"Entrance to Partington Cove Tunnel"
March 2010, Big Sur, California
If you look carefully to the right of this image you will see the opening to the Partington Cove Tunnel. The tunnel is one of Big Sur's many hidden gems. It's an easy 1-mile hike just off of Highway 1, so there is simply no reason not to visit this fascinating glimpse into the history of the region. It's only a couple of miles north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, so it's quite easy to find.
Typical for Big Sur, the hillsides above the highway are heavily forested. Enormous redwood groves and oak groves are found throughout the area. Tan bark, a type of oak tree, is one of the species which is particularly prolific in Big Sur. Back in the 1800's Partington Cove had all of the characteristics of an ideal port with it's relatively deep and calm waters. The only problem was that the cove was completely isolated, accessible only from the ocean. There was no way to transport cargo overland. In the late 1800's John Partington decided to blast a 60-foot tunnel through the mountain on the cove's northern end. This provided access to a much more accessible strip of land over which the valuable tan bark could then be hauled.
The tunnel with its rustic wooden framework still stands strong today. When you emerge from the tunnel's southern entrance into Partington Cove you truly get the sense of being in a remote corner of Big Sur. Isolated vestiges of the old port still remain, but you have to look carefully for them. All in all, Partington Cove is well worth the visit. If there is one thing I've learned over the years, it's that Big Sur is not an area that you want to hurry through. Slow down and take it all in.
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