(from Dreaming As One
Poetry, Poets and Community in Bolinas, California
1967 - 1980

by Kevin Opstedal


It's easy to miss the turn-off. The road isn't marked. You've just driven north through the little town of Stinson Beach. Two-lane Highway 1 snakes between the edges of steep hills and arroyos on the right and a wide flat lagoon on the left. It's a winding corridor lined with eucalyptus, oak, willow, pine and alder trees. The lagoon, a mudflat at low tide, where egrets and herons hunt, and seals bask in the sunlight. As you drive past the lagoon there's a road to the left nearly hidden by dense trees and shrubs. You make that sharp left turn and another left, drive another mile or so on a straightaway beneath a canopy of eucalyptus, past an old-time country schoolhouse, until you see the street-sign for Mesa Road. Turning right you drive uphill through more eucalyptus, past a house or two just off the road. Near the top of the climb at Overlook Drive, you turn left. You are now on the Bolinas mesa.

One of the first things one might hear about Bolinas is the missing road sign. It is legendary. Sometime in the early 1970's, no one seems to know exactly when, the sign disappeared. Caltrans replaced the sign, and it promptly disappeared once again. Actually the sign didn't ''disappear'', it was removed. This disappearing act was often attributed to the Bolinas Border Patrol, a shadowy ad hoc guerrilla organization which, depending on who you talk to, either does or doesn't exist. Caltrans continued to replace the ''Bolinas 2 Miles'' sign on a fairly regular basis into the 1980's. The Bolinas Border Patrol dutifully removed the sign each time. Finally Caltrans just gave up.

On the mesa lies a grid of roads, most of them unpaved. Nestled in among the cypress, coyote brush and eucalyptus are housesóbetter described as cottages or bungalows, some no more than shacks, some prefab A-frames, or geodesic domes, while others are rustic wooden structures that seem to be a cross between a ranch-style tract home, a TV western set, and a Nantucket bed and breakfast. Various cars, trucks & vans parked along the road or in driveways run the gamut from rusted-out vintage VWs, late model pick-ups, and spanking new SUVs. As you drive along you catch a glimpse of a bumper sticker on one beat-up white Toyota pick-up parked on the side of the road - the bumper sticker reads ''Bolinas Border Patrol''.

You get out of the car and look around. It was here, on the Bolinas mesa, that a remarkable number of important American poets made their home during the 1970s. Why were these poets, which together represent a solid core sample of the avant-garde poets of the time, drawn to this remote little California coastal village? It was, and is, a beautiful spot. The rural setting of the mesa, the little downtown area on Wharf Road, the lagoon, the beach - Bolinas is a special place and in itself is as significant a character in this story as anyone who lived there.

Along with the important contingent of American poets that gathered in Bolinas at that time was also a varied group of psychedelic refugees, radical representatives of the sixties counterculture, artists, writers and visionaries. Together they created a community that was as unique and eclectic as were these individuals themselves.


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Go to Table of Contents for Dreaming As One

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