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Big Sur Prize

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Shoot the Moon photograph by jafrisi

I’m still culling the photos from California and will post some soon. Ironically, the single most memorable and awe-inspiring highlight from the whole two weeks was an event that neither John nor I caught photos of… because cameras weren’t allowed.

We were in Big Sur, staying at Treebones Resort for the night (in a yurt!), and had been recommended to reserve spots at the Esalen Institute to do the hot springs night soak. I’m glad I’d looked into this before (reading my buddy Hart’s experience of this helped, and was also hilarious!) because it was such a strange arrangement:

When I called to make our booking, the receptionist instructed that we park near the sign of the Institute — which is right off highway 1 — and wait to be retrieved. The night soak is from 1 until 3 a.m, so we were asked to arrive at 12:50 a.m. All around the Big Sur area, the highway is incredibly curvy, has no lighting, and sometimes no guardrails, with the steep cliffs down to the heaving Pacific Ocean below. So driving the 21 miles north from Treebones to Esalen, bleary-eyed and exhausted, was questionable (“Are we crazy???”) and occasionally heart-stopping.

About 20 of us had booked spots. We were escorted into the Institute and down to the baths, got our instructions and towels, rinsed off in the public showers, then dispersed (clothing optional) to the multiple concrete tubs. John and I picked a bath that was half under a roof, and half under the gorgeous clear sky; lucky us, we got the tub to ourselves for the entire time. Other than a couple of dim lamps along the ground and the stars in the sky, it was pitch black out. We got used to the faint smell of sulphur, and were able to add as much natural hot spring water into the tub as we wanted.

It was pretty magical at that.

I had my eyes closed and was drifting around half-sleep, lulled by the sounds of the waves of the ocean, just a few dozen metres below us. Then I suddenly had to squint from brightness, peeked open one eye, and whispered to John “Whassat!?” He said, “It’s the moon.”

Over the next half hour or so, we watched a sliver of the moon poke out from behind a cliff, then ‘rise’ horizontally out into the velvet sky. I was blown away at how quickly it inched across, and also by just how much light it reflected — enough that we could clearly see the waves crashing on the rocks below. I was mesmerized, got lost in the moon’s nooks and crannies… and then had a flashback to being a young kid in the back of the car as my parents drove, staring out at the moon and thinking that it was following us.

It was the first time I’d looked at the moon — really looked at it — in too many years.

I’m glad the Esalen people asked us not to take photos. There would’ve been annoying flashes popping all over, and the steam would’ve made it impossible anyway. I actually like that the only way that I can remember the experience is to remember it. Would you believe me if I told you we also saw a shooting star?

We were sitting there with eyes as big as pies, feeling humbled as hell, shaking our heads at what we’d seen so far — Yosemite, giant sequoias, driving for miles along the ocean — and knowing we still had half the trip in front of us… and John said “I guess the theme of this trip is that we’re insignificant. And lucky.”

general rambling, in the memory bank , , , , , ,

  1. MegMac
    May 26th, 2010 at 11:09 | #1

    Wow! Sounds amazing!!! Daniel likes the moon photo, right now he is asking for it. :)
    Sounds like a fantastic trip.. Glad you had a great time…

  2. May 26th, 2010 at 13:57 | #2

    What a fantastic experience! You describe it so well (both the experience of booking at Esalen and of seeing the moon). Looking forward to seeing your photos!

  3. Jen
    May 26th, 2010 at 15:12 | #3

    did you start humming JP’s “Light of the moon”? What a picturesque story – sounds lovely!

  4. May 27th, 2010 at 08:38 | #4

    great post – and i like that you have each other to remember it by, not a photo. loving your travel tales as always!

  5. Samantha
    May 28th, 2010 at 09:58 | #5

    Thats amazing! I can’t wait to hear about all your adventures!!

  6. Elizabeth Shouldice
    May 28th, 2010 at 13:38 | #6

    So cool that you had such a great experience. Glad Hart warned you….I think I would have been scared!

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