We spent the night in Pacific Grove, an offshoot town of Monterey Bay (where we went whale watching in the summer). We started the day with a nice stroll along the beach front.
I spent time attempting to capture waves crashing into the shore.
Waves with Steve and his mom.
A sea otter chilling in the surf.
and lazily surfing the waves.
Sometimes it's hard to tell whether it's an otter or kelp. You will often see their little faces peeking up and have to stare for awhile to see if they change location as they are too far away to see details.
Obligatory warning sign about the Tsunami Hazard Zone
Basically the sign says:
In case of earthquake, run to high ground you stupid person - no don't go into the receding water to explore the now uncovered sea floor, where do you think that water's going?
Do you seriously not think it's going to come crashing back?
Why are you still here?
Why are you still here?
Run you fools.
To Steve of course that means this is a good place to climb
Hail the conquering hero.
Monarch Grove Sanctuary
Ever since I knew I was going to be coming for a visit over some winter months, I wanted to go see a grove where Monarch butterflies migrate. Unsurprisingly anyone I know who lives here had no idea that these groves existed nor that Monarchs migrated.
The previous day, on a whim, I decided to look up "Monarch butterflies" in the Coastal California travel book Steve's mom had bought as a guide for places to go while they were here. As it happens there was a Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, the town we were staying in over night. Locating it on the map, I was confused - a sanctuary for Monarchs in the middle of a town? It didn't look very big, but it had free admission and it was right next to the entrance to the scenic drive we had planned so I convinced everyone we should check it out.
I saw a few on the ground, a few in the air, and people were all clustered around the Monarch Guru guy who was talking about them. There was some caution tape set up under a tree.
Then I looked up.
Now this is what I was expecting to see in a Monarch Winter Sanctuary.
Look closer. Those aren't leaves.
The Monarchs may travel as far as 200 miles a day, and fly as high as 10,000 feet.
The Monarch Guru was placing shivering butterflies from the shade into sunlight to warm them up so they had enough energy to fly back up to the cluster.
Steve is doing his part.
Step 1: Survey the area around you to determine you are not about to crush a fallen butterfly.
Step 2: Encourage the butterfly to cling to a stick of leaf. Never lift a butterfly by it's wings, it may never fly again if you do so.
Step 3: Set the butterfly and the stick it's clinging to into sunlight.
Step 4: Within 5 minutes the butterfly will be warmed up enough to take flight.
You just helped an endangered species!
Other ways to help the combat the shrinking Monarch population:
- plant milkweed inland, away from wintering habitat to increase their population during other seasons
- minimize use of herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides
- support open space and wildlife habitat legislation.
The Monarch butterfly migration is unique in that the Monarchs that migrate to the grove each year have never been here before. In fact, several generations of Monarchs have lived and died since last year's butterflies were here.
And that's pretty amazing and worth protecting.
17 Mile Drive
The towns of Pacific Grove and Carmel By The Sea are linked by the scenic 17-Mile Drive, which meanders though Pebble Beach, a private resort and residential area that epitomizes the peninsula's jaw dropping wealth.
Besides the dramatic pacific coastline, wildflowers and wild life, there are world-famous golf courses throughout.
It's $10 per vehicle to enter the section of highway, bicycles are free.
Don Gaspar de Portola, the Spanish explorer, and his crew camped here in 1769 while searching for Monterey Bay.
We thought it was pretty epic just to see the power and majesty of the Pacific Ocean.
The surfers help show the perspective of the height of the waves.
I really wouldn't want to swim into that. It is unnerving.
My random impressive photo of the day. Captured while taking a photo of the sand bird that I wanted to identify on the internet.
It's a sand piper.
Point Joe - The Restless Sea
The unique off shore turbulence is generated by the submerged terrain off Point Joe.
Early mariners often crashed upon these rocks after mistakenly setting their course for this point, believing that it was the entrance to Monterey Bay.
There were lots of sea otters playing in the turbulent surf but too far away to capture on our camera.
This landmark is home to countless shorebirds and groups of harbor seals, and sea lions.
And it is positively wriggling with them.
Sea lions sometimes float with their flippers sticking out of the water. The flippers blood vessels are close to the skins surface and by water evaporating off the flipper, blood cools. A sunbathed dry flipper warms the blood.
A raised flipper helps the sea lion keep their body temperature comfortable.
Cypress Point Lookout
For 100 years this point has been a preferred view of the dramatic Pacific coastline.
It's closed April 1 to June 1 because Harbor Seals mate and give birth here.
All in all, the 17 Mile Drive had some great sites and I'd recommend it as a drive by tour of the Pacific Ocean for those who don't have a lot of time to spend travelling up the coast. The 17 Mile Drive can be combined with a day in Monterey either whale watching or at the aquarium (and throw in some Monarchs if it's between the months of November - February).
If you really want to spend time on the Pacific coastline, I'd still recommend a day trip on Highway 1.