‘Oh, to make art as powerful as a single storm-fed wave building, cresting, breaking.’
I’ve spent the last four days at one of my favourite places in Bayarea. The cabins at Steep Ravine just south of Stinson Beach (an hour’s drive along the windey coastal road north of San Francisco). Mount Tamalpais State Parks maintains 10 rustic cabins right on the ocean’s edge facing north towards Bolinas and Point Reyes.
The cabins were built at the base of Steep Ravine Canyon in the 1940s by a Marin landowner, William Kent, Jr., who leased them to Bay Area families. In 1960, the state acquired the land and they became the focal point of controversy between leaseholders and the state. Their future unresolved, the structures fell into a sorry state and were threatened with destruction until the park restored them in 1980. Each building received a new roof and interior; woodstoves, tables, and sleeping platforms were installed, and steps and paths built. On April 1, 1984, 10 of the 14 original cabins (some were beyond repair) were included in the state environmental campground system. They were made available for $12/night!! Its now $100/night but still worth every penny in my opinion.
Some of you may have been lucky enough to see the exhibition “Life Surrounding a Cabin: Dorothea Lange at Steep Ravine” which was shown at the Marin History Museum in late 2006 and then subsequently at the SF Public Library in early 2008 and at the Bolinas Museum and Stinson Library in mid 2008. The images they used are from the rich archive of the Oakland Museum of California.
Dorothea and her family rented a cabin at Steep Ravine in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Her images look like they were taken in the same cabins yesterday.
“I began to wonder what it was that made us all feel, the minute we went over the brow of that hill, a certain sense of – not peace, particularly, or enjoyment – freedom. Then, I thought, I could do a real sequence, a series of photographs on the subject of freedom, of which the cabin would be the device.”
– Dorothea Lange
You can book the cabins online if you’re lucky – they seem perpetually booked out. But mid-winter, or even better mid-winter storm, there are often last minute cancellations to be nabbed. Cancellations more than 48 hours in advance can be booked online. Otherwise you have to head to the Pan Toll Ranger’s Station near Mt. Tamalpais to get in the 2pm daily lottery for available cabins.