A Big Sur State of Mind
The Power of Big Sur
Glen Deven Ranch, an 860-acre mixed use property above Highway 1 in the hills of Big Sur in California, is a striking example of the beauty, simplicity and raw power of Big Sur.
The property was given to The Big Sur Land Trust as a bequest from the late Dr. Seeley and Mrs. Virginia Mudd, who were deeply dedicated to their ranch and to land protection in their community. They were longtime supporters of land trust, which was formed in 1978 by local landowners. Since then, the land trust has ensured that 25,000 acres throughout Monterey County are conserved in perpetuity, which includes sustainable, local agriculture; trail corridors; redwood, oak and pine forests; and stretches of protected beach and coastline.
A Scenic Setting
Glen Deven Ranch sits on a ridge above a stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway recognized as one of the most rugged and beautiful areas of California, as well as the entire country. In between the towns of Carmel and Cambria, the road slows down - winding around hills, clinging to cliffs and passing over canyons for over 60 miles. To get to the property you have to drive off the main road through the redwoods and up to a narrow dirt path. On sunny days before the fog rolls in, the view from the ranch of the coastline and Pacific ocean is breathtaking.
The couple purchased the ranch in 1970 and lived in a peaceful and modest house on the vast property. Glen Deven means small brook, referring to the Garrapata Creek that runs through it. The land has had many uses, from running cattle to growing Christmas trees to managing bee hives for honey.
Connecting with the Land
Rachel Saunders, Director of Communications and Community Affairs at The Big Sur Land Trust, explains properties like this one help maintain strong relationships between humans and land, "because members of our community depend on and relate to the land." The ranch has served the Palo Colorado community in times of emergencies or natural disasters -- acting as a base camp for the Mid-coast Fire Brigade for training exercises, and as a shelter for residents of the Palo Colorado canyon during floods and mudslides.
The ranch has also become a community resource in other ways. The Big Sur Land Trust offers it to nonprofit, research and public benefits organizations for retreats and other functions. For example, it is available for youth nonprofits – such as the YWCA's camp program outing for teenage girls – as a way to help reconnect at-risk and underserved kids with nature. The land trust also offers educational programs there including hiking, lectures, donor events, volunteer events, and meetings. Future plans include turning the ranch into a learning center for sustainability and a showcase for sustainable land practices.
Jim Cox, caretaker of the property for 28 years for the Mudds and ranch manager for the past seven with the Big Sur Land Trust, estimates that between 250 to 300 people a year get to use it. He also knows and appreciates the land like its his own. He described how the hand-carved benches he’s made that are scattered throughout the property honor the memory of people who supported the land trust and have passed away. The first one he ever made was placed at one of the Mudds' favorite spots on the ranch, a precipice looking out over the ocean and hills and into the horizon.
by Francesca Dalleo