Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sealed With a Pen - What Blubber, the Hearst Castle & Wine Have in Common


I see you! (Photo: Visit San Simeon)
Just days before President Obama left office he invoked the Antiquities Act of 1906, and no, it has nothing to do with antiques. What President Obama did was to expand the California Coastal National Monument, a move that provides added protections for the elephant seal colony at Piedras Blancas located just north of San Simeon and the Hearst Castle. The California Coastal National Monument, originally established by President Clinton in 2000, protects and preserves “objects or sites of historic or scientific interest” along California’s Central Coast. More than 17,000 elephant seals migrate thousands of miles to come to this secluded sandy beach twice per year, and now they are fully protected. Bless their fat little hearts.

Boys being boys.
Located four miles north of the Hearst Castle, 12 miles north of Cambria the elephant seal rookery is visible by “Elephant Seal Viewing Area” signs. If that doesn’t work you’ll see a lot of people looking over a low wood fence pointing indiscriminately. No one is certain why the seals keep showing up here, but they do.  In the winter months the seals come here to breed, in the summer months, they molt. Winter is the best time to view the males, females and newborn pups. They might seem lazy at first, strewn across the sand like so much chubby road kill. But they can be forgiven. They can dive up to 3,000 feet and swim at three miles an hour and, let’s not forget, they carry all that blubber with them. They started appearing in these low sand protected beaches in the early 1990s and haven’t left yet. The males will spar for territorial rights, the females who appear to just want to be left alone. And they are loud, making a horrible sound like a bad Chewbacca impression. The seals are around all year, though not in the quantities like summer and winter. The docents are there all year too, people in blue coats emblazoned with “Friends of the Elephant Seal” on their jackets. Ask them anything. The information is free, the show is free and you might spend more time here than you ever expected.

The Big Sur Coastline
“We’re very grateful to President Obama to include one of San Simeon’s most precious resources as part of the California Coastal National Monument,” said Michael Hanchett, president of the San Simeon Chamber of Commerce. “This elephant seal rookery has become a globally loved place. Three-quarters of a million visitors come to see them each year, which helps support and preserve local businesses and jobs.” Obviously Hearst Castle is nearby, the charming town of Cambria, the Piedras Blancas Light Station, whose tower and support building are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Just north you begin the staggeringly beautiful Big Sur Coastline. There are wineries dotted south in Cambria, Cayucos, Morro Bay, and a plethora of them on Highway 46 West, which, runs from Cambria to Paso Robles. Time to hit the road, my friends!
Chillin' (Photo: Solterra Strategies)

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