Exploring the California Coast

We took a two-day drive down California Highway 1 to visit my sweetheart’s family for Thanksgiving. Morro Bay is only 220 miles from Oakland, but Highway 1 is a windy road and we had to stop and see the sights. A lot.

Pacific OceanObviously, you can see the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes it’s bordered by sand, sometimes by rocks, and sometimes, as in this shot, by both.

archwaveAnd sometimes the rocks are out in the water, as in these two pictures of the same arch out in the ocean. The ocean looked calm when I first saw the arch, but then the waves came crashing through.

This was on the beach on Forest Service land near Big Sur. As I understand it, all the rocky hills along the coast are the result of long ago earthquakes.

The next shot is the view from the little cafe where we ate breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. A beautiful view is something for which I can always be thankful.


the view from breakfastThe ocean looks inviting in this next picture, but every place you go has big signs that say “No Swimming or Wading.” The currents are dangerous. Also, the water is cold.

ocean coveOf course, water isn’t the only thing you can see on the coast. There’s a lot of wildlife, too. As we got farther south, we stopped to look at the elephant seals.

elephant sealsFascinating creatures. These are mostly adolescent ones, but the males get bigger than two tons. They spend big chunks of their lives at sea and, despite being mammals, can stay underwater for up to an hour. They swim thousands of miles, eating everything they can (and providing meals for orcas), then come back to the beach to lie in the sun and fast. The alpha males stake out patches of beach in January, and the females come in, pick a beach and a male, and give birth to their pups. After nursing the pups for about four weeks, they go into estrus and mate. Then they take off swimming again, leaving the pups to fend for themselves.

I don’t know if anyone has done it, but I think one could build a fascinating alien culture out of elephant seals.

Here’s out ending point, Morro Bay, as seen from Black Hill just to the east of town:

Morro BayWe went kayaking around the sand spit and saw some live sand dollars and lots of pelicans, but I wasn’t sure enough of my kayaking skills to take my camera with me. The towers to the right are the smokestacks of a now-defunct power plant. There are major discussions about what to do with it.

All in all, an excellent Thanksgiving.



Exploring the California Coast — 5 Comments

  1. You have been to the pier in downtown San Francisco? Where some years ago the elephant seals decided to move in, displacing the tony yachts. It is illegal to disturb or displace them, so the yacht owners who had paid a fortune for their downtown boat berths had to go, and the seals took over. You can now dine in the dockside restaurants (all of which are more popular than ever) and watch the seals while drinking a prosecco.

    • I didn’t know about San Francisco, but I just looked it up and I believe those are sea lions, which are similar to elephant seals but not as big. I’ll have to go across the bay and enjoy the view.

      Harbor seals have done something similar in La Jolla down near San Diego. They took over a beach that had been used for picnics and such. The elephant seals we saw also took over a formerly public beach. There are lots of signs reminding people that these are big and dangerous wild animals, so don’t go down and mess with them!

      • I think it is Pier 9 — touristy, but the sea lions are a continual draw, snoozing, pushing each other into the water, having sex, and in general putting on a show. There is also a grand carousel and a ton of boutiquey stores.

  2. Thanks for the excellent photos. Next time drive another 8 minutes past Moro to Cayucos. The Shoreline Inn is hard by the beach. No need to cross the 1; just step out of your room and stick your toes in the sand. I recommend it highly.