Tag Archive | Harbor Seal

California Road Trip: The 17 Mile Drive

After visiting the San Carlos de Borromeo Mission, we headed into the nearby town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.  Carmel is a cute, resort town a few miles away from Monterey, which has evolved as a quirky, artsy community over the years.  Back in the early 1900s, several well-known writers lived there, including Jack London, Ambrose Bierce, Upton Sinclair and Sinclair Lewis.  Apparently it is very dog friendly, with pups being welcomed in most shops and hotels and the outdoor areas of restaurants.  Clint Eastwood was the Mayor there for one term in the late 1980s.  Curiously, there is a law prohibiting wearing women from wearing heels over two inches high – to lessen the risk of lawsuits from tripping on the sidewalks, which are uneven from being pushed up by tree roots.  If you are interested in wearing high heels, don’t worry, you can get a permit for free from City Hall – and the law is not enforced.

After checking out Carmel, we continued to the 17 Mile Drive.  The 17 Mile Drive is a scenic drive in the gated community of Pebble Beach.  Non-residents must pay a toll of $9.75 to get into the community – but you get a map with your admission, and once in, you can travel at your leisure visiting the many scenic vistas and pull-outs along the drive.  The map gives you a bit of information about each of the stops.

The day we were there, it was a bit foggy – that is typical – but relatively warm for March, with just a mild breeze.  There were some surfers catching a wave off the beach and we watched them for a few minutes before continuing on our way.  China Rock was next – named for the Chinese immigrants who made their homes in lean-tos against the rocks in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  They fished and polished agates to sell to tourists to make a living.

A Cloudy Day at the 17 Mile Drive

A Cloudy Day at the 17 Mile Drive

One interesting vista point is at Bird Rock.  As the story goes, Bird Rock was called that because thousands of birds roosted there.  Bird Rock was harvested for its rich deposits of guano back in the early 1900s (bird poop makes great fertilizer!) and after the guano was gone, the seals and sea lions decided this rock seemed like a good place to hang out!  So now, Brandt’s Cormorants, Western Gulls, pelicans and Ashy Petrels hang out with California Sea Lions and Harbor Seals, all vying for the perfect spot.

Bird Rock on the 17 Mile Drive - Get Your Fill of Guano Here!

Bird Rock on the 17 Mile Drive – Get Your Fill of Guano Here!

In the parking lot of the view point, there are several California Ground Squirrels that make their home in burrows they have dug in the rocky soil at the edge of the water.  Even though there are several signs asking tourists to not feed the animals, and their fleas can carry bubonic plague (not something I want any experience with!) we found someone ignoring the signs right away…

A Tourist Feeding Ground Squirrels

A Tourist Feeding Ground Squirrels

Fanshell Overlook is a great place to spot Harbor Seals.  The moms and pups love the soft white sand beach so much that they close the beach from April 1 to June 1.  During our visit there were already seals there hanging out enjoying their time on the beach.  I could stand there and watch them for hours…

Harbor Seals on the Beach Below Fanshell Overlook

Harbor Seals on the Beach Below Fanshell Overlook

Another of the scenic pull-outs is at the Lone Cypress, which is a Monterey Cypress tree growing on a rock outcropping jutting out into the bay.  Monterey Cypress trees are native to only two small areas, at Cypress Point in Pebble Beach and at Point Lobos near Carmel.  The trees in these native stands are up to 40 meters tall, 2.5 meters diameter and 300 years old.  These trees are unique because as they age, they take on a twisted, spread-out form due to the high winds that they are exposed to on the coast of California.

The Lone Cypress - Estimated Age 250 Years

The Lone Cypress – Estimated Age 250 Years

The Lone Cypress Isn't Really As Lonely As They Make It Out To Be

The Lone Cypress Isn’t Really As Lonely As They Make It Out To Be

As you drive, you see the beautiful homes of the rich and famous – this is some of the most exclusive real estate in the world.  Some of its famous residents include Charles Schwab, King Merrill Chase (GM Executive), George Lopez, Clint Eastwood and Condoleeza Rice.  On the drive, you also come upon the Pebble Beach Golf Links and the Pebble Beach Lodge.  The lodge is open to the public, and so is the golf course, but at $495 for 18 holes, it is a bit rich for my blood.  You can stay at the historic Lodge (built in 1919) starting at a mere $745 per night!  I better keep looking for my anonymous benefactor…  Good thing golf isn’t really my sport anyway.  I’ll stick to mini-golf!

A View of the Pacific Ocean Through the Gnarled Cypress Trunks

A View of the Pacific Ocean Through the Gnarled Cypress Trunks

The entire drive is 17 miles, and is well worth the time.  The only thing that would have made it better is if we had blue skies – but I suppose the cloudy weather probably meant that there were fewer tourists.  There are only limited options for food and fuel (super expensive gas!) – the Pebble Beach Lodge does have a public restroom tucked in among the many ritzy golf shops and clothing boutiques.

After our slow cruise through the 17 Mile Drive, it was time to hit the highway for our next destination – Sacramento!

Advertisements

California Road Trip: Monterey Bay Aquarium

Our next day in Monterey was dedicated to going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  We slept in a bit, and then walked from downtown out to the Aquarium – a distance of 1.7 miles.  It was a great walk along the harbor towards Cannery Row.  There is a nice paved walking trail that goes right along the water, then breaks away from the water to meander through a park, and a cute touristy shopping area.  Once we got to the aquarium, there was a long line.  I didn’t realize it was Spring Break for California schools – Spring Break at home wasn’t for another week!  So although we had to share the aquarium with more (SCREAMING!) children than usual, we enjoyed the visit.

Harbor Seal Outside Monterey Bay Aquarium

Harbor Seal Outside Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Bay Aquarium opened in 1984 on the site of a former cannery.  Cannery Row was the home base for an active sardine fishery from 1916 until the final collapse of the sardine industry in 1973.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium primarily focuses on plants and animals that are native to the Pacific Ocean, and they are one of the premier research institutions in the United States for several animals, including Great White Sharks.

Sardines at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Sardines at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

They have an Open Sea exhibit, jellyfish of every size and shape, sea horses (they are so cool!), and a Kelp Forest with lots of native fish living among the beautiful tall plants.  Jon and I really liked the Open Sea exhibit – it was very peaceful just watching the tuna and the sharks mingle with the sardines and other fish.  I imagine that they interact as they might in the wild.

Giant Sea Bass at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Giant Sea Bass at Monterey Bay Aquarium

We also really enjoyed the bird aviary.  The Aquarium has a program for raising and releasing several species of birds, but there are a couple at the aviary that cannot be released for whatever reason, and they use these birds to raise chicks from incubated eggs at the Aquarium.  You can get super-close to the birds in the aviary, but they are just going about their business, not paying any attention to the people watching them.

Sleepy Bird at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Sleepy Bird at Monterey Bay Aquarium

All in all, we saw Sandbar sharks, Leopard sharks, Hammerhead sharks, Sevengill sharks, several kinds of tuna, Giant Sea Bass, Giant Pacific Octopus, a Leatherback Sea Turtle,  Sturgeon, a dozen types of seahorses, a dozen types of jellyfish, Wolf and Moray eels, giant Lobsters, Puffins, Penguins, Snowy Plovers, a Laysan Albatross, White Sturgeon, Bat Rays, and many other animals.  It was a great experience, except for all the screaming children.  My ears certainly took a beating and I fought a headache most of the time that I was there.  But I did enjoy my visit.

A Gorgeous Black and White Bird at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

A Gorgeous Black and White Bird at the Monterey Bay Aquarium – I Loved This Little Guy!

After we left the Aquarium, we walked back up to the hotel through Cannery Row.  It is a strip of touristy gift shops and high end boutiques.  We stopped and had a late lunch at the Ambrosia Indian Cafe, with Basmati Rice, Butter Chicken, Tofu Masala.  It was quick and delicious and really hit the spot after our hours at the Aquarium.

The best part of the walk back to the hotel was along the marina.  There we spotted about a dozen harbor seals sunning themselves on the rocks in the shallow waters close to shore.  They are very cute – they balance themselves on the rocks – heads and tails held up!  It looks like they are planking – what I wouldn’t give to have core muscles like that (without the blubber of course)!  We also saw a couple of sea otters, but unfortunately they were a bit far away to get a good photo.

Seals "Planking" in Monterey

Seals “Planking” in Monterey

I really loved my visit to the Aquarium and walking along the boardwalk enjoying the sunshine with Jon.  And the day wasn’t even finished!