Thursday, May 9, 2013

Elephant Seals in Piedras Blancas, California


Has it already been a week since I last blogged about the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California as part of The Tablescaper's weekly Friday blog event called "Oh, the Places I've Been"? This has been a very busy week for me, as I had been babysitting on and off for my little grandsons as well as my baby granddaughter, so there was very little computer time during the day and an exhausted grandmother in the evening.  I am really enjoying it all, however, and this week will be less hectic. We actually had rain this week, and not snow, so I think Spring has finally arrived on the front range of Colorado!

When my husband and I continued on our car ride along the coast of California on Pacific Highway 1, two years ago from San Diego to San Francisco, we stopped next at Piedras Blancas where the Elephant Seal Rookery is located. This area is about fours miles north of the Hearst Castle, and as you can see by the photo above the shoreline is craggy and the view of the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean is spectacular! I would have liked to grab a beach chair and sit on the edge of the cliff for awhile, watching the waves come in, like the fellow in the top left portion of my photo was doing.



As we walked closer to the shore we could see some seals swimming in the water. 


They are called elephant seals because of the bulbous nose of the male of the species, which can grow as long as two feet!  In the 1880's northern elephant seals were thought to be extinct, over harvested by shore whalers and sealers for their blubber, which was second only to the sperm whale's blubber. A small group survived, between 20-100 elephants on Guadalupe Island off Baja, California. Protected first by Mexico, and then the United States, their number slowly increased and their range expanded. Today they are protected from hunting and harassment, and their total population is now estimated at over 170,000.  



Many elephant seals were stretched out on the sand, asleep. They come to the Piedras Blancas location  to breed and raise their pups. This location is ideal for the seals as it is protected by the point from storms and has wide sandy beaches and shallow water off the shoreline, which offers the seal pups protection from high water while they learn to swim.  The water also contains a kelp forest (seaweed) which helps to protect the pups from predators. 



Male elephant seals grow to 14-16 feet long and weigh in at about 3000-5000 pounds, or more!


This seal was busy flipping the sand over its body with its fin.



You can see some kelp that washed up along the shore among the seals. The seals fast while they are on land, and both males and females lose about 1/3 of their body weight during the breeding season that begins in November. The Friends of the Elephant Seals web site has a great deal of information about the seals as well as web cam views, as well as this video link that has wonderful views of long nosed males.


The Piedras Blancas Light station was in the distance.


We also stopped to see the Piedras Blancas Light Station on the point, but it is closed to the public except for scheduled tours as the area is a sanctuary for wildlife. This is the closest shot I could get with my camera lens. The lighthouse was commissioned by President Andrew Johnson in 1866, and it opened in 1875. It was fully manned until 1975 when it became automated. You can watch an interesting Youtube video about the lighthouse on this link.



Double click on this photo to read this interesting placard about the California Coastal Trail.


The Pacific Ocean is truly a magnificent and ever changing sight to see! In my next "Oh the Places I've Been" post next week I'll show you my favorite portion of ocean--the Big Sur!


We were back on the road--excited to see what was ahead up the Pacific Coast Highway!  It was a drive we'll never forget!



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30 comments:

Pondside said...

We see the Orcas along our coast in the summer time - and what a thrill it is! The seals are all calving right now, so it's fun to go down to see them sunning on the rocks. It must have been wonderful to see all that in sunny California!

ladyfi said...

What delightful views from the highway.

Happier Than a Pig in Mud said...

I love the gorgeous colors in that first pic Pat! Looks like a fun trip:@)

Pamela Gordon said...

Beautiful photos Pat! Such a nice place to visit and I doubt I'll ever see it so I thank you for sharing it here. Pam

Cheryl @ TFD said...

I loved seeing photos of this trip! So scenic and interesting there. I'd love to see California, but doubt I'll ever get hubby there. He'll go as far as Vegas and that's it! :) I must have missed the last post about the Hearst Castle, so I'm off to see it! Have a great day!

Nellie said...

Wonderful pictures, Pat!

I thought about you with the latest report of snow in Colorado. Perhaps spring is finally making an appearance for you.

It sounds like your days are full of being with family. Such fun that must be!

Have a good Thursday.

ellen b. said...

I think another bloggy friend was just at this spot and showed a photo of the sea lions from her road trip to Northern Cali and back home to Southern Cali. It's amazing how much of California I never experienced all those years of living there. I love blogging and seeing more of the world opened up to me. Thanks for your part in that!

eileeninmd said...

Beautiful photos from your trip, Pat! The sea lions are neat! The coastline is beautiful!

Paula's Postings said...

I am enjoying your California trip Pat those photo's are stunning.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Wonderful photos, Pat! I remember seeing the seals in San Francisco when we were there but I don't think they were the elephant seals. What huge creatures!

camp and cottage living said...

The California Coast is definitely on my bucket list.
Your photos make me want to visit it even more!
I had never heard of elephant seals either. So funny looking!

Vee said...

It looks like a wonderful adventure. I noticed that figure sitting on the cliff and thought how marvelous that would be.

Margaret said...

I'm enjoying your trip Pat! Very interesting commentary, beautiful photos! I'm away next week on a repositioning cruise, however I'm looking forward to seeing Big Sur when I get back :) When my husband and I drove down the Pacifc Coast Hwy.from Vancouver, must be 30 years ago, I remember being very disapointed to not see Big Sur, that stretch of hwy was closed due to mud slides. We had to head inland and from Los Angeles drove to Las Vegas. We have never driven all the way to San Diego. Thank-you for sharing your wonderful trip! Enjoy spring Pat!
Margaret from B.C.

Michelle said...

This trip sounds so wonderful. I cannot imagine the scenery. The seals would be exciting to me.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Those seals are quite the sight to behold aren't they? And what a beautiful part of the California coastline.

Cindy said...

Your photos are gorgeous! Isn't it exciting to see wildlife like that? I have never seen the elephant seal, only the one that is on Oregon and BC coast, they are noisy creatures. Not beautiful perhaps, but they are certainly fascinating! Your photos are breathtaking.
Have fun with the littles, you lucky grandma!

gracie1961 said...

Finally had time to read your recent posts and as always it's been a pleasure! It's so nice to discover new parts of this world, thanks.

Sara said...

Hello Pat. Thank you for this elephant seal post, with all the good information. YOu certainly do a much better job than I do when it comes to informing your readers. It's so interesting, also, to see this locale as you saw it two years ago when my husband and I just stopped there a couple weeks ago ourselves and I took a few photos. I did not get to see the males close up, but the beaches were covered thickly with all the other younger and female species. Quite a sight! And now I'm looking forward to your presentation of Big Sur!

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

You are always a storehouse of information! I've been there...seen the elephant seals...and now I am learning all about them on your blog. :) Amazing, aren't they?

Diane said...

The ride up the Pacific Coast Highway is the best road trip, ever. Thanks for reminding me how much fun it can be and how absolutely stunning the scenery is. I certainly did not know all about the elephant seals - so interesting!!

Skye said...

Those are some ginormous seals! Wow! What great pictures of them! And the snow - yes, I can't believe Colorado got all that snow in April and even May - it's crazy! What different weather than NY for sure! ALthough things were wacky here too this spring - it just got warm a few weeks ago. Everything bloomed super late... Oh well. It's here now!

Sonia said...

Highway one is our favorite drive! My husband is from California and although we don't live there anymore...we try to visit the coast as often as possible!
Your pictures are wonderful and make me long for the Pacific! Thanks for sharing!
Miss Bloomers

podso said...

Amazing pictures! And I bet you are wonderfully busy, Pat, and will have a wonderful mother's day with you all together! Have a great weekend!

Theanne said...

loved your post...the seals are wonderful...so happy they're not extinct!!

diane b said...

It sure is a beautiful drive. We saw the seals last time we were there it is not far from San Luis Obispo where we were staying with my cousin.

Pink Roses and Teacups said...

What beautiful countryside! I would love to visit there sometime. thanks for coming by my blog, and for your nice comments.

Debbie

Mary said...

Pat~ You share the most wonderful travel posts, it's a virtual vacation visiting with you! Love seeing the seals sunning themselves on the beach!

Glad you are enjoying your time with your grandchildren! Happy Mother's Day to you!

The Tablescaper said...

I've never heard of elephant seals. So neat, so interesting.

Happy to have you at "Oh, the PLACES you've been!"

- The Tablescaper

AdriBarr said...

What wonderful photos! Don't they look cool just laying around like The Big Kahuna, one and all. Isn't it wonderful that they are protected, too. They need the help of humankind, and it warms my heart to see that they are getting it. This made me smile. Thanks, Pat!

Mary @ The World Is A Book said...

We love visiting the elephant seals here. My kids could have stayed here all day during our last visit. Driving PCH along the Central California Coast is one of my favorite drives. Beautiful pictures!