Quest for a Coastside Labyrinth Travels from a Quarry to Lands End and Back Again

Why walk a labyrinth? Actor Jeff Bridges, who portrayed the ultimate slacker in “The Big Lebowski,” offers this:

“With a labyrinth, you make a choice to go in – and once you’ve chosen, around and around you go. But you always find your way to the center.”

Nice centering metaphor. That is until someone completely lacking in inner peace pitches the labyrinth’s border stones into the ocean. Bummer.

A maze is not a labyrinth. A maze is a puzzle, circling back on itself and employing dead ends and other means to thwart completion. A labyrinth is a patterned path to a center, intended to promote tranquility rather than frustration. It seems like a Coastside natural.

The Coastside Slackers first got interested in labyrinths sometime late in the 20th century at a family reunion in New Harmony, Indiana. It was July. It was hot. It was sticky. New Harmony’s polished granite path, which replicates the specifications of a labyrinth found in the Chartres Cathedral in France, offered an opportunity to refocus our minds away from the miserable heat.

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The Geek walks the Labyrinth at Smale Riverfront Park in Cincinnati. Dan Page / CoastsideSlacking
Some 15 years later, while living in Cincinnati, Ohio, The Geek became enamored of the labyrinth in Smale Riverfront Park. Overlooking the Ohio River, that particular granite path provided her relief from an oppressive travel schedule on those rare occasions she was in town.

Last winter, after days of steady rain, we stumbled across a Coastside labyrinth at Quarry Park in El Granada. The park was sloppy wet. Trees were down. The hillside trails were deeply scored from water. Lowland trails were flooded. Amid the damp, the labyrinth itself sat in the sunshine at the bottom of an abandoned quarry.  We kinda liked it, but we wanted more.

So, reinspired to seek out the perfect Coastside labyrinth, we recently hiked out to the labyrinth at Lands End, west of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Created by Eduardo Aguilera in 2004, it’s occasional destruction and subsequent resurrection invites headlines. Bottom line, it gets a lot of press.

The Lands End labyrinth is intact these days and it certainly is a lovely, peaceful spot. We thoroughly enjoyed the unique east-facing view of the bridge, the beautiful rocky beach below and the container ship traffic passing by. Even the tourists snapping selfies and ussies were amusing. But after navigating city streets in San Francisco and traversing 397 stair steps from the San Francisco VA Medical Center parking lot down to the beach and back up again, we were determined to find something closer to home. And perhaps with fewer flights.

So, we turned to the World-wide Labyrinth Locator (yup, there really is such a thing) to see what else was in the region. The Locator pinpointed a “classical labyrinth created on the Spring equinox of 2009 with stones on an outcropping in Pillar Point Harbor.”

Perfect! How had we missed it previously?

But when we drove down to the harbor to check it out … gone! Stones thrown into the harbor, according to neighbors on NextDoor. Perhaps the faintest of outlines remained amid weeds, smaller stones and dog poop. Sad.

Had the labyrinth at Quarry Park met the same fate? We headed over. Not surprisingly, the park at dried out over the summer. Most trails had been repaired. We hiked up the shady half-mile grade that leads to the floor of the quarry and … whew. The labyrinth was intact. We were alone.

It looked kinda small and forgotten amid the dry late-summer weeds. Just 332 steps to the center and back out again. And the setting beneath a bluff created by workers who quarried rock for both Highway 1 and Eddie Andreini Sr. Airfield (Half Moon Bay Airport) seemed hardly tranquil at first blush.

But, then again, perhaps a true labyrinth experience has little to do with ocean vistas, stately cathedrals and grand city parks. Perhaps the trappings are merely distractions on the journey to the center. Perhaps a simple physical, mental or prayerful path to focus your thoughts is all you need to find a moment of peace and tranquility.


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MontaraManDan’s Pop with the grandkids at New Harmony, circa the turn of the century. Dan Page / CoastsideSlacking

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