Ventana Big Sur Km 775
From 1,000 metres up I can still make out the blows of migrating grey whales just offshore. Jamie Siebold, resident naturalist at Ventana Big Sur, stands by the remnants of a landslide triggered by heavy rains in the spring of 2017. A felled redwood points upslope. “The topsoils all along the coast were once the sea floor,” she explains. “They got pushed up by layers of rock, and now they’re just sitting there. When it gets wet, it can slide.”
Siebold is a former veterinary technician from Kansas who, a few years back, sold all her belongings to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Then she resettled in California. “I live to hike – I needed to be outside every day.” Now she guides Ventana guests on walks through the mountains and woods and along the coastline of Big Sur (and also runs the resort’s glamping program).
As we move from redwood forest to mountain chaparral, Siebold points out indigenous plants and trees, like delicate Indian paintbrush, fragrant mountain sage, bay laurel trees and a type of fern that stores its pollen underleaf. A few California condors circle overhead, scanning for carrion. We encounter a mountain man, owner of tan coveralls and a beard that would make any hipster jealous. He’s out foraging for mushrooms, which he trades with locals and restaurants. “I’ll trade chan-terelles for lion’s manes,” he tells us. “Chanterelles are good for the belly, but lion’s manes are good for the brain.”