Friday, June 15, 2012

San Simeon

We had to leave the campground in Morro Bay because it was booked solid, but found a state park just 1/2 hour up the coast that had sites available for a couple nights. We headed up there to Hearst-San Simeon State Park and got a nice site up on a hilltop with, if you craned your neck just the right way, had a view of the ocean. Just $20/night, crazy cheap for California, with no services. Our little Honda 2000 provided quiet power when we needed it. We enjoyed staying there, and would have stayed longer if there had been availability. Our ability to dry camp is tremendously improved having purchased good quality new deep-cycle batteries for this trip around.

Our neighbors on both sides were super nice, and we had some nice chats with both. We also walked on the park trails, although we found an abundance of ticks. Abundance is too weak a word: the tall grasses were a tick metropolis. We came back from our hike through the fields and subsequently, disgustingly, removed around 50 (yes, fifty) ticks from ourselves and from Toby. We continued to find them on ourselves for around 24 hours, although we avoided the tall grass. It was vile.

A nicer walk turned out to be a boardwalk that snaked down to the beach. The pounding surf, billowing fog, and attractive stones in the beach made it a great place to spend time, although Toby wasn't allowed on the beach, what with being a dog and all.

We only had one full day here, and after putting in my hours with work we set out to drive up the coast a ways. Just a few miles north was the turnoff to Hearst castle, which we'd heard a lot of good things about, but can only be seen by paying for tours, and we decided to see the (free) wonders of nature rather than the costly wonders of man. So we proceeded another several miles up the road to a turnout looking over a beach used by elephant seals. This was awesome! We'd never seen these beasts before, and it was great to watch them. At this time of year these were all juvenile males, on the beach for their annual molt. The adult males and females are on a slightly different schedule, and were out spending their 10 months at sea, somewhere between California and Alaska.

The silvery-grey ones have molted and are just waiting for the mood to strike them, or to get hungry enough, to go to sea. They don't eat for the months that they are on the beach. The brown ones have arrived more recently and still have their old coat. Most of these guys weight something between 1 - 2000 pounds. An adult male can be as much as 16 feet long and 5000 pounds! We'd have had to been there in mid-winter to see them on the beach. It was great to see these juveniles lounging and sparring on the beach and in the shallows, bellowing a noise like an under-water-open-mouthed belch. Quivering blubber + pendulous snozz + gurgle-burp = one spectacularly ugly animal!

After we'd stared at elephant seals for a long while we continued north until Highway 1 got real twisty and climbed upwards, cut like a narrow shelf into the mountian-sides. There we found a pulloff to a gated abandoned road which headed up higher, a series of switchbacks through meadows, looking out over the neverending expanse of the Pacific. We hiked up with Toby until we came to another gate, enjoying the exercise and views.

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