Summer Of 99--tanoaks, Tunnel And Tin
Trip through Big Sur history along the Tan Bark Trail and Partington Cove.
Thursday, May 27, 1999
The Tan Bark Trail and Partington Cove make for a great day of scenic hiking through a variety of Big Sur''s natural and historical features.
The turnout for the Tan Bark Trail and Partington Cove is a little tricky to find because there are no signs indicating where to turn off the highway, but if you keep your eyes open you shouldn''t have a problem. The trails, located at the north end of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, are found at a distinct eastern bend in Highway 1, 10 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
The Tan Bark Trail begins on the eastern side of the highway, and the redwood and tanoak-shaded trail meanders along Partington Creek through an area that was once the site of a thriving logging industry.
John Partington purchased the land and began logging the tanoaks--which contain high amounts of tannic acid used in curing leather--in the creek bed during the 1880s.
Sections of today''s trail still follow the old skid trail where the loggers used to remove the cut trees from the valley using wooden sleds.
Less than a mile into the hike, the Tan Bark Trail becomes a workout as it leaves the creek bed and begins to ascend a 2,000-foot ridge. After the climb, the 3.2-mile trail dead-ends into a fire road (which can be used as a 2.3-mile hike back down to the highway and a 1.5-mile hike down the road back to the Tan Bark Trailhead for loop lovers.)
While you''re at the crossroads, an interesting adventure can be taken to the Tin House (located 600 feet south of the trail intersection), a large abandoned building made from the old tin parts of gas stations. The house is rumored to have been built as a guest house for Franklin D. Roosevelt by his close friend Lathrop Brown, who lived on the coast a mile south.
Whether you hike the loop or if you hike up and back on the Tan Bark Trail, you should not miss the short hike to Partington Cove.
Located on the west side of the highway across from the Tan Bark Trailhead, a half-mile road leads across a bridge and through a tunnel to the crystal clear waters of Partington Cove.
The tunnel, which used to be wide enough for wagons to pass through, was hollowed out by Partington and his men as a way of reaching the natural harbor.
There are still eye bolts sunk into the rock and a modified derrick perches over the Pacific, remnants from the time when Partington utilized the cove to export tanoaks before the need for tannic acid was replaced by the invention of synthetics in the 1930s.