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Big Sur Landslides Leave Small Canyon Town Stranded
Called 'The Island' to locals, this Big Sur town only has access to the outside through the northern trails they built themselves.
A large portion of Big Sur has been closed to the public since record rainfall in California caused landslides earlier this year. Crews are working to build a new bridge on the north side after one was irreparably damaged.
The cliffs remain active and susceptible to landslides, with the most recent collapsing across the Pacific Coast Highway this past Saturday.
Photographer Sarah Rice takes us into 'The Island,' a small town of about 450 people, where residents have resorted to hiking in and out to get groceries, attend school or go to work.
Traffic Safety official David Cummings closes the gate at Paul's Slide in Big Sur, during its noon opening on Friday. The gate opens once in the early morning for a very limited window, and then again at the end of the day to let workers and suppliers out of the restricted area.
Locals high-five each other as they cross paths heading up and down the trail that leads out of the closed off portion of Big Sur. The trail has become a meeting place for locals as they see each other on their way in and out.
Erin Lee Gafill paints on the terrace at Nepenthe, an iconic restaurant built by her grandparents that is known for its view of the Pacific coastline. Gafill lives on the property in an old log cabin with her husband.
For as much as the Highway 1 road closure has been financially devastating to locals, they also relish the quiet, and the chance to enjoy Big Sur without the crowds of tourists that come through on a normal day.
Tables remain empty outside the Nepenthe restaurant. The Big Sur institution recently re-opened after the landslides struck, but business is suffering because the highway remains closed.
A helicopter brings in guests to the Post Ranch Inn, a luxury resort in the area.
Empty massage tables overlook the Pacific Ocean at the Esalen Institute. The mineral hot springs have been closed since February, when landslides first shut access to Big Sur.
Lucas Cotterman, the guests services manager for Esalen, surveys the damage from heavy rains. What used to be a deck on the left, fell into the ocean. “This is as quiet as I've ever seen it," said Cotterman.
A monk walks towards the chapel for vespers at the the New Camaldoli Hermitage.
Twelve Benedictine Camaldolese monks live at the monastery, which has also been closed to the public due to the landslides, shutting off it's source of income which normally comes from retreat guests.
The monks started a Go Fund Me page to raise money until Highway 1 reopens. Because the monks have taken a vow of stability, they can't and won't leave the monastery.
Abigail, 5, pauses to wait for her friend as she hikes down the trail to the school bus. In the mornings the trail is full of kids heading out to school, and workers hiking in to begin the workday.
Volunteers from Big Sur came together with state park workers to build a trail into the side of the canyon to allow residents to leave the area after the area became closed off.
Construction begins on a new bridge over the canyon. The old bridge had to be torn down in February after it was damaged in the landslides after heavy rains this winter. The new one isn't expected to be completed until September.
A construction staging area along the coast for crews working on Paul's Slide, one of two major landslides on Highway 1.
Kids head to the trailhead to begin their hike to get to school in the morning.
Sander Koning, left, and his daughter Elinor head down the trail before school.
Parents wait with kids for the school bus.
Kids line up for the school bus after hiking down the canyon.
Brewski Bond, Rich Stafford and Johnny Birdman chat outside the Big Sur Taphouse, which was the only place inside 'The Island' that never closed. It has remained open, at a loss, so residents have a place to gather, as well as get supplies.
Bartender Sander Koning and manager Will Larkin play ping pong inside Nepenthe.
Nepenthe brought the ping pong table into the restaurant to give employees something to do.
Tom Birmingham, right, and his wife Erin Gafill hike up a canyon on the newly made trail to their home with backpacks full of groceries.
The Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur remains closed after the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge had to be torn down due to the landslides.
The Pacific Coast Highway remains closed and empty until construction and bridges are complete.