Friday, February 19, 2010

Seals make for good birthdays!

For my 33rd birthday I wanted to explore the southern Big Sur coast. Chris and I took off Wednesday night at 4:30 pm and headed south. There was an amazing coastal fog rolling across the ocean and it followed us as we drove south for about an hour. Just at sunset we reached Naciamento Road which is a steep uphill road into the Los Padres National Forest. No guardrails here! We got some great pictures of the sunset from the mountain.
That night we pitched our tent at Kirk Creek campground with an amazing view of the ocean. We spent our evening drinking wine and beer by a lovely fire. When we awoke in the morning we saw a huge pod of dolphins out at sea and we enjoyed watching them while we ate breakfast and broke camp.
Our first stop of the day was Jade Cove. After an exciting hike to the cove which included a 10 foot section of minor repelling we reached a rocky beach. We spent a couple hours searching for jade which is known to wash up frequently on shore here. We found several small pieces that appear to be jade. Next we stopped briefly at Willow Creek and then at Salmon Falls. We also stopped at a little cafe for coffee and chocolate cake. Then we reached the main event - elephant seals at San Simeon. The elephant seals gather on the beach here by the thousands and spring is the time for baby seals. There is a parking lot on the side of Highway One where you park and can walk down a bluff just above the beach. There is only a rail between you and these giant animals. The male elephant seals are as large as a pickup truck and weigh 2-3 tons! They were very vocal; the babies would shove each other around and cry. The males were very territorial with other males and they would bark a loud warning when they felt threatened by another male. There were hundreds of baby seals of varying sizes. We left for a bit and ate lunch on Hearst Beach and walked on the pier where we found an otter playing in the waves.
Then we went back to the elephant seals and found a little-used trail that followed the coast for a mile or two and we were able to check out the seals without any rail at all between us and them. We could get down on the beach with them if we wanted to and Chris got very very close to a huge male for some photos! We finished the day with a picnic on Sand Dollar Beach. What an amazing birthday!!!

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