While working on his second novel, John Steinbeck
wrote to his literary agent describing his new
"There is," he wrote, "about twelve
miles from Monterrey, a valley in the hills called
Corral de Tierra. I have named it Las Pasturas
del Cielo." This became the title and subject
of his second novel.
In Pastures of Heaven, Steinbeck first portrayed
what would become the central core of his greatest
works, the land and people of the Salinas Valley
and Monterrey peninsula, who are best revealed
in his classic novels, The Grapes of Wrath and
East of Eden.
While Steinbeck wrote fiction, his vision of the
"pastures of heaven," of what today
is called the Carmel Valley, is vividly true.
I discovered it too driving south along the Pacific
Coast Highway, past the beautiful crescent of
beaches in Monterrey, a short drive inland from
the quaint city of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
I stayed at the Carmel Valley Ranch (800-422-7635),
a California ranch-style resort, set on 1,700
acres of lush green rolling hills, just a ten
minute drive from Carmel's beaches and art galleries.
The weather in Carmel Valley is better than on
the coast with fewer rainy days and less fog.
It has been described as the "sunny side
of the Monterrey Peninsula." The resort itself
surrounds a prestigious 18-hole golf course. Driving
through the guard-gated entry, along the margins
of the golf course, you come upon the main lodge,
a building reminiscent of an old country estate.
There is no formal hotel desk. You enter rather
into a comfortable parlor style lobby and are
soon guided to one of 144 individual condo-style
suites that are tucked into the hillsides overlooking
a golf course surrounded by an oak tree forest.
Each suite has a parlor room with a wood-burning
fireplace, comfortable furniture, a television,
and well-stocked bar. Through a separate doorway,
you enter a large bedroom with cathedral ceilings,
its own fireplace and t.v. An exterior deck overlooks
the golf course. The luxury suites have wraparound
decks with private outdoor spas. While normal
rates vary depending on season from $255-550,
there are several attractive golf, spa, tennis,
romantic, and holiday "packages."
This is a golfer's paradise. The Carmel Valley
Ranch course is a short Pete Dye design, a "target"
golf course as opposed to a long course. A moderately
difficult one that doesn't require a long shot.
Carmel and the Monterrey Peninsula have been ranked
as the number one golf course destination in the
world by Golf Digest. Here, along a 17-mile scenic
drive, you'll find the courses of Pebble Beach,
Spy Glass Hill, Spanish Bay, and Poppy Hills.
And here each February the AT&T Pro-Am golf
classic is played.
Besides golf, Carmel Valley Ranch has a tennis
club, offers horseback riding along verdant hillsides,
and has a fitness center with spa services offered
in room next to your fireplace.
You can dine in the main lodge's Oaks restaurant
serving traditional California cuisine, in the
Ranch House grill that supports the tennis complex,
or the golf course Clubhouse.
The resort is ten minutes from Carmel-by-the-Sea.
There you can explore myriad galleries. You might
consider breakfast at The Tuck Box, a fairy tale
cottage restaurant famous for its English scones,
with a uniqueness that defines Carmel's charm.
I enjoyed an intimate Italian dinner in one of
the booths in Carmel's Tutto Mondo restaurant.
Candles burn in chianti bottles on butcher block
tables. A crackling fireplace glows in a far corner.
Here you ought to keep an eye out for Carmel's
former mayor, Clint Eastwood. Adorning the trattoria's
walls, are numerous pictures of him dining here.
Fifteen minutes north of Carmel Valley you'll
find Monterrey with its Fisherman's Wharf, Cannery
Row, and famous aquarium. Thirty minutes south
and you're in Big Sur.
Carmel and the Monterrey Peninsula is also an
up and coming wine region. There are many wineries
here but they're more spread out than in the more
famous California wine region of Napa-Sonoma.
However, just a few minutes from Carmel Valley
Ranch you can taste the best of Talbott, Chalon,
Bernardus, and Chateau Julien wineries.
In his Pastures of Heaven, Steinbeck wrote about
a group of converted Indians who fled from the
Mission in Carmel in 1776. A Spanish corporal
and a troop of horsemen were sent out to retrieve
them. One day, the corporal chased a deer in pursuit
of his dinner and found himself at the top of
a ridge overlooking a valley.
Steinbeck wrote, he was "sticken with wonder
before a long valley floored with green pasture.
Perfect live oaks grew in the meadow and the hills
hugged it jealously against the fog and the wind.
The corporal felt weak in the face of so serene
a beauty. 'Holy Mother,' he whispered. 'Here are
the green pastures of heaven to which our Lord
That is how John Steinbeck described the Carmel
Valley. I cannot describe it any better.