Monday, January 16, 2012

Point Reyes

Today was the second Monday holiday of the month, and I realize I could seriously get used to a four-day work-week.  With our extra weekend day, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and ventured into Point Reyes, about an hour and a half north of the city.  Our destination was the Point Reyes Lighthouse and the elephant seal overlook.

After grabbing sandwiches at the trusty corner market, we opted for the longer, scenic route to Point Reyes.  This took us through cattle pastures and along Stinson Beach.

How funny is it that this many people want to sit on the beach, wearing ski coats and warm hats!?
We also saw elk, deer, and two calves that were probably born within the past 24 hours.
Once we reached Point Reyes State Park, a shuttle bus transported us between the sights.  First up was the Lighthouse, where we spent at least an hour watching for whales.  Grey whales are migrating South for the winter right now, and we were able to catch sight of a pod of six or so off Point Reyes.  According to the docent, they travel further from land when they are heading South and a bit closer to the point when migrating back north in April or May.  It's good to know our American grey whales travel on the "correct" side of the road.

Point Reyes Lighthouse
A couple juvenile whales have been spotted hanging out a bit closer to the point in the past few days, and we were able to catch several glimpses of one as it swam in the more protected waters directly south of the lighthouse.  The water was clear enough that you could see its body approaching even before the spout of water broke the surface.  Very pretty.

After admiring how far signaling technology has come in the past few centuries (these days they have one light bulb and a fog horn instead of utilizing the lighthouse!), we took the shuttle over to Chimney Rock.  There we hiked the short distance to the elephant seal overlook.

An Elephant Seal model in the Visitor Center
 In late December, the males come to the Northern California breeding grounds and engage in pecking-order battles.  By January, the females have come to land to give birth to the pups they've been carrying for the past year.  The pups nurse for less than a month before the females mate again and head back into the water until next winter.

The most exciting activities to watch are the battles for alpha-male status, and today we got a sneak peak at some of the fighting: males do the worm do their best to launch themselves at the other males that are encroaching on their ladies, emitting loud bellows to declare their dominance.  The pups also had a distinct, much higher-pitched, noise that added to the odd song coming from the elephant seal beach.

This male's got something to say...
These moms are tuckered out.  They just lie there while the pups nurse.

As the sun began to set, we headed home.

Back to work tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. What a great adventure! You'll be great tour guides for your visiting friends.


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