Cliffs, canyons, red sand and rebellion. A Big Sur cowboy turns a ranch into a luxury hotel
A piece of mountain slid into the sea, dividing it in two. Big Sur is the river that flows parallel to the coast, searching for an aperture in the rock face of the mountains that separate it from the ocean on the other side. Big Sur is a region that has no clearly-defined boundaries, it is generally considered to consist of the 114 km stretch of coastline from Carmel Highlands to the Saint Lucia hills, rising up over the Pacific Ocean. It is isolated – there was no electricity here until the 1920s and when it did get here, only two houses in the entire region had power generated by water- and wind mills. Everyone else survived without electricity until the 1950s when their houses were finally connected up to California’s mains power grid.
Big Sur is also the name of a book written by an already famous Kerouac: a group of Beatniks one summer spending time between Frisco and a beach hut, living in the company of a donkey and endless bottles – make sure you finish reading it before you go to Big Sur, not because it is a particularly good read, but because the road to get there is part of the final destination.
Bixby Creek Bridge is where you start out on the hike to the hut where Kerouac lived for a time at the end of the 1950s. Miller also came to live in this area during the period of mass protests. He wrote how Big Sur had become a favorite destination for young travelers in search of ‘sex and anarchy’ during the protest years, but that they often left disappointed. Big Sur is a place for meditation and home to the emerging ‘New Age’ movement.
The Post Ranch Inn is an estate perched on a cliff hanging over the Pacific Ocean – triangular houses in the style of Lloyd Wright built on stilts among the trees – you can light the fire in the evening, open the windows looking out onto the trees, a skylight melts confuses the difference between inside and outside. The saffron yellow tiles chosen for the bathrooms underscores the retro American context – somewhere between a motel and a soap opera. At dawn you might see deer grazing, and the clouds blanketing the sea below make you wonder if you are at the top of Mont Blanc, or in a plane, but instead it’s the sea in front of you. Hikes start out here along the rivers, down to the beaches – the legend of the white lion, but it hasn’t been seen in years – rattlesnakes, on the other hand, are quite a common sight but they are not a hazard – as soon as a snake hears anyone approaching, they make their presence known with their rattle. Inside the hotel grounds, you can hike through the woods and then bask in the warm water of the ocean-view infinity pools for hours. All the vegetables are grown in the hotel’s kitchen garden.
Its founder, Bill Post, lived here with his wife in the 1980s, on the same 1500 acres of land that had been in his family for generations. He got the idea of turning the ranch into a lodge one evening when chatting with a friend and partaking of one bottle too many of Jack Daniel’s. The Post Ranch Inn opened its doors in 1992 and the famous American whiskey became its symbol. The Post Ranch Inn could not exist anywhere else than Big Sur. Architect Mickey Muenning was involved in the project and he also lives and works locally, designing sustainable projects that aim to complement their natural surroundings and make them an integral part of any project. Interior designer Janet Gay Freed opted for wood, glass and stone to link the interiors with the nature outside: 39 guest rooms and a private suite overlooking the ocean and the mountains. There is no light pollution, the nearest cities are miles away – so it is one of the best places to see the stars in technical terms – there are infinite stars here – of course the stars are actually an infinite number, but here it is easy to imagine what infinity looks like.
47900 CA-1, Big Sur,
California, Stati Uniti