Last weekend's massive landslide at Mud Creek along Highway 1 in Monterey County, the first dramatic photos of which appeared on Tuesday, is being called the largest slide in recorded state history, with a spokeswoman for Caltrans referring to it as "one of a kind." Spokeswoman Susana Cruz tells the Associated Press that "it's still moving," and it will take some time to assess the scope of the cleanup and rebuilding process that is to come. "We have geologists and engineers who are going to check it out this week to see how do we pick up the pieces," Cruz says.
The huge mass of rock and debris is estimated to be between 35 and 45 feet deep, and measures 1500 feet across, or more than a quarter mile. The slide now cuts off the southern route into Big Sur which had been being used intermittently this spring on a single-lane basis due to previous rockslides and other damage by tourists coming from Cambria and Southern California. The northern route into Big Sur was cut off in March after the unusually wet winter caused irreparable damage to Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge and now a replacement bridge is expected to open by late September.
The Mud Creek slide is what's known as a "deep-seated" landslide according to the US Geological Survey, which typically lie dormant for extended periods and will occur in the spring after excessive winter rains reach the deeply seated, most slippery layer of soil. There's currently no estimate for when this part of Highway 1 might be able to reopen.
Dan Carl, a district director for the California Coastal Commission, tells the AP, "This type of thing may become more frequent, but Big Sur has its own unique geology. A lot of Big Sur is moving; you just don't see it." And longtime locals are comparing this slide to the last big one in memory, which occurred in 1983 just north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
Currently the only way into Big Sur south of Pfeiffer Canyon is by helicopter, or via the long and treacherous, over-mountain Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, which is being used by some locals to access the 101 freeway. As the Mercury-News reports, the situation is making for an extra-secluded and luxurious experience for the wealthy looking to stay at the Post Ranch Inn. The inn is offering packages ranging in price from $4,300 to $13,500, including helicopter fare and accommodations, and it's just a 20-minute hop over from the airport in Monterey. They've dubbed the packages "Escape Through The Skies," offering a "once-in-a-lifetime" chance to arrive in Big Sur via air and according to a spokeswoman for the inn, about 200 guests per week have jumped on the offer, some flying in from Texas, New York, Canada, Asia, and the UK.
Guests and locals now have the pleasure of walking down Highway 1 without seeing any cars, and apparently there have been parties at Nepenthe Restaurant, including an upcoming Island Fever Luau Night on June 3.