Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Our next camp was at the K.O.A. in Prunedale, where they are smart to call themselves Monterey KOA because no one would stay at the Prunedale KOA...

I was jonesin' for some exercise in the form of a mountain-bike ride, and found that nearby Fort Orb & Lagusa Seca Recreation Area not only has an extensive trail system, but is home to the Sea Otter Classic, an annual mountain bike race that hosts the largest consumer bike exposition in North America. It was a hot day when I rode there, and I sweated up hill after hill. But as it almost always is after a great deal of climbing, the return back down makes it all worthwhile. Trail #41, the "Goat Trail", had been noted by several reviewers as a "must ride", and now, having ridden it, I heartily agree. It was pitched downwards just enough to let gravity do the work, but not so much that exessive braking was necessary. Swoopy curves, rollers, banked turns and berms, through golden grasslands dotted with dark green shrubs and shade trees. An excellent ride. I went back a few days later to do it again.

There were lots of kayaking opportunities in the Monterey area - we paddled twice, once in Elkhorn Slough, a tidal estuary teeming with bird life, like this Willet:

We saw Willets, Whimbrels, Widgits, Whisks, Wingdings...

Our second paddle was in Moss Landing, where the Elkhorn Slough joins the Pacific. Here we paddled past a beach obscured by fat harbor seals...

...past a raft of more than 30 sea otters...

...and by a floating dock piled high with barking sea lions:

Who stunk, by the way. I'm from the Maine coast - I've smelled rotting sea life before, like barrels of ripe baitfish on lobster piers, or heaps of guano on some rocky rookery, but this made those odors seem like fresh roses in comparison. Nasty!

It was especially fun to be drifing along and have a sea otter pop up a few yards away and start munching on some crunchy mollusk it had just plucked from the bottom.

We took a drive into the town of Monterey to see what all of the fuss was about. Our campground host had clued us in to the bike trail that follows the waterfront, so we parked just out of town and rode in. We always like touring by bike, as we cover more ground, but can easily stop to explore an area on foot.

We first checked out Monterey's commercial fishing pier, where fisherman sold their catch directly to consumers, and where we could look out into the harbor to see seals, otters and sea lions amongst boats of every sort. The heavy duty moorings for large fishing vessels had enormous bouys, and upon each was perched at least one sea lion.

Our next stop was Fisherman's Pier, the tourist edition. Here countless seafood restaurants handed out clam chowder samples to the throng of gawkers, ourselves included. T-shirt and candy shops abounded as well. At the end of the pier, however, actual fish-related activites were happening. Charter boats returned with their patrons, trailed by flocks of gulls and pelicans. The mates carried the days catch, bright red snapper and fat silvery salmon, up to the fillet stations on the wharf. As they cut up these fish and flung the bits over the edge alert and agile gulls would dart out and catch these morsels before they hit the water below.

From there we followed the bike path to Cannery Row. Another tourist mecca, this shopping, lodging and dining zone was where the Pacific's vast sardine bounty used to be processed. I guess we got so good at catching sardines that we fished them into oblivion, and cannery row resorted to toursism. Several giant cement holding tanks remain, as well as many of the original wooden structures housing the canneries.

But it was Big Sur that brought us to this area. We loaded the bikes into the truck and headed south on Highway 1, and enjoyed the spectacular scenery - California's answer to Kauai's Na Pali Coast.

Wildflowers were exploding with color along the bluffs:

Enless surf pounded the rocky coast and sand beaches:

We ended our drive in Big Sur, at beautiful Nepenthe restaurant, perched 800' above the sea:

On the way back we rode our bikes down a short but very fun trail in Andrew Molera State Park, down to a secluded sand beach and back.

Love that Big Sur coastline!

And what would a trip to California be without local produce. The area we were in was harvesting strawberries and artichokes like mad, and the amazing stand in Moss Landing had all that and so much more. Avacados were 7 for $1! Best produce stand ever.

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