1970s: Russell Towle Remembers Ano Nuevo (1)

Dear June,

Wonderful blog.

I found it by Googling for Kesey + “Año Nuevo”, inasmuch as I had just mentioned to a friend that, once upon a time, I had been in a movie made by Kesey and the Pranksters, at Año Nuevo. She said, “Go to Zane Kesey’s web site and see if you can buy the movie.”

I went. It is not there.

I knew Kesey a little, but, let me see, he did compliment my guitar playing, and I am in that movie, as is my little driftwood cabin.

Years earlier I had lived with Neal Cassady and some of the Pranksters. Another story.

I saw, on your blog, that one piece you wrote had to do with coastal erosion. I am an amateur geologist. I am now, and I was, in 1970, when Hank Bradley, retired mining engineer and part owner of Coastways Ranch, south side of Año Nuevo Point, drove his little old military jeep around the point to my beach, and introduced himself.

Soon we were trundling down the beach in his jeep, towing dead sea lions away from my tiny cabin with a length of chain. And we were talking history, talking geology, and Hank told me, “I have some old Geological Survey maps of this area, and near as I can tell, this part of Año Nuevo Point (the north side), has retreated 660 feet since 1880.”

I objected in the most strenuous terms. It didn’t matter how soft the almost unconsolidated marine sediments were, there was no “660 feet” in 90 years.

I was wrong. Those little marine terraces, capped with sand dunes, cannot withstand wave attack. Since 1970, that same beach, that same shoreline, has retreated another 100 feet at least. It is difficult to even recognize the complex pattern of little valleys amid the dunes, nowadays, as so many are gone. Where my little cabin stood is out where the waves break, now.

Hank Bradley was an interesting man. I lived at Año Nuevo for two and a half years, and ended up spending a lot of time with Hank and Betty Bradley. In fact, the door to my little cabin, here in the Sierra Nevada, is a redwood door from the *old* Coastways Ranch, torn down to build the glorified Eichler of the modern ranch, back in the early 1960s, I think.

But I explored all that part of the coast exhaustively. Twice I walked from Año Nuevo to Los Altos, cross-country. The Chalks. Where native blueberries grow. Wind-dwarfed redwoods, four feet tall.

Good job on the blog.

Russell Towle

[Russell Towle is the author of The Dutch Flat Chronicles; Artifacts from the Dutch Flat Forum 1875 and 1878 and The Seven Ages of Dutch Flat, 1849-1924

To read Russell Towle’s blog, click here

This entry was posted in Ano Nuevo, Russell Towle and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.