I am in possession of tickets to the most popular events in town. No, it is not dance, music, or theatre. I have tickets to Cabrillo College History 25A, Sandy Lydon's local history class. It sold out Cabrillo's largest lecture hall, no auditing allowed--you must wear a special name badge to get in.
Spring semester focuses on Santa Cruz history up to 1880 when the railroads changed everything. Next fall will cover the 20th Century. Sandy said that he came out of retirement to teach this one more time. Community Television is taping the classes, it so perhaps future generations will be able to see him teach. He is an entertainer as well as a scholar, and sometimes the former gets in the way of the latter. But the big themes of his work have, and are, shaping how people in the Monterey Bay see their past, and their present. And it has certainly shaped me.
One of themes is "The land makes the man." The land and sea of the Monterey bay, its mountains and ravines, its rivers and creeks, its climates, it's daily beautiful weather--the natural world of the Bay shaped everyone's life here. And not just because everyone who stayed here traded money and fame for good weather. The business ventures, the health of the people, the cultures, the feuds --all is shaped by the land.
Take this creek for instance:
Not much to look at is it? Two of the preeminent historians of the Monterey Bay who were present when I took the picture could not remember its name. This tiny creek flows into the Bay just east of of the Presido in Monterey, and it is the only creek between Salinas River (8 miles away) and the Carmel River on the other side of Cypress point (3 miles, over a hill). There is no water in Monterey. It's a city built on the foot of a stone granite mountain. Father Serra wrote to the Viceroy in Mexico City immediately for permission to relocate his mission to the other side of the point so it could enjoy the fresh water of the Carmel. The Governor of the Presidio didn't get along with Serra, and anyway, he was told to defend the Bay from Monterey, and he did, like a good soldier. Bureaucracy and inertia kept the city and its all-important customs house located on a dry rock, and the city and county of Monterey, 400 years later still suffer from that adherence to duty and rules over common sense.
I was in Monterey yesterday on a class field trip. We met at Monastery Beach on Carmel Bay, the small bay that also hosts Pebble Beach. There I learned many things, and for someone who gets a shot of dopamine every time she learns a new thing, by the time it was over I was almost too high to drive home.
I learned that the best beach in the world is Still Water Cove. It's a public beach, and you can park there, but the Pebble Beach residents don't want you to know that.
The hill that overlooks Monastery beach is the largest midden on the central coast, 70 to 90 feet deep, and full of shells, ash, and human remains. It is a perfect spot. Fresh water from San Juan Creek, sheltered valley to the south for living, plenty of shellfish in Whaler's Cove, and grass seed on the hill sides. And the view isn't bad either.
Looking north. Whaler's cove on the left, Monastery Beach in the center (with a few members of my class), and Santa Cruz in the distance.
Looking south up San Juan creek canyon. It was a perfect picnic spot and a perfect day. (And I didn't get any ticks.)
Looking east toward Cypress Point on the left, Pebble Beach, and Still Water cove just to the right of that. Just out of frame to the right is the last camping spot of the second Portolá expedition. A few days after they camped there, Father Serra's ship arrived from Mexico, and the mission period of Alta California began, in June 1770.
|Comments made before...|