Almost any long stretch of road in America boasts its own ghost story. From undead women thumbing rides only to disappear in the back seat to phantom dogs, cats, and even cars. What you may not have heard of, however, are the Ghost Trees on the 17-Mile Drive tour, California.
The Ghost Story
This ghost story starts on a scenic stretch of the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), known as the 17-Mile Drive. The 17-Mile Drive tour skates through Pebble Beach, and Pacific Grove, closely hugging the coast of the Monterey Peninsula. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but cruising past the dramatic seaside cliffs, lush forests, and white sand beaches might be one of America’s most stunning sights.
It might be easy to pass by Pescadero Point during your tour of California. After all, what’s another rocky, flower-studded cliffside tumbling down to a magnificent beach? But there is a reason why Pescadero Point is now often just called “Ghost Trees.”
Calling to mind the gnarled hands of witches and goblins reaching up to the heavens, the silhouettes of a multitude of dead cypress trees give Pescadero Point its haunting byname. The few living cypress trees that remain will soon join the army of the dead on the point, along with many of the cypress trees in all of California. A dual threat of bark beetles and Cypress disease is projected to nearly wipe out most of the state’s cypress trees within the next two decades.
Despite their impending or present doom, the Ghost trees are a beautiful sight, by day. The naturally curving and twisting wood of seaside cypress has been polished and smoothed by the wind and bleached to a bone-white by the sun and salt air. These trees’ flair for the dramatic might explain why a few miles down Route 1 stands the most photographed tree in America: the Lone Cypress. This photogenic tree might be lonely, but at least it’s still alive. Perched on a rocky, granite outcropping, the tree is an American Icon. Make sure to book your 17 Mile Drive tour today.
Like all divas that have captured the national imagination, this tree has a story to tell. It is estimated that the Lone Cypress may be as old as 250 years, and it has its battle scars to prove it. Now held in place and supported by aluminum cables, the Lone Cypress is marked by burns from an unknown fire. Twisted by the wind, its gnarled roots reach ever deeper for purchase in its seemingly unlivable resting place.
Speaking of unfit resting places, Ghost Tree is not without its own story of human spooks. One particular tree near pebble beach is the haunt of “The Lady in Lace.” Legend says that a woman is said to stand by the trees and unsettle passing motorists and beachgoers on foggy nights. Reports of her crying and sad expression lead some to attribute the Lady in Lace’s presence to La Llorona. La Llorona, or the Weeping Woman, is an icon of Latin American Folklore who roam waterfront areas, mourning her drowned children. Others attribute the haunt to Lady Dona Maria del Carmen Baretto, a wealthy landowner who once owned much of the land around Pebble Beach. Perhaps she’s just returned to survey what used to be her home. Others still insist that the lady in lace is the phantom of a drowned surfer who is just trying to catch one last epic wave.
Your 17 Mile Drive tour takes you through a dangerous but thrilling area for surfers. In the winter months, waves can reach as high as 60 feet tall. Not to mention the Great White Sharks that frequent the waters. However, in most cases, shark attacks in the water here are infrequent, and the large predators tend to do their -um, grocery shopping, in the deeper, colder water where seals hunt.
America’s most beautiful sites have long and complex histories to tell. There is a darker tale to tell for every stunning sight, whether it’s a painful piece of history or a fictional ghost story. The enigmatic area of Ghost Trees on the is no different. Intermingled with the idyllic beauty of this seaside Drive is an eerie stillness. Maybe it’s the ghost of Dona Maria strolling over her former property or the phantom of the Weeping woman. Some may attribute it to the trees themselves, which bring to mind the skeletons frozen in place like Pompeii. More likely, the subtle spookiness of Ghost Trees may be part of the human psyche’s inability to accept that the beauty of paradise can exist without some shadow.
17 Mile Drive Tour
Don’t forget to take the 17 Mile Drive tour and learn more about all the points on the route.