Acrophobia Euphoria

Foam … Studio 30+ writing prompt

If I had to choose the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, I know where I’d pick.  Mind you, I’ve never been to Hawaii, so perhaps it would rival Big Sur, California.  It’s at the top of my list, even above Ireland (it’s a tight second).

My sister has lived in the Monterey Bay area for at least 23 years now.  Naively, I offered to ride along on her move from St. Louis, Missouri.  It was quite a haul, and I sometimes fondly refer to it as my “sleigh ride through elevated hell.”  Surviving two flat tires in Kansas, a horrible case of cliff-induced mania in Colorado, and a demon-possessed feline passenger earned my passage across the River Styx.

Christy chose the Monterey Peninsula area after visiting a friend who already lived there.  She fell in love with the place and never looked back on the I-70 trek west.  Snowfall had no part in her future – until we drove through snow in the upper altitudes of Truckee, having obliviously taken the “northern route,” thinking ourselves clever taking pictures wearing shorts with snow in the background.

I’m afraid of heights – scared of crashing on the rocks below a gigantic cliff and bursting in a fireball of death is more like it.  Hence, the irony of choosing scenic Highway One for the last leg our journey.  The view is absolutely the pinnacle of beauty, but little did I realize what lie ahead before we reached our destination.

No sooner had we arrived in the area, we embarked on another expedition up the awe-inspiring Big Sur coastline.  A native Californian friend drove us up the curvy highway cut out of a mountainside.  The shoulder fairly hugged an aligning precipice of possible doom.  Self-talk barely kept me in the seat of the truck cab instead of flat in the floorboard.  Someone assuredly had died helping blast out the land to build this cliff road.

via  (eventhorizon)
via (eventhorizon)

I remember my mouth gaping as we drove over a gigantic crevasse – the subject of many a postcard photo – Bixby Bridge.  That expanse is perhaps more breath-taking than anything else along the way.  It’s the stuff of movies – rocky bluffs aligning a two-lane path that winds around curves, a car careening around a hairpin curve and through the guardrail, and sea foam receding after its crash and explosion against the jagged rocks below .

Someone less acrophobic would have had a heyday.  I did, in retrospect, or I wouldn’t be trying to explain it now.  There was a place my sister dubbed Jade Cove where she and her friends previously found pieces of the precious gem.  The path to it was inaccessible, a bedraggled warning sign barely hanging on a barbed-wire fence blocking the way.  Christy and Lee were going for it anyway. Being the neurotic rules-follower I am, I declined to go and remained at the trailhead.

My right hand still stuck in its semi-Kung Fu grip from clinging to the passenger door handle for 1000+ miles, I waited for them to return.  Incessantly picking at my hangnails and shuffling from one foot to the other, peering back over my shoulder I expected a park ranger or the “hiking path police” to come slap the cuffs on me.

A fan of the ‘90s William Shatner-hosted television show Rescue 911, I imagined a helicopter being called in to retrieve their ravaged bodies that lay bleeding on the jagged rocks below, almost as if the ocean had sharp teeth and spat them back out.  Their bodies couldn’t be left as shark carrion.  This was my sister after all …  the heroine of my childhood, my longest-lasting friend on earth.  She’d taught me to read, she took me to my first bar.  We’d laughed and cried together for the entire 22 years of my life.  Our mother would blame me!

I couldn’t abandon Christy’s remains to the turtles, no matter how fond she’d grown of the baby spotted seal she thought was abandoned in its sun-warmed nap on the beach earlier.  I’d warned her the mother would come back and eat her face, and I told her not to go down the cliff, but she wouldn’t listen!

This was the time before cellphones.  There was no way I could reach the Coast Guard except by flagging down a passerby on that narrow ribbon of highway behind me.  Much to my disbelief and surprise, Christy and Lee eventually popped back into sight over the grass horizon of my depot of worry and doom.

A single picture documents that cove’s beauty before it was officially blocked forever.  A cascading waterfall and the water’s swirling foam beneath were captured on the celluloid of a negative long lost since that time.  That picture is probably my sole remaining image of the most beautiful place I’ve ever “seen,” even though I was too scared to see it in person.


    • I think it was the whole experience that added to it for me. On another trip, my sister and I stayed in a sort of rustic area but in a very cool cabin. It would be a great place to camp – that’s what they’d done previously.

  1. wow, Katy I was propelled back in time…you are truley an awesome writer and I have always been and will always be in awe of you, my sister!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s