California Today: Awaiting Reprieve at Big Sur
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By now, Big Sur’s severing from the outside world has unnerved even locals who are used to recurring plunges into isolation.
“It’s not a unique situation for us to be shut off,” said Kirk Gafill, the owner of Nepenthe, a cliffside restaurant that’s operated in Big Sur for nearly 70 years.
He recalled past mudslides that shut portions of Highway 1 in the steep coastal region for 10 weeks.
“But this one is so different because now we’re in week 20,” he said late last week. “The timeline is just epic.”
Landslides and a bridge collapse unleashed by fierce winter storms have kept much of Big Sur at a standstill.
Along the 25-mile stretch between the destroyed span at Pfeiffer Canyon to the north and a cascade of debris at Paul’s Slide, near Lucia, just a few business have stayed open to serve locals and visitors who hike in or arrive by helicopter.
But a small reprieve is expected any day. Transportation officials said Paul’s Slide was just about ready to fully reopen. That means motorists will be to get to the enclave using Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, a remote east-west route that cuts across the Santa Lucia Range.
Yet the timing on a return to normalcy remains uncertain.
Crews continue to work on two other painful blockages along Highway 1: the collapsed Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge and a major slide at Mud Creek roughly 35 miles to the south.
Officials said a new span would be in place by the end of September, resuming easy access for visitors from points north.
The Mud Creek timeline is less clear. The May 20 landslide was so large that it reshaped the coastline. Jim Shivers, a spokesman for Caltrans, said that even a ballpark estimate for reopening was impossible.
“It’s not as simple as pushing the debris over the side into the ocean. There are environmental regulations we have to adhere to,” he said. “At this point we don’t know what we plan to do.”
In the meantime, with summer upon us, the few visitors have been seeing a rare crowd-free version of Big Sur.
Anthony Albert, from Oakland, lugged his bike along a half-mile hiking trail that circumvents the downed Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge and cycled all the way to Paul’s Slide and back.
In roughly eight hours of riding, he said, he encountered maybe 10 people.
“It was surreal,” said Mr. Albert, 27. “It felt like I was in the afterlife, like reliving a past experience with nobody around.”
He shared some of his photos with us:
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San Diego held its Pride parade over the weekend, drawing large crowds that organizers pegged at more than 200,000.
The event, first held in 1974, was organized under the theme “Allied in Action, United for Justice.”
It drew a broad array of supporters, among them interfaith leaders, a contingent of uniformed military personnel and the city’s Republican mayor, Kevin Faulconer, who tweeted a photo of himself in front of a banner supporting marriage rights.
Chloe Janda, a parade spokeswoman, said there were scattered counter-protests, but none that amounted to disruption. “I think everyone had a good time,” she said.
Some scenes from the celebration on Saturday:
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The California Today columnist, Mike McPhate, is a third-generation Californian — born outside Sacramento and raised in San Juan Capistrano. He lives in Los Osos. Follow him on Twitter.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.