Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Devil's Slide...by Jim Terry

Travel season is just around the corner and this location may just be something to add to your list this year.   I’m sure the title of today’s blog may have some of you a bit concerned of what this may elude to but for the adventurous please read on. A lot of times when you put the word “devil” in a sentence with another term it may not be as bad as you think…for instance have you ever heard of a “devil’s advocate?”…”devil”ed eggs?...”devil’s food cake” (one of my favorites)?…the “devil’s highway”? Or how about “devil’s tower” in Wyoming?  Of course this “Devil’s Slide” I am going to talk about today is not a slide in the traditional sense like on a swing set or even a ride at any given amusement park, it is an area on the coast of California very close to where I work in Pacifica.  

Devil’s Slide features several areas being slowly eroded away by the strong currents and waves of the Pacific Ocean and the inclement weather that compromise it’s rocky cliffs, valleys and shores. And PLEASE DO NOT go off the trail while hiking here…the cliffs and landmasses in this area encompass and boast of grades 30-80% that will easily allow you to fall up to 430 feet straight down. Think about the steepest pass you have driven on…in my case that would be a thirteen percent grade.  Then take that same grade and then six times the steepness of that grade and try and drive or walk on that…”Good luck!”

The term Devil’s slide comes from what has happened to Highway 1 along the coast. Since the completion of this highway in 1937, it has been known for the landslides and erosion that often occur and will sometimes make the road impassable. The first major landslide destroyed much of the road in 1940, only three years after completion and a succession of building and destruction has existed in this area ever since that time.  Longitudinal cracks along the length of the roadway in both 1995 and 2006 in both lanes show a slow slippage of the highway towards the ocean indicating that devil’s slide was taking a toll on the safety of the road itself.

This area was also part of the location of a military triangulation station and observation site used during World War II as part of the harbor security of San Francisco and the United States.  “Prior to the dawn of radar, military personnel would use binoculars and compasses to search for ships at sea and relay their coordinates to a central post. By combining information from multiple observation posts, a ship's precise location could be determined by triangulation. There were six military structures at the Devil's Slide: three concrete and steel observation pill-boxes, two concrete and earth bunkers, and a reinforced steel observation tower. The pill-boxes were used as hardened observation posts, and one of the bunkers was used as a communications and command post. The site was sold to a private owner in 1983, but some of the structures remain.”

California closed this portion of Highway 1 to traffic in 2013 for safety reasons and has now made a wonderful footpath and hiking trail for everyone to enjoy.  I recently had the privilege of hiking on this new trail that embodies Devil’s Slide.  I had driven this stretch on the coast many times before but you were unable to pull off and see it’s surroundings because of traffic and because there was absolutely no where to pull off and enjoy it’s beauty…Now you can hike, jog, sit, think, smell and listen to nature without the hassles of a lot of traffic and trying to stay on the road. 

As I was sitting there listening to and experiencing nature, I couldn’t help but to think that this area may not be named appropriately anymore.  Sure “Devil’s Slide” if you have to drive on it but as the sun slowly slipped into the ocean, warm pinks, yellows, purples and oranges in the clouds began to form that made a sharp contrast to the blues that encompassed the sky.  The smell of a cool sea breeze...the wildlife...the plants...the landscape…How could this still be named after something that generally has such a negative connotation?

So as you look at the photos and/or may have already experienced this area,  I am thinking that a more appropriate name may be..."HEAVEN'S GATE." What do you think? 

Hope you'll share YOUR stories and photos with us at: nutshellstories@gmail.com.