"I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority."
Many favor the region north of the Golden Gate Bridge for its expansive panoramas and stylish Sausalito, with its bustling sidewalk cafes, high-traffic bike lanes and multimillion-dollar hillside manses. But beyond the minivan-laden vista points on Conzumel Road is a majestic and even mysterious landscape of rolling hills, hidden fortresses and steep coastal mudstone trails that lead to intimate beaches.
The Marin Headlands is a 2,100-acre reserve where the fog is thick and cool and distant sounds waver from the 150-year-old Point Bonita Lighthouse. Formerly the land of the Miwok and Ohlone people, the Headlands were later acquired by the government for military training from 1776 to the Cold War. What remains is a sprinkling of eucalyptus- and oak-shaded swaths that house the white Endicott buildings, named after the 10th-century secretary of war William C. Endicott and recognizable by their antiquated charm, rusty-red roofs and breezy porches. Some are still used today to house the Marin Headlands Hostel and Center for the Arts, where an artist-in-residency program features about 45 from around the world each year.
Dark fortress tunnels lead to an intricate system of trails lined with grassy fields of coyote brush and fennel, and cliffside paths cut into the native radiolarian chert rock that during dry seasons has a copper-toned hue. The descent down the steep cliffside Upper Fisherman's trail follows an enchanting footpath peppered with yellow blossoms and fierce-looking poison oak that disperses like varicose veins. Seagulls swarm above the calm waves, which can be heard crashing against giant rock formations jutting out of the water as you approach the trail's final curve. Even on the foggiest of days, the dark, coarse sand absorbs the sun's heat, making for a peaceful resting place popular among hikers and the occasional nude bather.
Most majestic of all is the 19th-century Point Bonita Lighthouse, a hidden landmark that is connected to the main headlands by a half-mile sea cliff trail comprised of wooden bridges, carved rock tunnels and 306-foot drop-offs into the ocean. Sailboats and large cargo vessels can be seen gliding in the distance as beastly falcons cut through the dense fog like a knife in butter. All is quiet but the sound of the crashing waves and the house's despondent fog horn that drones every 30 seconds. It is the resonating sigh of this otherwise soft-spoken landscape. The punctual ohm of an introvert deep in thought. An astute whisper that beckons you to listen.
An intimate beach enclave of bric-á-brac shops, art cars and wildflower-strewn boat houses, this unincorporated North Coast town displays all the charms of a hippie haven. But aside from its laid-back attitude and surf-friendly shore, Bolinas is known for its unabating aversion to outsiders. After receiving no avail from locals who routinely tear down signs to their town on Highway 1, the California Highway Patrol finally gave up trying to replace them. Mere minutes after passing Stinson Beach, which my GPS tells me is six miles south of Bolinas, I experience the residual effect of this local protest as I lose all phone reception. For a beach town of 2,500 people living off the grid, I'm impressed.
As I enter the main stretch of Bolinas, I slow down to a heedful 10 mph. Families lunch on garlic oysters at the small Coast Café, a retired boomer sits in deep thought outside the empty Bolinas Museum, and bearded fisherman unload the day's catch from a vintage boat that looks like it's too rusty to start.
At the beach, I climb a graffiti-speckled tide wall to watch wetsuit-clad surfers having a field day with the waves. An enthusiastic mother in a foldout chair cheers on her son who is catching a wave for the first time. A pair of veteran sun-kissed surfers stroll by, their suits half-zipped and rears spotted with lumps of sand. Dogs splash about enthusiastically in the frigid water with bikini-clad children. This spurs envy in a bare-bummed toddler, his shaggy hair waving in the wind as he tears loose from his mother's hold.
Watching this scene reminds me of the secluded creekside spots my friends and I would explore as kids growing up in southwest Ohio — how thrilling it was to claim our turf, where each discovery was monumental no matter how small its size or how frequently we encountered it.
As I reminisce, a pack of teenagers let out a collective shriek while stumbling upon a beached sea lion. All but the fearless leader run away from the remains. He's holding a long piece of driftwood and looking down at his discovery. For several minutes he stands in silence. I reach in my coat pocket for my camera, hoping to capture the still moment. But he notices my slight movement, and he turns to see that he's not alone. For a few painstakingly long seconds, he looks at me dumbfounded and seems almost annoyed at my being there. But then it hits me. I've been acknowledged. The outsider has been spotted. Wide-eyed, he says, "It's dead." I nod and offer a cognizant smile.
The first thing we encounter is the fog. Weaving in and out of the Pacific sea smoke along Highway 1’s voluptuous curves creates a dreamlike state. Signs of Big Sur’s iconic backside peek out in the distance, as preying hawks swarm above the meandering traffic. Around a wildflower-speckled bend the Bixby Bridge emerges, and time stops all but the silent waves crashing against the cliffside 260 feet below. This is the Big South, the West Coast’s colossal Garden of Eden.
We stroll into Pfeiffer and set up camp in the light-filled plot 90, which is flanked by gangly redwood trees and the trickling Pfeiffer Redwood Creek. We spend the afternoon catching up with friends, reminiscing about the past, embracing the moment. We poke at the fire cautiously with abiding confidence and test the heat with links of spicy sausage.
Before dusk we’re spared an ounce of sunlight. To celebrate, we drive to a gravel pullout overlooking a cliffside of purple wildflower groves that spill into the Pacific. For several minutes, we are held captive by Big Sur’s ethereal beauty, and we sit amongst the native seagrass in dead silence, sparing sips from our bottle of lambic ale so as not to break the transitory peace.
As we pull back into our campsite, we spot night creatures looting our makeshift kitchen — nature’s way of teaching us amateurs basic camping formality (never leave your trash out). After killing a bottle of Pinot Noir around the fire, we agree to catch a wink of sleep before taking the 30-minute drive to Esalen Institute for its lauded midnight baths.
The night is exceptionally warm for Big Sur in early June. As we walk down the dimly lit pathways to Esalen, not even the faintest of ocean breezes awakens our senses. We walk into the main spa room of the hot spring baths and instantly feel like intruders on some new-age cult. Signs direct us to “Silent” or “Quiet” sections of the spa. On a night just days after the last new moon, little more than a sea of stars and faint LED lights guides our way toward the stone-lined hot baths, where we spot nude bathers sprawled out in clawfoot tubs.
We slip into a vacant cliffside bath, feeling our way toward the wooden nozzle to release the spring. As we soak in the healing water, our bodies become weightless. We make out the sound of waves crashing 30 feet below, which gives us the remarkable sensation of floating on air.
The following morning we awake to a hot tent warmed by the early morning sun and sounds of feisty blue jays pecking around our campsite. After burning the last chunks of firewood, we pack up and stop for coffee and pastries at a sleepy general store, where waggish locals walk alongside their unleashed pets. Before making way up north, we pay respects to the Henry Miller Library, a wooden bunker shaded by redwoods that plays host to the Central Coast’s best literary, music and art events. After thumbing through Miller’s classic works and petting the resident longhair tabby, we get back in the car and savor our last grasp of Big Sur.
Ice on the window, -84° Fahrenheit at 37K feet.
For Jetsetter's New York City Hood by Hood iPad guide, I sat down with Luca Venezia, aka DJ Drop the Lime and Trouble & Bass co-founder, to chat about his perfect day in Williamsburg. Here are trimmings from that same interview in which Luca remarks on the rave revival happening in Brooklyn's hippest 'hood.
How would you say Williamsburg's nightlife changed since you first moved there?
It has experienced many waves. When I first moved to the neighborhood, the peak was when I was DJing for Trouble & Bass parties at the former Studio B. About five years in, either the cops shut down the illegal clubs or the dance spots just died. Now a lot new spots are opening up, which is super exciting. The next wave is definitely deep house and techno. Electronic music quickly became over-saturated with dubstep, and I think everyone is ready to move beyond its hard and aggressive aesthetic. I think people want to go back to something a little bit more sexy. I'm noticing a lot of the kids in Williamsburg that entered into electronic music during that harder wave want something deeper.
Which electronic genres are on the rise in Brooklyn?
It depends on where you're targeting it or what kind of parties, for example. What I've always loved about in New York is crowds tend to be very diehard to their promoters, their crews. A crowd that would go to a Verboten party wouldn't necessarily go to a party where there was trap music or dustep. You always have to be conscious of the crowd. I love mixing it up with Trouble & Bass techno artists with Verboten's bass artists. That duality always attracts one of the most diverse crowds.
Attending NYC raves was the transcendence from you hardcore/punk background to electronic music. Are raves as relevant now as when you first experienced them?
Lately, yes. Williamsburg is experiencing a resurgence of proper warehouse raves. In 2002, rave culture died down in New York. But it's coming back along with the rise in popularity of electronic music and nightlife separate from bottle-service clubs.
How does Berlin's nightlife and rave culture compare to Williamsburg's?
Unfortunately, I don't think Williamsburg could ever match the spontaneity of a warehouse rave in Berlin.
Legal reasons. The cops would shut it down, if you have a proper sound system that's loud enough to attract thousands of kids. Berliners can party a lot longer than us. For them, it's common to stay out at an after-hours party until 10 or 11 a.m. A lot of clubs in Brooklyn — Williamsburg, especially — try to emulate that vibe. In a way, we do a better job at taking the feel of a Berlin rave and putting it into a club environment. A good example of this is Output, a no-cameras, all-music club that recently opened across the street from the Wythe.
Are secret elements like undisclosed locations still relevant in rave culture?
Definitely. Another reason why I love living in Williamsburg is because it's full of password-protected, speakeasy-style drinking spots and undisclosed after-hours parties that require you to follow a certain person on Twitter to find the location. That spontaneity is sexy, and it keeps me excited about the music.
It sounds like the Internet is making it easier to find these places — doesn't that defeat the purpose?
The Internet makes everything accessible. Those at the forefront of the rave revival are having to get creative with event promotion – if you announce parties using slightly different means, it makes that discovery process all the more exciting. One of my favorite techniques is the old-school approach of setting up a temporary contact number (now via a Google phone) that people must call in order to access an address mere hours before the doors open.