyone that lives around the Bay Area should be able
to. But I can't identify a bare branch, and that was what most of
it was. I was scratched along my forearms and on my knees and the
scratches were infected with poison oak. After we went home, I
took a shower, but the oils didn't come off totally and I inadvertently
wiped it down the front of my torso. I literally had poison oak
all down my front, from my chest to the tops of my thighs. It was
so severe that the doctor said he hadn't EVER seen a case so bad, and he
was in Scott's Valley! For weeks, my forearms and entire torso was
a mass of itch and ooze. It was so itchy and I couldn't scratch
it, so I would get into the car and drive and slap at myself and scream
bloody murder. I'm sure anyone driving by thought I was totally
deranged. I thought that I would scar and never have smooth skin
again, but little by little, it went away and the only scars I have left
are on my arms, where the scratches were. But that's OK, because
they just blend in from my burn scars from work.
|A young Tim Bowden at the top and
north end of Bixby Canyon. The pier in the story is behind him.
|This photo must have been taken
from a boat. If you climb up the cliff on the left you end up were
my Dad is in the first picture. If you head up the canyon you will
be in the realm of Kerouac's Big Sur.