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The Power of Pfieffer

I need a break from work. As lame as it is, work bleeds right into the weekend these days and I can barely make a distinction between Wednesday or Saturday, 9:00am or 9:00pm, blah or blech. Today I didn't feel the need to indulge a vegging re-charge, I felt the need to indulge a creative re-charge. I decided to finally pay attention to my vacation photos from California, specifically the photos from the central coast. I've previously posted a few Orange County photos on this blog and a few more on my photography blog, but it felt good to spend concentrated time with my central coast memories. If you're interested, I posted nearly ten photos on madeleines written with light.

I'd always thought it was stunning and I'd spent all sorts of time up and down the cliffs, but in 2002 I fell irrevocably in love with California's central coast. A friend and I took a month off and wandered from Tijuana, Mexico to Marin County, north of San Francisco. Unless you've experienced it for yourself, there aren't really words for me to describe the power this coastline holds. It's rugged, it's wild, it's unforgiving, it's enormous, it's breathtaking, and somehow it manages to be delicately beautiful. The sea has a fierce quality in her interaction with these cliffs, a quality distinctly different from her gentle caressing of manicured OC beaches. There's just nothing like it.

Southern California beaches feel accessible. You can surf and swim and snorkel and splash. I grew up on those beaches and I love them, but the central coast seduces you with mystery. You're forced to enjoy the shoreline at a distance, a blindingly high distance atop rough cliffs. You experience a sense of scale that you just can't fathom when you're actually on the beach, wading around in the water. You see the shades of the tide change from one moment to the next. You see the incredible depth of the water, the crushing force of the waves, and you have a vague sense of an entire world you know nothing about.

Pfieffer Beach is painful in its perfection because it seamlessly blends these two paradigms. If you don't already know how to get there, you'll never find it. Though it's a state park maintained by green-clad rangers and all, it's virtually unmarked, it's access road is well-hidden amongst the dense Big Sur forest, and it's a magical secret as far as I'm concerned. You wind and wind and wind around the jutting cliff lines of Coast Highway, climbing higher and higher and higher until you make a sharp turn that takes you down down down steep one-lane switchbacks. Once you leave your car you continue to descend on foot, walking through tunnels of eery Dr. Seuss Trees (for the scientific name, google someone who cares)...

...until WHAM! You're hit with the most stunning vista you can imagine. After spending so much time on the high cliffs, only able to peer at the beach via massive telephoto lenses, Pfieffer Beach feels like a special moment frozen in time, a moment that you're somehow stealing from this coastline. The power of Pfieffer Beach lies in the pervasive sense that you're only allowed that brief moment; and even then, Nature is still very much in control. The tides are rough and immediately deep, not allowing even the most shallow wading. The rocks are giantic and the force of the crashing waves is staggering.

In miles and miles of coastline, it's one little cove, one little inlet that someone was audacious enough to access, one chance to step inside your massive telephoto lens and feel the mist on your face. Dangerous tides rise fast and high to fill this little cove and erase any remnant of us. But we had a moment. We attempted clumsy photographs. We later search inadeqately for words to fill a blog post. At the end of the day, however, Pfieffer is an experience that can only be lived.

I need another vacation.

Coolest. Thing. I've. Ever. Seen.

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