At the feet of the abruptly tall Santa Lucia Range lies Big Sur, a uniquely rugged section area of California's Central Coast. The Santa Lucia's are on the western edge of Steinbeck Country, brooding over the Salinas Valley in the opening pages of East of Eden:
"The Santa Lucias stood up against the sky to the west and kept the valley from the open sea, and they were dark and brooding—unfriendly and dangerous. I always found in myself a dread of west and love of east. Where I ever got such an idea I cannot say, unless it could be that morning came over the peaks of the Gabilans and the night drifted back from the ridges of the Santa Lucias. It may be that the birth and death of the day had some part in my feeling about the two ranges of mountains"
The range and the land beyond are portrayed as foreboding, unknown, ancient. Before the construction of Highway 1, the Big Sur area featured some of the most difficult, inaccessible terrain left in the United States. In the 1920s, Steinbeck would work for some of the earliest surveying crews prior to the construction of Highway 1. For a brief history of California's Highway 1, read this KCET article. The Big Sur area is most notably explored in "Flight", from The Long Valley.
©By Roger Sylvia, CC BY-SA 3.0
Quotes from Flight (1938)
“About fifteen miles below Monterey, on the wild coast, the Torres family had their farm, a sloping acres above a cliff that dropped to the brown reefs and to the hissing white waters of the ocean. Behind the farm the stone mountains stood up against the sky. The farm buildings huddled like little clinging aphids on the mountain skirts, crouched low to the ground as though the wind might blow them into the sea. The little shack, the rattling, rotting barn were grey-bitten with sea salt, beaten by the damp wind until they had taken the on the color of the granite hills.” Long Valley, 45
© Big Sur Chamber of Commerce
“Soon the canyon sides became steep and the first giant sentinel redwoods guarded the trail, great round red trunks bearing foliage as green and lacy as the ferns. Once Pepe was among the trees, the sun was lost. A perfumed and purple light lay in the pale green of the underbrush. Gooseberry bushes and blackberries and tall ferns lines the stream, and overhead the branches of the redwoods met and cut off the sky.” Long Valley, 56
©By Iris Papillon
© California Department of Parks and Recreation, State of California
“The dawn came and the head of the day fell on the earth, and still Pepe slept. Late in the afternoon his head jerked up. He looked slowly around. His eyes were slits of wariness. Twenty feet away in the heavy brush, a big tawny mountain lion stood looking at him. Its long thick tail waved gracefully, its ears were erect with interest, not laid back dangerously. The lion squatted down on its stomach and watched him.”
Long Valley, 66