Flashback! Spring Equinox Celebration at Limekiln Creek 1968
Spring Equinox Celebration at Limekiln Creek. March 20, 1968
Photo by Jeff Norman
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I was there! This is very cool, I didn’t know any photos existed. Thanks for posting.
Not at all sure why you are posting this material? Are you related to Jeff? Unlikely. Checking out 2008 fire stuff I ran into your extended beef with Ivan Eberle… I don’t know him but he does have a magnificent photo of a mountain lion
Forgot to add photo (taken at Molera) is at the PG museum – mountain lion exhibit.
Simon: We are posting this material because there are people, like us, who enjoy it (see the comment preceding yours). Go figure.
No, we are not related to Jeff, but we do not, on this site, have a policy of limiting ourselves to publishing material created by our relatives.
Like you, we do not know Mr. Eberle, other than through his comments on this site (sometimes rational and constructive, sometimes profane tirades and, most recently, an odd threat to expose our “secret” routine for “search engine optimization”), but we agree he has a very nice photo of a mountain lion.
My apologies – I have no idea why that photo set me off. Must be something I smoked….
ha ha. I’m glad your sense of humor is still intact, Xasauan!
No apologies, please. Now you’re making me feel bad about the tone of my response. We admit this isn’t likely to become one of our most popular posts. We just put it up there hoping it would strike a chord with people, like Lois, who were there. We didn’t mean to harsh anyone’s buzz, and we’re sorry if we did. We only wish Jeff was still around to provide some commentary.
Count me in with Lois — except I wasn’t at Limekiln that day myself, only wishing that I was. The history of Limekiln / Twitchell Flat circa 1968 is a tale I’d sorely love to hear one day…
As I recall a fellow named Tracy had been operating the Limekiln campground and threw the 1968 Spring Equinox Thing because he had lost his lease. It was to be the last bash for a locale that had been, for a fortunate few, isolated bliss on that remote wild coast. We got there a couple of days early and parked the VW bus on the Rockland Landing point west of the highway. In those days you could easily drive quite a ways out on the point.
The morning of the equinox dawned warm and sunny. All of the camp sites along the creek had filled the day before. From our perch above we could see the beach filling as groups staked their claim to a particular spot. The event had been heavily advertised by handbills posted in the Haight and elsewhere amid rampant millennial rumors. Late arrivals that morning described gridlock on the highway with cars parked all the way to Lucia and beyond. The wild desolate Limekiln we had cherished was overflowing with people and dogs and cars. After a late breakfast we dropped the last of the Owsley and headed up the West Fork to flee the swelling crowds.
Later, I found myself sitting alone on the north end of the cove in the warm sunshine listening to the waves on the rocky beach. Then, nearby, I heard the sound of gently thrown rocks and turned to see, at the base of the cliff behind me, a gray old man sorting the beach stones into two piles, light and dark. When he noticed my gaze he began to gently talk about the duality of it all. How people inevitably try to sort life into comfortable categories of light and dark only to have them get all mixed up and confused, just as the rising tide would soon mix his piles of stones. He pulled a tattered copy of Lao Tzu from his pocket and told me that all I ever needed to know was in that little book.
Overwhelmed with realization, and still speechless from the medicine I had ingested earlier, I wandered down to the center of the beach where Big Richard was beginning to play his tiny little hand carved flute accompanied by a group of conga drummers. Their music reverberated off the cliff walls offering rhythm and melody to the alternating refrain of crashing waves and gurgling surf pebbles. I found my friends sitting on the warm sand nearby, deep in their own reverie. We sat for what seemed like hours or moments and, as our voices and memories returned and the sun slipped into the sea, we shared once again the glories we had come to know at Limekiln.
Rick James here up on Vancouver Island. As it happens, I arrived at Limekiln in February 1968 and ended up camping beside the creek for the first month or two before befriending Hal Tracy (Tracey perhaps? regardles, he was from Bay area money of some kind.) and becoming one of the “caretakers.” This allowed me to move into one of his old derelict (blue) school buses. Caretaker #1, Gene, lived in the other.
The leased land was owned by Wells Fargo Bank and they didn’t take kindly to what was happening down there in Hal’s hippy campsite. Hal’s lease then was to expire that summer. So one big party! But wasn’t it also the Neal Cassidy Memorial too? Or was that a month or two later?
Big Richard? or Crazy Richard? Man, I owe him alot. He fed us all out of his circa 1936-38 Chev. pickup with its homemade camper in the pickup box while keeping us entertained with his stories of the beat scene of the 50s and his flute playing.
Remember? He was shacked up with “Sweet Mary” probably in her late teens along with an ‘older’ woman – mid-20s? So what was the story here? Well, he filled me in…Sweet Mary was getting over a case of the clap, eerrrr, an STD as they call it today…and the other woman? Well, I guess you can fill in the rest.
So how did Hal Tracy ended up with this beautiful leased redwood valley bottom? One story I heard, was that a hippy had rescued him from a bad accident and he felt quite endebted….
I could go on here with many a story but I need some feedback from out there in the ether. Is anybody paying attention? So please get back to me if you have memories to share since I have no end of them from six months down there in Paradise.
Oh yeah, once Hal lost his lease a handful of us moved up into his lemon tree campsite back in the hills for a couple of months before we got run out of there too….more on that later.
Does anyone else remember the “lemon tree campsite” up on the hill behind Limekiln that Rick mentions?
Well, I’ve camped up by that lemon tree myself, but only years and years after the heyday described above. The lemon tree had fallen by then (but was still growing and producing fruit). Since I knew it marked the Jane Dani Twitchell homestead, I took a couple lemons to imbibe myself.
My apocryphal understanding was that it had been a helluva “commune” once — one that Manson had visited himself. But, again, that’s pure rumor/apocrypha…
I was there, too! The canyon and its lovely streamside campsites overwhelmed by er, humanity. A topless Suzy V. letting some city perv take her picture for $5 up where the generator and stage were. And a birdseye view from the Highway One bridge of the suppertime gathering on the beach below: hundreds of people beating on 4’X8′ sheets of plywood in ravenous anticipation of the meat feast, and then tearing apart and devouring the carcasses of sheep that had been cooking in the ground all day. Ha! What a wild, crazy scene. 1968, y’all.
It was an incredible time that six months I spent living in Big Sur. And me and bud Pat Lawson were hoping one day to connect with someone who was there for the experience. Before I get into stories, I will provide some historical context. Hal Tracy (Tracey?) was leasing Limekiln from Wells Fargo Bank and I don’t think they were all amused with the shenanigans happening down there. His lease, as a consequence, was to expire early that summer 1968 and there was no way it was to be renewed..
Tracy was an odd guy, although friendly enough, and he show up fairly regularly with what may have been a lawyer friend. I gather he was from money across the bridge in the Bay…Sausalito? or ? What was peculiar though he was entirely convinced that it was all comin’ down i.e. the collapse of American civilization (the assassination of Martin Luther King that spring reforced that belief of course) and had accumulated an acre or two, three? four? of everything you could think of in preparation for when he and a chosen few would have to escape the City to Twitchell’s Flat….I can’t recall all he stockpiled up there in the hills, stoves? furniture? along with a collection of VWs along with one original Model A sedan. It was incredible to walk through this open air warehouse and try to fathom the effort in getting it all up there.
So, like, what’s left up there? What kind of “artifacts?” Did you come across the wonderful stone outdoor bath? And is the lemon tree perhaps still alive? Do you happen to have photos?
A “commune”? not really. It was just a small collection of us who couldn’t bear to leave Sur when Limekiln came to an end. So Hal gave us the go ahead to move up under the lemon tree. (too bad it was your Forest Service land.) Here there was an incredible outdoor kitchen set up: propane stove, fridge, tables, shelves, etc. And, god, looking back, too bad we didn’t have the sense to have cameras with us.
The “cook” was a big black guy from Fillmore district who was a wino and his partner Gloria (who I don’t think he was treatin’ very nice when he got reeal drunk.) There was us two Canadians, a rather nice black lady whose name I can’t recall and constant stream of comings and goings. (Who ever went on the food run down to the dumpsters behind the Carmel grocery store invariably ended up bringing back guests who had picked them up hitchhiking on the return trip.)
All most of us were “hippies” I suppose, many weren’t all that dedicated love generation folks as such. A guy named Mike or Mark…who was very fair and got an incredibly bad sunburn, and kept telling us the next phrase that was to catch on with the hippy generation was “Ducky Poo.” (There was a Mark Healey that made a post on the internet a few years back that was asking if anyone was there at the lemon tree but it was dead by the time I found it. Perhaps him?) And assorted others including two New Yorkers who had a very glib outlook of what was happening on the west coast, first silly Beach Boys surf music, peace and love ballads, etc. They termed it all “West Coast Stoopid” in their delightful New Yorker accents. Of course, us two Canadians had a very much british style sense of humour and got on great with them. Still, were often got asked by those taking the scene all sooo serious, “Man, are all you Canadians so snide and sarcastic?” (And fate would have it my partner is American with all the in-laws in Napa, CA, so no way I’m allowed to get into my “snide and sarcastic” humour at home. Sigh! I save it for work!)
Good grief! That’s enough for now! A couple of questions:
1. Are there more Jeff Norman photos of the Limekiln Spring Equinox still out there?
2. Has anyone stopped in at the Lucia store? I stopped in there about five years ago or so and talked to guy around my age that worked there who said he often hiked up to the lemon tree. He also said Hal Tracy stopped by awhile back. You wouldn’t happen to know this gentleman by any chance? And next time your by the way feel free to leave my email address there at the store. I’d like to hear from him.
This is the only photo of ’68 Spring Equinox celebration we’ve found – but our disorganized trove of archives is deep. If more turn up, we’ll post them …
Bill (alias Rooney the Red)
I was stationed up ar Fort Ord., My friends and I had to Hitch a ride to Limekiln. We got picked up by a beautiful hippie couple in a VW bus> They rode us all the way to Limekiln.
I shouldn’t admit to it but we hiked around the the hill and got in the back way without paying. We were poor GIs and even though it was only, I think about $8.00 to get in we couldn’t afford it, making only $78.00 a month. It was the best weekend of my military draft time, even whe I fell in the river crossing on the huge tree trunk they use for a bridge down there. I espcially liked the non stop jam session that was happening down on the beach.
What a great time, GIs, hippies and Hells Angels all having a great time together. Too bad they changed the camping license laws. I wish we could do it again.
So you sneaked by us did you? Well, it was probably karma, as we used to say back then, that you ended up falling into the creek. I remember that old redwood log across it very well.
By the way, I was one of the hippy campground caretakers that day. And I happened to be posted to the south highway entrance collecting admissions. Only trouble was, I was being offered various other products in lieu of cash and after about an hour had to find someone to relieve me so I could go lie down in the weeds somewhere.
My colleague at the other, north end, well, he was a little slow on the uptake so to speak. We were told by Hal Tracy that by no means were we allowed to let any kind of vehicle down into the campground. Then the Hell Angels showed up.
Well, when he put that scenario by the charming boys and girls on bikes, a couple of them had some rather harsh words, to say the least. They also let him take a peek at some of the rather interesting firearms they happen to be carrying with them.
Yeah, I remember you fellows well dropping by from Fort Ord just to unwind. I really felt for you all since up here in Canada we didn’t have a draft and weren’t involved in Nam (other than our defense industry supplying arms, etc.) So after it got close to six months in the good old U.S. of A. – when us aliens did become eligible – we vamoosed back to the other side of the 49th parallel…like Frodo and Bilbo back to the Shire.
The story behind Spring Equinox Festival March 1968:
Well, according to Ken Kesey if memory serves me right:
Neal Cassidy was in a tavern in Mexico (probably wired on speed as usual) when he made a bet with a guy on how many railroad ties were laid between this town and the next village…
They found him later – dead on the tracks; having jogged along them, counting them all, when his heart finally gave out:
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Feb. 4, 1968.
So I’m in Limekiln for the Spring Equinox Festival, the Neal Cassidy Memorial, late March 1968, when a couple off fellow hippies are telling me all excited: “He’s here!” And I ask, like who?? They say: “Kesey, man!!! Keseys here!!! Oh wow!!! This is sooo Far Out!!!”
(I make the mistake of asking who the heck might Ken Kesey since I had yet to read “Electric Cool Acid Test” or even heard about his escapades with Merry Pranksters….)
So a little later, I’m wandering through the crowd in the campground and look up the road to see this knot of hippies all straining and pushing to get closer and connect with someone in their midst. So I ask, “what’s going on???” The reply, “It’s him!!! Kesey!!!!”
So I managed to push myself into the little crowd to get a look for myself….And then I see it’s….
Some short guy with a red doeskin shirt, balding, short, and….built and looking like a logger from upcoast British Columbia?!? (where I’m from).
So, what the hey, I tell myself, there’s lots more about this California scene here I sure need to explore ‘furthur’…..
Have you heard anything about Hal Tracy. I knew him as a teenager in palo alto He helped shape me. He was thrown out of the army (MI) for questionable loyalty. In 66 &67 I lived at Fell ans Steiner with Emmet Grogan (friend) John Robb 32of us. Mimi Boyle was my name then
I always wondered what became of Hal Tracy. I did try a google search a year or two ago and someone of that name showed up in Oregon.
Also, when I passed through Big Sur for a walk down memory lane six years ago, we stopped in the small store just north of Limekiln Creek park.
There while speaking with the restaurant cook? He not only informed me that he actually hiked up to the lemon tree in the hills the odd time but that Hal Tracy had actually stopped in there once or twice. So apparently he was around not too long ago….
Myself, I’m hoping to get down there for another visit soon. My experience there was unforgettable…
And Hal’s collection – a couple of acres, at least! – of junk, old VWs, furniture, etc etc. – that he left up there In preparation for the impending collapse of the American way of life in 1968 (Martin Luther King and the younger Kennedy went down that year). Apparently, much of is still up there succumbing to the elements….
He put Porsche engines in his VW’s god he was fun. Our whole group of teenage girls he shepparded without ever putting the make on any of us. His best friend was a guy called Derek Hautau who also was kicked out of the. Army with Hal
We ventured down to Limekiln for that Equinox event from La Honda where I had a cabin. We came down with a guy from the Haight named Caesar and his GF Mary-Anne. I remember that a band called the Black Shit Puppy Farm from Palo Alto was playing and A chainlink fence was on it’s side over the fire, the meat cooked on the fence.
We took so much acid and other goodies that much is a forgotten blur. It was, like so many other amazing events, a totally mind bending other worldly experience.
There were also Harvest Parties in Big Sur at the property that Neil Cassady’s son lived on. These too were multi day events with music, all nite drumming, drugs, sex and nakedness. They happened during the harvest moon each year.
The annual “Havest Parties” were sponsored by longtime South Coast woodsman Patrick Cassidy (a former leaseholder at Limekiln Creek) and held at his “diggins” (The Mad Russian’s cabin) high up on a ridge over the Jade Cove area. Folks would park in a US Forestry lot alongside the Coast Highway and hike up the mouintain.
Both Hal and Deryck serveed their enlistments in the U.S. Army and
were honorably discharged, attending courses and Middlebury
College and Stanford University. Our duties in Occupied Berlin including riding on trains as interpreters in Soviet territory (East
Germany). Earlier service at Army Language School gave us plenty of time to visit Big Sur.
Rick James, we must know each other. I worked for Hal, starting in Winter of 1968. I lived in the little blue trailer next to the creek. I was ‘working’ the festival, as it was part of my ‘job’ working for Hal. As you know, he and Vernon Gates were arrested I believe later on Sunday, since there had been cars parked north and south of Limekiln for maybe six miles. It was a great, crazy event, unparalleled. People showed up from across the country. Some how got fed, somehow behaved great. The hiking trails did grow wider during that weekend/week. Probably from 3 feet to around 5 or six. I was trying to do my best to minimize any unnecessary scaring of the landscape, One bozo was trying to cut down a tree by the creek. I told him to stop, and he came at me with his ax. Somehow, he ended up in the creek, and i had the ax. Hal came out and said “try to cut down another tree and I’ll blow your ass off with a shot gun”, which he was holding in his hand.
I’ve wondered what happened to Hal. I believe Vernon Gates has passed on. The last time I saw Hal was when I testified in his trial in Monterrey for the festival….I believe he and Vernon were acquitted. Living at Limekiln cured me of high school. When I left in early summer, it was because I thought an 18 year old me could not live in a place that good at such a young age. Needed to get out and see a lot more. It was a good decision, but a tough one. Thanks for your postings, what a surprise!!! Awesome!
George Martin, Campground Attendant!
George Martin, good to hear from you, man! And, yeah, there were two big old blue school buses down by the creek and right where the current Limekiln Creek Park offices are located. Somehow I don’t recall your name but who I do remember is a ‘Gene’ who was the other attendant. Perhaps you replaced him?
Gene was not all that tall and was doing alright for himself since he had two or three young ladies staying with him in the bus; runaways probably. Also, if I remember correctly, he was smokin’ more dope than me too.
As for Hal Treacy? Well, I was able to finally connect with him. Once I got his last name right, I was able to do a google search and bring him up. So, yeah, he’s probably still out there and living in Dayton, Nevada, where he was livin’ when we were last in contact a year or two ago.
Man!! did he ever fill me in on all the big time shite that was goin’ down that year with the local county, that I was totally unaware of at the time. His hippie campground was quite controversial to say the least! especially since big time developers had other plans for that part of the coast back there in the late ’60s…One particular, a Mr. Heinkel (sp) who I had nasty run-in with on the way comin’ down the trail from the Lemon Tree campsite one day that summer.
So, yeah, cool us reconnectin’ and, hey, it’s not ‘awesome’.
For all of us who were part of the ’60s scene it’s — far out, man!
Rick, Way FAR out, you are right!! Dude!!!! Or rather, Far Out!! Outa sight!!! That’s great you connected with Hal. I would never have known how to spell his name, probably never saw it written down! I worked for him for about 6 months. I lived in this little blue trailer–(I think you recall them as buses, but they were little trailers) right next to the creek to the left as you walked to the bridge to go to the beach. This is way far out!!! i had some good friends there, who of course, being a guy, I totally lost contact with . But I remember sitting with “sweet Mary” outside what’s his name’s camper while he was carrying on with another woman during the festival. She was upset, and we were smoking joints. As I recall, she had me knocked out.
Hal was great. He had that tent up in the meadow, along with the funny little ‘bath tube’ fed from the creek. He had everything in that tent, he was ready for isolating Limekiln from the rest of the world at any time.
Hinkel! was Darth Vader. As you might know, after years of mining the gravel off every beach he could get a tractor onto, he drove off a cliff one night. His wife carried on with the lease at Limekiln for years I believe, before the state thankfully took it over.
I have quite a few pictures from the time. I’ll dig them up, maybe you will recognize me. Of course, I had a big beard, and long hair.
It was a great place, a great time, and an experience that shaped the rest of my time so far. I had to leave that summer, because it was just too good. Some people offered me a house at Gorda, but I had to go. I return often. it’s hard to get close to falls now, and to get to the point.
BTW, that is when I learned what A-holes the Hells Angels really are. I had more than one confrontation with them, and I ended up during the festival blocking the north entrance with one of Hal’s trucks so they couldn’t get their bikes down that way. That burst my bubble about them,
Anyway, we probably knew each other. And Hal, if you read this, you probably remember me. I came down to Limekiln with Vic Zahm, stayed about 6 months, and for some reason was one of your witnesses at your trial in Monterrey after the festival. And thanks for what was the most awesome job–It was a dollar a day for campers, and if they didn’t have money, they had to put in some hours digging up the old trash dump. I helped Hal rebuild a volkswagen engine up by the dump, one day, (the road to the meadow), it took about 4 hours with him to completely rebuild the 4 banger VW engine.
Seems like yesterday. Thanks Rick for putting this up. Sometimes, it’s hard to convince anyone it was real.
Hi Rick, and maybe you are thinking of Vic Zahm in the other trailer. He was a blond swedish descent guy. I went to high school with him, and we have remained friends, until he passed on recently. Here’s a picture of him: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/santacruzsentinel/obituary.aspx?pid=171597292
George! It finally came back to my ’60s drug addled brain; when I arrived to Limekiln late February 1968 I camped out under a tarp next to the creek and across from the two blue trailers (not buses!). At the time, there were two very pleasant and responsible young gents who were caretaking the campground and living in the trailers. Sometime later they both decided to move on and left and I always thought that this happened before the March Festival…But maybe this was both you and Vic Zahm and you left sometime following the event?
So after that, a character named Gene and I took over and moved into the trailers (Gene moved into your creekside trailer)…And then the real fun began! Like…
There was this poor sod who was a deserter from the local base who was living across the creek and Gene kept tellin’ him he had to move into the campsite or hit the bloody road. But he was too freaked and refused to budge. Finally, Gene grabbed his rifle (which I had no idea he had) out of his trailer and we crossed the creek and Gene convinced him otherwise. This particularly nasty scene still haunts me.
And, of course, you remember us as caretakers patrolling up the creek to ensure that nobody had set up camp up there and especially to really ream them out if they had a campfire. Well, one morning I was quite aways up the north branch when I came across a couple of tents right on a nice bench on a bend in the creek. These folks were just gettin’ up at the time and when they saw me this guy reached into his tent and grabbed a pistol! and pointed it at me. Man! did I ever do some fast talkin’ to extract myself out of that situation! esp. since he came across as a biker type. But once we got to know each other, they finally introduced themselves: ‘Stick Man”, “Stick Lady” and their youngster? “Twig boy!”
Oh yeah, do you happen to recall the delightful sisters Marcia and Jenny Cutler? They were camped out in the campground proper, for quite a few months and often commuting back and forth to their apartment in the Castro District, ‘Frisco. Well, Jenny sadly passed on sometime ago while Marcia has been living in Eugene for many years. Man,she sure made some great granola!
Hi Rick, Well, there’s no doubt my brain has things mixed up too. I was there, in that trailer, but I’m not sure when Vic actually left. He may not have been there at the Equinox. But I don’t remember !! Is it age?? Is it something else I had in the course of my employment. I am sure you and I talked, and if we were sitting face to face, I bet it would come back. Other than Vic, and some other visitors I knew before and after, I haven’t seen anyone. I do believe I hung with Richard Trotter afterwards, but soooooo long ago.
I remember a lot of visitors from Fort Ord. One guy brought me a case of peanut butter in exchange for leaving his girlfriend at the camp for awhile.
I’m writing some of this down, plus, buried deep in my stuff, I have some pictures, before, maybe during, and after the festival. I’ll send you all this..I think you have my email from this thread. It’s been great reading this, and sparking those heavy, far out, out of sight, memories. We were there at a very special time.
BTW, don’t remember Marcia and Jenny, I do remember this wonder-woman Lucy from the City, she stayed with me for awhile. I last saw her crossing Fell street in SF a few months later that year, but lost touch.
Thanks again Rick and to the rest of the posters here. PEACE!
Howdy George, and with us both looking back at those crazy times I really do think we deserve some sort of recognition – almost 50 years after the fact – for our superlative care and watch keeping of the Limekiln creek and valley along with our campground duties. Just consider how many young folks came and went that spring and many from the big city with next to nil wilderness or bush sense. Being that it was the only hippie camping spot along the coast there was a constant coming and going and thinking back it would have been cool if we kept a tally. Man, it was quite the crowd without the masses that showed up for the Spring Equinox Festival.
No bush sense? Well, I grew up here along the wet coast here in British Columbia and well knew when there was to be no burning or fires if the forest often drying out later in the summer. Then down there along the Big Sur coast I soon discovered the ground and understory is pretty danged dry most of the year. And I certainly recall havin’ to tell a number of folks that they had pull down their tents and head down to the campground but more importantly you gotta put that fire out like: right now!!!
Yeah, we did a superlative job considering the challenges and I don’t really recall that many serious incidents. Oh yeah, one during the Festival where a stoned out head, slipped off and down over the cliff out on the point. But we did manage to rescue him and he wasn’t injured all that bad after all if I recall correctly…
Then, there was a most humorous encounter I had up the north branch of the creek somehow below the dead cedar tree crossing. It was a group of three or four who were totally stoned on acid apparently and lookin’ very distressed and befuddled. And when I approached them and asked what’s happenin’? “Where’s the campround?! We can’t find it! we’re lost!!” Well, uuhh, “just keep on the trail yer on, and head downstream…”
(We were standin’ just off the creek at the time)
Well, enough of the old daze for now,
Cheers, Rick “Lou Lemming” James
I lived in the trailer by Limekiln creek with Richard Trotter and then we moved up top into a tent under the lemon tree. There was an outdoor sink and a stove setup. One day I heard rattling and Hal grabbed the gun, went behind the sink and shot a 3 foot rattler. Then Hal said, look where theres one theres gonna be another one and sure enough he got another rattler.
Morgan Trotter, grandson of Fern and Frank Trotter, was conceived under that lemon tree.
Then we moved out onto the point above Limekiln and lived in a big army tent with big rocks for a floor. There were other tents full of volkswagen parts and other stuff. One day Richard Trotter and Hal started early in the morning and built a complete running Volkswagen bug and drove off to town that night leaving me out on the point with the dogs a rifle a handgun wild boars and the local mountain lion. I was a city slicker and real scared. The mountain lion showed up and I ran 5 miles down the road with that rifle, loading it up and shooting wildly in pure terror. The guys returned the next day. Good thing no one else was up there, might have been shot.
Hal had a trailer full of dossiers (spelling?) on people in Big Sur. Not sure why but it was kept locked up. He filed a mining claim for molybdemite up above Limekiln and he and Richard would periodically go to King City and apply for blasting permits. This upset the local officials greatly. The real plot was to get paid off to not blast and give up the mining claim. Never happened. Hal also claimed he had spent time spying around in East Germany.
I heard he went to the desert and Richard is now deceased.
Yes I remember the big party – Vernon Gates and the Omega Point Foundation, I believe out of Palo Alto. We were still living in the trailer by the creek. A cop car came down from the bridge. We said don’t cross that creek you’re going to get stuck and they were then stuck – with lots of hippies crawling all over the patrol car. Finally we pushed it back out of the creek – not forward to the beach, they left and stayed up on the highway and bridge for the rest of that wild weekend. A big truck arrived with barrels of wine and they were roasting whole sheep on giant fires on the beach. The fires the drums the dancing and leaping about. Very pagan – a wild freedom unsurpassed on the edge of the continent. Oh ya.
Interesting reading about Elaine Trotter’s nasty encounter with a cougar (mountain lion.) I too had a bad experience on the road running up to the Lemon Tree camp. But in this instance, it was with a Mr. Hinkle who had taken over the Limekiln Creek campsite after Hal Treacy’s lease of the property expired in late spring 1968. After all of us hippies were forced to get the heck out and vacate the campsite, a select few of us were invited to move up to Hal’s lemon tree outdoor kitchen and camp site in the hills above. Then one day, when I was headed up the road from the creek bottom to get up to the pass in order to make my way down to the highway, I ran into Mr. Heinkel coming from the other direction with a number of Forestry officials.
As soon as Hinkle set eyes on me, he yelled “There he is! Grab him!” and charged since I was well known as one of Hal Treacy’s troublesome hippie campground caretakers. Coming right at me at a run, he grabbed me by the shoulders, and pushed me backwards. And as I began to fall, I instinctively raised my foot up on my way down, smacked it onto his chest and was able to flip him over top of me onto the ground behind. Heinkel was quite disturbed by this and as he lay on the ground gathering himself up, I took off running back up to the Lemon tree camp.
So what was the story here? Well, according to Hal Treacy, Hinkle was a highway contractor from Fresno, who had collaborated with Wells Fargo Bank to obtain the Limekiln property lease as a parking area to store his tractors and dump trucks in order to make any bids he put in on Big Sur highway work more competitive. Meanwhile, Hal, along with some associates, had filed mining claims encompassing 640 acres above the Cowell Foundation’s leasehold on Limekiln. (The Henry Cowell Foundation transferred the foundation’s leadership over to Wells Fargo Bank after its senior director passed away.)
After the “Twin Peaks Molybdenum Association” filed claims to Twin Peak’s limestone mountainside, the group also claimed another five acres at the Lemon Tree – with its incredible view over the coastline – for use as their mill site. While we all were protected by the mineral claims rights to use of the the land, later on, what with us group of stoned out hippies living up on the mill site, access was finally prohibited since it required crossing Cowell Foundation lands to get up to it. Then, one afternoon, after we all had smoked some dynamite hashish, a cavalcade of forestry officials and local police officers arrived at the camp, and busted us for illegal camping on forest service land. So us two Canadians (my bud, Patrick Lawson, and myself) decided it be best we hitchhiked back to British Columbia. (As it was, I’d been down there in the good ole U.S. of A. for going on six months so it was time to move on, especially since as a young ‘alien’ male I was about to become eligible for the draft anyway. Like no way did I want my next campground site to end up in Viet Nam!!)
And, hey, —-, that was the worst thing to do when encountering a mountain lion, run from it. Like the cat must have been so delighted to take on a chase. What one is supposed to do is turn and face it down while making a lot of noise and waving your arms around. Recommended reading? my partner, Paula Wild’s book, The Cougar: Beautiful, Wild, and Dangerous which won an independent booksellers award down your way a few years back.
Yeah, so if you wish to share any more stories of those crazy days down there in Limekiln back in the late 1960s feel free to connect with me, Rick James, up here on Vancouver Island: email@example.com
Hi Elaine and Rick, Oh, I have a lot to more to say about the Vernal Equinox 1968, and I have a trove of pictures. I’m sure we all knew each other. Your recollections are pretty spot on with mine. I’ll write up a bunch later. And yes, Hal was great with VW’s. I worked with him one day by the trash dump and basically replaced/rebuilt an engine in about 4 hours. And he was ready for WWIII up there in the meadow (that’s what we called it). He had a lot of stuff stored in that big tent. I was also there when he and Vernon were arrested, and in fact, was a witness for his defense at the trial later that summer in Monterrey. It was a crazy time, and I just found a bunch of pictures, including all the music, and Jen-Fu dancing. More later. Great to hear and be in contact with you both. I’ve never been the same since. My six months there cured me of high school…….Peace
Lucky the mountain lion must have realized I was a hippy fresh out of Haight Ashbury and not really good eating. Had no idea of safe way to react to the big cat. All the dogs ran. Hal used to mention Hinkle. Said Hinkle was wanting to be the next leasee. Hinkle was quite uptight as you discovered. Yes Hal had those big army tents out by the point. One was filled with Volkswagen parts. Early one morning Hal and Richard headed for the VW parts tent and got out a bug frame. They worked all day and by about 8 pm had a working VW bug built from the frame up. Drove to town that night. Hal inferred he’d been a spy in East Germany, hence the interest in compiling dossiers on many locals. They were very free men, loving the mountain, living life on the edge. The adventure was their goal, not big bucks and all its trappings. After we’d all left the mountain Forestry hauled the trailer away. Richard and I rented a tiny house in Monterrey and one night Hal arrived and headed to South Coast with Richard, It was dead of night, they climbed fence, broke into Hals trailers that were in alocked area and retrieved most of Hals papers. Later Hal thought it was great sport to accuse forestry of losing all his files and raised a ruckus. Nothing came of it all except a good story. The Trotters in Big Sur proper had no idea what Richard was up to.
He passed about 6 years ago after five wives and three kids. I was the first wife and knew them all, what a fabulous bunch of women. His real love was Big Sur.
My Big Sur stories continued with the Trotter clan, especially Fern and Frank. Big hearted, hard working, salt of the earth family.
But Limekiln scene was like no other. Pete Slauson in San Rafael has a poster made for the party. Dig it.
Does anyone have any information on that anecdote I’d heard that Manson had once been there briefly? (Presumably that would’ve been right around the time he’d gotten kicked out of Esalen.)
I, Rick James, was there in Limekiln Creek, the only hippie campground down along Big Sur, from mid-February 1968 to when we all got kicked out of there just a short while after the Spring Equinox Festival. Also, during the last month or two I got hired on by Hal Treacey as one of the caretakers. But with that being said, whether Charles Manson ever stayed there who is to know since they was such a crowd just staying for a few nights coming and going. Yeah, it was one very popular spot to get in touch with the essential, so to speak, back then
Also, Manson most definitely didn’t join a handful of us up at Hal”s Lemon tree camp up in the hills above, like some of the tall tales floating around ‘Sur have it to this day, after Limekiln’s hippie fun time camp was shut down. I was up there at Lemon Tree from Day 1 until we all were kicked off there too in May that year and no one who joined our group fit his description, you know, like with his sicko, obsessive chick behaviour.
Also, keep in mind, by early 1968, Esalen wasn’t open to any hippies showing up at the gate. You finally had to pay to stay and visit there.
Hey!! speaking of good ole daze at Limekiln, does anyone have any more photos of those paradise days?
Let’s get back to it:-
Tune in, Turn on, Drop out
Rick “Lou Lemming” James
I was a 18 yr old student at MPC & the McPartland brothers Tam, Tip, & their sister, Jan told me about the festival, so that Friday, we got into my 58 Mercury & drove on down when we got in the The Black Shit Puppy Dog Farm commune band was playing. They took a break & a drunk, hip man in a green fatigue jacket got on the mic & said, “These hippies promised me 40 gallons of Wine, & I haven’t seen any of it yet ! Where’s the WINE where’s the WHINE ?” etc. Someone turned off the sound & Mr. Whine staggered off into the dark. Another memory still with me is the Drums & Head Flutes Jam at “The Lord of the Flies” scene on the beach. I joined in on my Tenor Sax. The Lambs were roasting in the sand pits & pots of Ambrosia Rice were boiling away. I was a paper plate with a dollop of Rice & a bit of Lamb & it was covered with Flies in less than 2 seconds. I kept waving them away. There’s more, but I’ll keep it for another day
A rumor circulates that Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir played there on 3/19/68, possibly on 3/20/68. Anyone recall that happening?
I never saw or heard of Jerry Garcia or Bob Weir ever showin’ up there and playin’ at the Spring Equinox Festival. Keep in mind, I woulda been a big ‘Dead head” by then too.
“Don’t Never Tell Nobody Nothin’ Nohow: The Real Story of West Coast Rum Running” Oct. 2018
Jim Stern, then a local drummer and later a sound engineer at Fantasy Studios, said in a Jake Feinberg interview that his band sort of freaked out and bailed on playing, and said that Garcia and Weir showed up in Big Sur to bail him out. This would have been a sort of jam, presumably with other players, and a sparsely attended thing.The exact date is unclear, but it would have been daytime (March 20 definitely a possibility, and March 21 not out of the question).”
Hello All ! Garcia & Weir might have been in Big Sur in March of 1968, but I never saw any jamming at the Equinox Festival with Jerry Garcia playing with any of the Bands. I was there, Friday night, Saturday day & night, & Sunday day & then left Limekiln around 7 PM when the event was over. I can’t remember the names of 2 of the Bands, one had a Pianist with an Electric Piano, & the other band had a fellow playing a Hammond B-3 Organ with a rotating Leslie speaker cabinet with the back off of it, exposed to the crowd so everybody could see the mechanism spin. The Band with the name I can’t forget, was “The Black Shit Puppy-Dog Farm Commune Band” & they played for 2 hours on Friday night at the start of the Fun.
O yeah Jim Stern was a member of the Side-MInders band that played at the Mission Ranch in Carmel, in the late 60s, Jim & I talked about that, when he hired me to play Irish Uilleann Bagpipes on Van Morrison’s “Beautiful Vision” album, at the Record Plant in Sausalito, back in Sept. of 1981. I don’t remember the Side-Minders even showing at Limekiln, let alone freaking out & leaving, to be replaced by Jerry Garcia. Just to brag a bit, I jammed with the Grateful Dead when they played at MPC in June of 1969. I asked Jerry himself for permission to jam with my Tenor Sax.
Having fled the Haight after the riots, stayed in Lime Kiln previous to this, leaving the last week of February, for the Siskiyous. What a wonderful time to be alive! Publishing my tale of those times soon on SubStack https://gwyllmllwydd.substack.com/
One band name that I can’t forget, was “The Black Shit Puppy Dog Farm Commune Band” They played at Lime Kiln on Friday night. My selective memory of other bands who played there boils down to their equipment (always of interest to musicians). Saturday night there was a fellow with a Hammond B-3 Organ connected to a Leslie rotating speaker box. The works of it were exposed so the audience could see it speed up & slow down on the different notes. On Sunday there was a player with a new electric Piano (new models were flooding the market) but it wasn’t a Fender Rhoads. If anyone can remember more band names, that would be marvelous (@ 53 years-on). Best Wishes, S.F.
Here we were, coming out of the carnival year of 1967. We talked my mom into driving down to Limekiln from Palo Alto with her car packed with kids and blankets. Miles long traffic, so we parked about a mile away. I never saw my mom—or the rest of my family—until back at the car Sunday eve, probably a good thing. The whole three days had a very “end of the sixties” feel for those who enjoyed the early years in the Bay Area. It was sort of a half good, half depressing mood, on reflection now as a historian. Some hard drug use and drunken rants produced chaotic sound effects at night when the music died down a bit. Otherwise beautiful setting and lots of fun. I spent Saturday evening operating a stone furnace I fashioned from rocks on the beach, which worked furiously, fed by wind currents over the top. It ate twenty paper dinner plates every five minutes and was a fun stop-and-see attraction for trippers. So here’s a 12-year-old kid wearing leather clothes with fringes cleaning up the beach with a crowd watching and passing pipes. My older brother was about to succumb to schizophrenia and seemed quite spacy, losing himself entirely on my birthday that November. The atmosphere of Equinox seemed to match his changing behavior, and 1969 certainly mirrored his permanent descent. I think this time period was a generational crossroad 20th-century moment, with the Tet Offensive, global student protests, April 4 (MLK), June 4 (RFK), and the Chicago riots all coming like one long bummer. 1968 trailed off into the rather ugly dead-end of 1969, saved only by Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Altamont was the last straw, signaling the end of the free-concert experience that had begun with Human Be-ins at El Camino Ballpark in 1964 (Palo Alto). My life’s “power band” or arc of age was perfectly suited to observe transitions from beat generation to hippie generation, but what a farcical fate it was to endure the bleak Nixon degeneration (yet a joyous memory compared with our last five years). Early on, the men’s restroom at Stanford’s Tresidder Union Coffee Shop bore the famous graffiti, “Dick Nixon before he dicks you!” Unfortunately, we didn’t succeed in time when it comes to Vietnam. My reviews of earlier memories, like when East Farthing Trading Company popped up, are far more uplifting and florescent. Someone stole my bike on the day it opened and I didn’t care.