Spotted! Elephant seal giving birth, California

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway took us past the elephant seal colony at San Simeon, where hundreds of elephant seals beach themselves for about a month each December/January. On a sunny New Years Day, we visited the beach and wandered up and down the boardwalk observing these interesting creatures.

I spotted:

– A calf giving birth to an elephant seal pup. Wow, what a rare sight. A lady who had been there for an hour pointed out this calf that was about to give birth and was having contractions. Sure enough, as I watched she continued the contractions and then pop! Out came a small, dark baby seal. The gulls went berserk, fighting over the placenta that they gobbled down like a pack of, well seagulls. Then the mother and pup make these sounds to bond with each other.

– The large, unattractive males with their proboscis noses honking and shuffling around the sand. They stay on the beach for about a month, losing half of their body weight in that time.

– Tiny, dark baby seals cuddling up to their mothers and suckling on their teats. The mothers constantly throw sand on themselves, possibly to keep the heat at bay.

– Another fine west coast sunset. Glorious!

– And then a mile down the road a field of zebras. Zebras! In California. Sure why not…

McWay Falls, Big Sur California

I thought driving the Big Sur coastline from Monterey to Santa Barbara during Winter would allow us the place to ourselves mostly. Even though it was the New Year period, I still thought it wouldn’t be crowded and we could see the ‘hidden gems’ I had seen online and was eagerly awaiting the chance to explore.

However I was wrong. Ok so New Years Day probably wasn’t the best time to ensure ‘crowd free’ sightseeing, but it was unbelievable the amount of tourists on the Pacific Coast Drive that day. The car park for McWay falls was well overflowing, and cars lined the road for nearly half a mile in each direction. I guess seeing as this attraction is visible from the Highway it’s not missed by many, 99% of cars and tourists would be stopping here. I was already crowd forlorn by the time we joined the pilgrimage down to the boardwalk that snakes around the headland to see views of McWay falls, an 80 ft stream of water that flows right onto the sand. We didn’t even get into the road to see China Cove in Point Lobos National Park, and the road to Pfieiffer beach was closed so I had very high expectations of McWay Falls fulfilling my nature needs.

Luckily the beach and falls are very picturesque and a great vista to look out on from the boardwalk. The trillion visitors treading the planks got great photos of the view, like I did above. Not a very unique experience but a special place nonetheless.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

On our epic drive down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles, we stopped in for a quick visit to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. A film scene from one of my all time favourite movies ‘The Lost Boys’ I was keen to feel the seaside carnival love.

We arrived late in the afternoon and the sun was just setting off the beach, which you can access from the boardwalk. As it was New Years Eve there were quite a few riders hanging around, but it wasn’t too crowded.

I was mainly disappointed with the Boardwalk. It felt a little rundown, a little seedy and shabby. The whole area surrounding the boardwalk also seemed a bit questionable, somewhere I wouldn’t like to be at night. Most of the crowd going on the rides were teenagers, it didn’t have many families like you may find at Santa Monica Pier. Maybe earlier in the day or when it is busier (like summer) it has a nicer feel. As it was a weekday not all of the rides were open either. We only were there about 20 minutes, got some lovely late afternoon light for photographs and then moved on, continuing our drive to Monterey.

Sometimes you can have an experience somewhere that is completely different to others on a different day, or time of year. I was happy that I got my ‘Lost Boy’s’ fix in the end. Out of our drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, it wasn’t one of the highlights (though it’s hard to compete with Carmel-By-The-Sea and the coastline of the Big Sur!)