Last April we went on a Californian adventure so overwhelmingly full and varying in sights and experiences, I didn't know where to begin when we got home. (I think we began by heading straight to the Canadian border for a high school baseball game. Life doesn't pause.)
With some time gone by, many highlights stand out on their own.
Recollecting one of them today..
After making our way down the breathtaking Big Sur Coast, 80+ miles of intense hairpin twists, turns, and cliffs behind us, our route evened out more low and smooth. We'd had a full day already and were content as we settled into cruising speed and wide open spaces. The ocean at our side, the late afternoon sun shining down, the Pacific Coast Highway stretched out in front of us.
Cruising along, I spotted what I thought were a good number of seals between curves in the shoreline. A few miles further along, no doubt about it, I glimpsed more.
Then, I almost couldn't believe my eyes.
We'd reached the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seals.
pulled into the gravel parking lot off the highway. No visitor center, no tourist shop, just a great long boardwalk for respectful viewing of thousands of these creatures.
I was tickled pink!
At one time, humans had killed elephant seals to near extinction. They were thought to be extinct in the late 1880s. Now protected, they are one of the greatest recoveries our continent has
this site there were no elephant seals before 1990. Now it's a safe
haul out site for birthing, breeding, molting and resting for several thousand of them. (About 17,000 according to Friends of the Elephant Seal.)
The giant adult males (the ones who give elephant seals their names with their trunk-like noses) were off diving the oceans deep during our April visit. Adult males can weigh up to 7 times more than adult females.. up to 5,000 pounds. I've seen video of those bulls, who fight violent, bloody battles. They are a sight! We visited the rookery at a more peaceful time when the "cuter" females and juveniles were there to molt.
seals go through what is called a "catastrophic molt." They
were at all different phases. Some
looked rough and tattered as they shed their old skin. Others looked velvety smooth. Juvenile males practiced fighting, but there was mostly a lot of napping or jostling for a better napping position going on.
Mitch didn't seem as smitten with the elephant seals as I was. Maybe he thought they were awkward and made rude sounds and had snotty noses. (This was true. They smelled strongly, too.) But I could have watched and taken photos 'til the sun went down. There's just something about observing wildlife in its natural habitat. I was absolutely enthralled with these seals! Everything about them was interesting; their behavior.. how some were so still it seemed they couldn't possibly be alive.. I'd watch until they'd finally take a breath. How others seemed intent on jostling, pestering, or stealing a spot. The noise. The way they use their flippers like fingers to scratch their bellies. The way they flip sand onto themselves. The trails they left on the beach.
I had a hard time tearing myself away.
There were so many of them! Even Mitch agrees that aspect was pretty neat to see.
When we got home I was intrigued to learn all about elephant seals. They are remarkable deep divers with fascinating physical features that allow them to do so.
If you're ever in the San Simeon / Piedras Blancas area, you've got to stop and see this safe haven of theirs..
It was an unforgettable experience.
Peace, Love, and So Many Seals!
Sharing with Our World
and Eileen's Critters