To celebrate my 33rd birthday last week, my mother, sister and I convened in the region where my my mother was born and raised and my sister and I spent many summers growing up. The northern California coast, from San Francisco south to Monterey, kept us happily busy for a week straight: We kayaked in an estuary among pelicans and sea otters, walked along a beach littered with elephant seals and made intense eye contact with an albatross. We ate artichoke soup at Duarte’s Tavern in the tiny town of Pescadero, scallops at Passion Fish restaurant in Pacific Grove and Spanish tapas at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the Mission District of San Francisco. We slept in a redwood forest one night and soaked in a hot tub on a cliff above crashing waves the next. It’s good to be 33.
PIGEON POINT LIGHTHOUSE
At 115 feet tall, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, 50 miles south of San Francisco near the town of Pescadero, is the tallest lighthouse on the West Coast. It’s still responsible for keeping ships from crashing into the shore.
We stayed in hostel located in former Coast Guard buildings at the base of the lighthouse (above, to the right). $75-85 a night for a shared kitchen and bathroom and private room. We were the only ones in our house.
My sister Laura was stoked to be there. Here, she’s headed out to take in the view from the deck overlooking the water.
The Frensel Lens, a 10-foot-tall beehive design comprised of 1,008 glass panes, once projected light 24 miles out to sea. Now, it’s awaiting the lighthouse’s restoration in one of the outbuildings (a friendly ranger invited us in to see).
A major hostel perk: the outdoor hot tub on a deck overlooking the Pacific. In after dark, we could hear the waves crashing and see the lighthouse beam periodically scanning the water.
The last time I visited Año Nuevo State Park, I was 7 years old and cranky (i.e. I didn’t want to walk and my mom ended up having to carry me on the hike. Fun times for her!). I had a much better attitude this visit.
Though elephant seals look blobular on land, they’re forces to be reckoned with in water. They swim with power and finesse — and log more than 20,000 miles through the ocean every year.
When you’re shaped like a cigar, lugging your body up a 6-inch shelf in the sand is an almost insurmountable challenge. After much maneuvering, this juvenile male made it up and joined his friends in just lying there.
The alphas will eventually develop giant elephant-like noses and grow to the weight of Chevy Suburbans. But for now, they rest.
Some very neatly. (more…)