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In California, Big Sur Is Finally Fully Reconnected To The Rest Of The World


A community on the California coast is finally fully reconnected to the rest of the world. Big Sur sits hard up against 3,000-foot mountains on one side, high above rocky cliffs above the Pacific Ocean on the other. A single artery, the Pacific Coast Highway, leads north and south.


For more than a year, parts of the road were washed away. Heavy rain brought landslides, closing two points on the road. Yesterday, Big Sur's isolation ended as the road to the South was reopened. When I spoke with Big Sur resident and artist Erin Gafill last May, she told me how they were coping.


ERIN GAFILL: Largely people are making the best of it, but there's so much anxiety about the future. And, you know, everyone's out of work. And it's really, really challenging as you see your bank account kind of zeroing out.

KELLY: She told us people in the community were walking more, talking to each other. Life slowed down. Today she took a moment to reflect on what she's been through.

GAFILL: We've been through so many disasters just in my lifetime - you know, fires, and floods and road closures. And this last two years was epic.

SHAPIRO: At first they had to rely on helicopter food drops. After some weeks, a footpath was made through the forest so people could get to a nearby grocery store. There's no harbor, so boat lifts were impossible. Financially, it was a blow to Gafill's family-owned inn and restaurant.

GAFILL: And the repercussions of the road closure for us were pretty existential - dealing with the profound impact of zero tourism in a time when we would normally be doing our biggest business.

KELLY: Now people are trickling back, but the Big Sur native knows there'll always be a next time for a community perched so perilously above the sea and below steep mountains.

GAFILL: We have a lot of experience going through this type of event. You know, it's not if. It's when. And the spirit of this community is so strong. The people who live here are really resilient.

KELLY: So when Mother Nature strikes again, Gafill thinks she will take it in stride.

GAFILL: You know, some people laugh, but we really are in the most incredibly beautiful place in the world to be stuck.

KELLY: That's Big Sur resident and artist Erin Gafill talking about spending more than a year unable to easily access the world beyond her town. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.