Friday, September 10, 2010

Castles and Seals

Piedras Blancas, CA ....................................

Returning to the winding, narrow road we looked at the time and vowed we would not stop again unless it was for something really incredible. An hour and a half later we were out of the mountains on a rolling brown plain level with the adjacent beach. Our plan was to stop at Hearst Castle, which sounded really incredible, when we passed a crowd at an “Elephant Seal Viewing Area” We turned around quickly and joined them. The wind just about blew me over when I got out of the car. In the parking lot, fat little ground squirrels popped their heads out of the brush to see if we had food. They liked our granola bars just as much as the chipmunks at Prairie Creek did.

The elephant seals were pretty incredible. Apparently, they come to this beach, a beach further south, and a beach in Alaska at regular intervals every year, different age groups at a time. The early part of June, when we were there, younger (sub-adult) males come to shed their winter skin. Older males would arrive next to molt, and then leave to return in December to battle for mating rights. Females arrive late December, give birth to their babies, and then mate again in February. After a brief time at sea the females return in April to molt. Pretty amazing. Some of the seals we saw were beginning to get their long noses, which is why they are called Elephant Seals. We thought those guys were pretty huge, some up to seven feet long and well over 2,000 lbs. But a helpful park docent told us full grown males can be 16 feet long and over 6,000 lbs.!

Hearst Castle was going to have to be pretty amazing to beat the Elephant Seals! We went up the road ten minutes then climbed a long driveway to a crowded parking lot. We couldn’t see anything resembling a castle and it looked like the big attraction was a long hike up a hill. We decided to forgo the castle and get back on the road. From Josh's family I learned that Hearst Castle was the estate of William Randolph Hearst and is full of incredible architecture and art. We will have to go back and visit sometime.The story continues...

No comments:

Post a Comment