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California State Route 1/Big Sur Mudslide Special Part 3; Ragged Point Closure south to San Luis Obispo

On the 10th I finally got around to completing a circuit of Big Sur via California State Route 1.  As most folks reading this blog likely already know there was a series of mudslides in February this year which damaged CA 1 to the point where it cannot be traversed as a through route.  Directly south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge was damaged and began to slide down into a canyon of the same name.  The Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge is slated to be replaced and opened by October later this year.  Between Gorda and Ragged Point is the site of the much more substantial Mud Creek Slide.  The Mud Creek Slide initially wasn't projected to be a long term closure, however in May the slide greatly expanded in size.  Caltrans is about to announce plans to re-locate CA 1 above the Mud Creek Slide but it likely won't be open again until at least late 2018 at current projections.

Given the nature of the two major slides along CA 1, traveling the entire open parts of highway is difficult.  Given the uniqueness of the situation I decided to tackle CA 1 in Big Sur in three segments this year which is why the title of this blog is "Part 3."  The first two parts were hosted on the AAroads forum, Part 1 was back on June 9th and can found at the following link:

Big Sur Mudslide Special Part 1; G16 to Pfeiffer Canyon Closure

During Part 1 I started out on County Route G16 which is generally considered to be the northern boundary of the Big Sur Coastal Region and traveled south to the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge closure.  All the original highway bridges were in surprisingly good states of repair and held up again the heavy winter rains really well.  The Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge was more of a modern design with a column in the middle which slid into the canyon.  The original CA 1 highway bridges generally are of an arch concrete design which rises above the creek beds below which minimizes the chance that they would be damaged in a slide.

Pretty much every major attraction along CA 1 was closed or partially operating.  Even Pfeiffer Big State Park might as well been closed given that only a short trail to a redwood grove was open at the time.  Traffic on the 28 miles of the open CA 1 south of CR G16 was far lighter than I've ever seen it and was somewhat off-putting given the heavy fog.

Part 2 was a less than a week later on June the 14th.  During Part 2 I traveled to the isolated 13 mile segment of CA 1 cut off to the north by the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge closure and to the south by the Mud Creek Slide.  This segment was reachable only by traversing the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, a link to the AAroads thread can be found below:

Big Sur Mudslide Special Part 2; the Nacimenitno-Fergusson Road to isolated CA 1

In the Part 2 thread I touched on the following:

-  A total photo-route clinch of the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road and how to find the road which is surprisingly difficult given you have to go through Fort Hunter Liggett.
-  The history of CA 1 and the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road.  Specifically when segments were opened and how the two roads met.
-  A critique on how the local populace seems to be actively be working against people visiting the coast which is somewhat understandable given the nature of the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road and nature of the mudslides which closed CA 1.

For reference, the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road is definitely a must-see for anyone interested in roads.  There are few roads in California that can top the views that you can get from the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road as it descends down to the coast.  The Nacimiento-Fergusson Road is the only road that travels directly over the center of the Santa Lucia Range to Big Sur.  The road is a wide single-lane with grades sloping 8-14% from the approximate 2,700 summit west to the coast. 

Which brings me finally full circle back the 10th and Part 3 which was CA 46 north to the Mud Creek Slide closure at Ragged Point.  Luckily there was some really great views to be had of the fog line above the coast traveling west on CA 46 in the morning, it almost looked like a sea of clouds.

Traveling westbound from the approximate 1,700 foot summit of CA 46 I dipped below the fog line and met CA 1 junction where I turned north.

Traveling north on CA 1 the guide sign didn't even indicate that even Ragged Point was open much less anything else northbound.

Just a couple miles north of CA 46 is the village of Camrbia which is the last major settlement northward on CA 1 until Carmel.

Originally CA 1 used to run on Main Street in Cambria but I'll touch on that in a little later into this blog.

North of Cambria is beach access in San Simeon State Park.

Traveling north into San Simeon you'll first enter the modern hotel district which largely is meant to serve travelers heading up Big Sur or to Hearst Castle.  The original town site of San Simeon is still further to the north.

The original site for San Simeon is still somewhat inhabited today and is located on San Simeon Bay on a small peninsula.  San Simeon was first settled back in 1797 when a Spanish mission was established there and it remains one of the oldest continually inhabited communities in California.  Most people know San Simeon from Hearst Castle which is located in the mountains above the coast.  Hearst Castle was constructed in segments from 1919 to 1947 for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hurst.  Hearst and the castle of the same name were largely the inspiration for the movie Citizen Kane.

I do have a fairly recent Flickr album showing CA 1 before mudslides and Hearst Castle in 2016.  I seem to recall that you couldn't take photos the previous time I visited which was back in 1993:

CA 1/Big in 2016 and Hearst Castle

I'm pretty certain that the modern CA 1 was always the alignment of the highway based off this 1935 California Division of Highways Map of San Luis Obispo County:

1935 California Division of Highways Map of San Luis Obispo County

But with that in mind there might be some chance that Slo San Simeon Road might have been part of CA 1 or at least a state maintained road at some point.  The 1935 map seems to show CA 1 traveling just to the north of Slo San Simeon Road but the road intersects the modern road in just a way that makes me think it was mainline at one point.  Slo San Simeon Road can be turned onto when the San Simeon Pier comes into view.

In downtown San Simeon there are some older structures from the late 1800s which still are maintained.

The Sebastians Store was constructed in 1852 and has more or less been in operation ever since.  The buildings across the street seem to be from the 1870s and I don't really know much about them.

Slo San Simeon Road meets CA 1 again on the other side of the village.  Weird to consider when you stop and think about it that San Simeon would probably meet the definition of a ghost town today.

Directly north of San Simeon the guide signs indicate that Ragged Point is only 14 miles away.

Approaching the Piedra Blancas Light House is where CA 1 starts to follow the terrain a little more closely.  The Piedra Blancas Light House was constructed in 1875 but several of the floors were removed due to earthquake damage after an earthquake in 1948.

The Piedra Blancas Light House is the starting point for a relocation of project of CA 1 inland.  The coastline north of the light house has been gradually eroding into the ocean for some time and the water lapping in can be pretty bad when the surf is high.  The new roadway is located about 10 feet above the old one and has several new bridges over creek beds which flood easily.  I'm not sure when the road will be open but it appears to be relatively soon.

Approaching Point Sierra Nevada the landscape really starts to open up and on a clear day the Big Sur region and the sheer cliffs really are apparent in the distance looking northbound.

San Carpoforo Creek is generally considered to be the southern boundary of Big Sur as the coastal mountains in the Santa Lucia Range tend to rise out of the Pacific much more abruptly.  CA 1 becomes a very twisty road and can be difficult to drive on as it hugs the mountains overlooking the coast ascending up to Los Padres National Forest at Ragged Point.

Despite what the Caltrans Quick Map says CA 1 is actually open five miles north Ragged Point.

Ragged Point is a rock formation sticking out into the ocean with a resort of the same name located on top of it.  The resort is one of three places I know of off the top of my head where gas can be obtained in Big Sur.

North of Ragged Point CA 1 generally is a minimum 400 feet above the ocean which can be observed easily from the side of the roadway.

CA 1 is just open far enough to enter Montrey County.

CA 1 continues north along the coast until reaching Salmon Creek where the closure for the Mud Creek Slide is now located.  Surprisingly I don't think the old folks in the car ahead of me got the memo about CA 1 being closed as a through route.

Really from here it was just a quick shot back southbound out of Big Sur back to Cambria.

I wasn't going to talk about this originally, but why do people do such awful things to their cars? 

Reaching Cambria I turned on Main Street which is signed as the CA 1 Business Loop.  As referenced on the 1935 Map of San Luis Obispo County Main Street was the original alignment of CA 1 when it was originally signed.

At the junction of Santa Rosa Creek Road CA 1 would have originally met CA 41 before it shifted southward and CA 46 reassigned to it until it was put on the modern alignment to the south.

Off the top of my head I want to say that CA 1 was relocated onto the modern bypass of Cambria when the new alignment of CA 46 opened which took it off of Santa Rosa Creek Road.  I actually dedicated a AAroads forum thread to the topic of Santa Rosa Creek Road if you are curious about the history of CA 41 or CA 46:

Santa Rosa Creek Road AAroads thread

Given that I was using Photobucket to post pictures of Santa Rosa Creek Road at the time on AAroads they are showing as dead links for photos.  That being the case I posted a Flickr link to the entire photo album of Santa Rosa Creek Road below:

Old CA 41/46 along with Old US 466 album

Main Street intersects modern CA 1 at the south end of Cambria where I rejoined to continue southbound.

South of the junction of with CA 46 is the village of Harmony on Old Creamery Road.  Old Creamery Road was original alignment of CA 1 as seen on the 1935 Map of San Luis Obispo County I referenced previously.  Harmony was founded in 1869 and was a fairly active village until the creamery shut down in 1955.  Harmony essentially became a ghost town with just a couple original structures still standing.

The dirt roadway fenced off behind the glass works would have once been CA 1.

Continuing south CA 1 blows out to an expressway at Ocean Avenue.  Ocean Avenue is now signed as a CA 1 Business Loop but was once part of the mainline highway before the expressway alignment.

Continuing south on CA 1 to Morro Bay the expressway runs through town while the original alignment would have used Main Street.  CA 1 intersects CA 41 at Atascadero Road which would have been the end point for US 466 originally.

I turned on Beach Street which approaches Morro Rock and Morro Bay itself.  Morro Rock is a former volcanic plug which has a height of about 580 feet.  Morro Rock and twelve other peaks extending eighteen miles inland were formed by an extinct volcanic hot spot.  Morro Rock was likely observed by the Spanish as far back as 1542.

The Dynergy Power Plant plant at the edge of Morro Bay was built in the 1950s and burned Natural Gas.  The Dynergy Plant was shut down in 2014 by Pacific Gas & Electric due to the costs of upgrades to modernize it being too high.

Continuing through Morro Bay on the original CA 1 I took Main Street to Morro Bay Blvd which loops back to the expressway alignment.  Surprisingly Morro Bay doesn't have a CA 1 Business Loop.

Given that I really didn't my research beforehand I'm uncertain of what the original alignment of CA 1 was to San Luis Obispo much less what it was in the city.  I took the expressway south to reach US 101 which becomes Santa Rosa Road.  CA 1 uses an odd approach of Olive Street and Osos Street to reach US 101.

In regards to Big Sur and CA 1 the last trip I'm planning out to the area this year is when the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge reopens.  The plan is to possibly take the Challenger down to the coast via the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road and north on CA 1 to Monterey.  Given the road through Big Sur is essentially wiped out even at this point it will be nice to see CA 1 get a full reopening possibly next year.  The subject is somewhat fascinating, it wasn't until fairly recently that CA 1in Big Sur was even open during the winter months given that the rains would cause so many problems with mudslides.  A lot of news agencies are suggesting that the Mud Creek Slide is the death knell of the highway but there has been previous slides similar in scope in the past.  Eventually the roadway through Big Sur always ended up reopening in one way or another.





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