Way Back Machine: Elephant Seals

“Self,” thought I earlier this week, “what could I possibly do to make my life more inconvenient?”.  Setting myself on fire seemed too smelly; falling into a bottomless pit was impractical.  And so I decided to go into pre-term labor.

The good news is that blueberry and I are both 100% fine and she’s staying put for now.  The bad news is that I’m on hospital bed rest with continual contraction monitoring for the foreseeable future.  At least there’s internet and books and a near-constant stream of nurses to keep me busy. 😉

Earlier this week, Tony and Steph came by to visit and they brought me a little elephant seal.  Awwwa!  I have named him Toco.

(Forgive the composition; there’s only so much you can do with an iPhone from a hospital bed)

Naturally, Toco brings to mind his larger and smellier brethren that I tend to visit on a regular basis on motorcycle rides.  I’ve written about the rookeries many times (though, apparently, far fewer times than I’ve actually been there; slacker blogger):

I thought I’d waxed poetic about the rookeries themselves, but even with the magic of my blog’s search function, I couldn’t find anything.  So I’ll blather a little bit.  Hey, I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.

Piedras Blancas
The Piedras Blancas rookery is a large but relatively new rookery just north of San Simeon (near Hearst Castle) along the Central Coast of California.  The first birth occurred at Piedras Blancas in January 1992 and then, only four years later,  nearly a thousand pups were born at the rookery.

The Friends of the Elephant Seal organization quickly formed and created a visitor parking and viewing area that was safe for both seals and humans, and now — in my opinion — Piedras Blancas is one of the best places to view elephant seals in California.

It’s a remarkable motorcycle ride from San Francisco down to Piedras Blancas — a little over 200 miles, much of which is spectacular coastline down Highway 1.  On a nice spring day, there’s no better place in the world.

On to the rookery…

There are always friends to be made at Piedras Blancas!

Año Nuevo State Reserve
Año Nuevo is our local rookery down near Santa Cruz; not as nice of a ride as the one to Piedras Blancas, but certainly more convenient if you need your elephant seal fix on a day ride.

Año Nuevo is a much older rookery than Piedras Blancas; the first pup was born there in 1961.  The best time of year to see the seals at Año Nuevo is in winter and early spring, but be warned that access is available via guided walks only during that time.  Weaners, as opposed to adults, hang out throughout the spring.

The only downside to Año Nuevo is that — unlike at Piedras Blancas, whose viewing area is literally feet from Highway 1 — there’s about a 3-mile round trip hike to get to the seals.  The last bit is up a fairly high sand dune; totally do-able in motorcycle boots but make sure they’re comfy.

Clearly, it’s horrible riding around Año Neuvo, as well.

The elephant seals are one of the things I’m most looking forward to when I get back to riding.  Obviously it’ll be a little while before I can take a weekend to ride south to Piedras Blancas, but hopefully this summer I’ll be able to duck out to Año Neuvo and catch the molting season.  In the meantime, I have Toco to keep me company!

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