MONTEREY PENINSULA This Area of Rugged Beauty and Startling Contrasts Is a Brooder's Paradise

Article excerpt

Because there are four exotic-sounding California coastlines beginning with M (Mendecino, Monterey, Montecito, Malibu), the following father-daughter exchange heard recently here is forgivable:

"How do I remember which rocky, romantic coastline is Monterey?" queried a pig-tailed 11-year-old outside a restaurant on Cannery Row.

"It's the one with the lone cypress, sweetie," came the reply.

The pedagogic pop might have added: "and deer on the golf greens, sea lions on Bird Rock, and the sardine wharf town made famous by native Nobel prizewinner John Steinbeck."

It's easy to see why this region fascinated its most well-known resident, one of the world's great literary champions of the disinherited. Remote, and as geographically exposed as a tiny fist jutting into the world's largest ocean, the woody hills and craggy cliffs are a brooder's paradise.

W.B. Yeats's apt oxymoron to describe his native Ireland - "terrible beauty" might here be recast as the "frightening grace" of Monterey. Witness the capriciousness of diaphanous mists over jagged pines, the tide-tossed clashes of soft sea creatures against coral-sharp shoals, and the chiaroscuro of sunlight and clouds. Such plays of opposites produced a magnetism that early drew visitors and settlers.

Fifty years after Columbus sailed into the Bahamas, Don Juan Cabrillo, a Portuguese seaman, anchored in La Bahia de los Pinos (The Bay of the Pines), which he claimed for Spain's King Phillip II. Officially named Monterey on June 3, 1770, the peninsula became the military and ecclesiastical center of Alta California, capital during Spanish and Mexican regimes until insurrections in 1846 culminated in an American takeover. …