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!