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Monterey, California is a biologically rich part of the Peninsula. It was the food source for the Native Americans, the Rumsen Ohlone tribe, before the arrival of the Spanish explorers. They existed by hunting, fishing and gathering of food. Archeologists found evidence that would support claims that the Ohlone’s primary food consisted at various times of mussels and abalone. Wow, the Native Americans surely lived in style.  

Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive

Nowadays, seafood is mostly synonymous with opulence, most especially the abalone which was almost worshiped by some people in Asia because of it’s monetary and nutritional value. It was believed that this pricey ear-shaped shellfish possesses an aphrodisiac power, hence people willingly buy and eat it in spite of the cost. 

Today, Monterey is well known for it’s historical background as well as it’s touristic attractions. One of which is the 17 Mile Drive. 

The 17-Mile Drive marks the entrance to Pebble Beach which was developed by a man named Samuel F.B. Morse or Sam Morse to some. During a recent visit, I noticed a plaque set on stone, which was dedicated to this man. The dedication reads “Dedicated to Sam Morse 1885-1969….He had a vision, the will to protect and preserve the natural beauty of Pebble Beach”.  

Who was this man? What was his contribution to deserve a plaque etched on a boulder. My curiosity led me to understand that he purchased 18,000 acres of land on the Monterey Peninsula, all of the Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach areas, Del Monte Forest lands (which are traversed by 17-Mile Drive), the Los Laureles Rancho (more commonly called the Del Monte Rancho), Hotel Del Monte and all improvements, Pebble Beach Lodge and all improvements, and the capital stock of the Monterey County Water Works, which supplies water to the towns of Monterey, Pacific Grove and Carmel.” He was surely active. 

On May 10, 1969, Samuel F. B. Morse died, 10 years after ensuring that easements would preserve hundreds of acres of forest and coastline along the 17-Mile Drive for generations to come, and 50 years after establishing a veritable monument to the power of nature and beauty.  

From the Sunset Drive/Pacific Grove gate, the drive runs inland past Spanish Bay, then adjacent to beaches and up into the coastal hills, providing scenic viewpoints. The route allows for self-directed travel and stopping, with frequent turnouts along the roadway in many locations along the route. Without stops, it takes a minimum of 20 minutes to reach Carmel. The numerous turnouts allow stopping to take pictures, or getting out to stroll along the ocean or among the trees. Visitors receive a map that points out some of the more scenic spots. In addition, a red-dashed line is marked in the center of the main road to guide visitors, and help prevent them from venturing into the adjacent neighborhood streets.  

The road provides vistas of golf courses including Spyglass Hill, Cypress Point and Pebble Beach. After reaching Carmel Way, and the exit to Carmel, the 17-Mile Drive then heads northeast to the Highway 68/Highway 1 interchange, where one can exit, or continue to loop along the higher vistas of 17-Mile Drive, some of which offer views from more than 600 feet above sea-level. The full loop will take you back to the Pacific Grove Gate at Sunset Drive — a distance of 17 miles. 

Monterey as we know it today, is a young city of only four hundred sixteen years since the Spanish maritime explorer Sebastian Vizcaino landed on the Southern part of the Bay. The arrival of the explorers has endangered the natural resources of the area to the point of extinction. This includes the displacement of the Rumsen Ohlone tribe, who were the original inhabitants.  

I am grateful to visionary men like Sam Morse who used his influence and wealth in keeping the Pebble Beach untouched and pristine to benefit the future generation. If not for his vision in the preservation of nature’s natural beauty, the 17 Mile Drive might not be there for us to experience.