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Entries about whales

Watching wildlife along California’s Central Coast

From Santa Barbara via Pismo Beach to San Simeon

sunny 22 °C
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Our first adventure on the way along the coast north of LA was the search for a campground. We had been thinking to go to a free campsite north of Santa Barbara. But as it was getting late we tried our luck at the Emma Wood State Park. The lady there was very friendly and still had availability. It’s just that she did not believe us that we have an RV. So Sam got out of the car, showed her all of the inlets and outlets and eventually we were admitted to the Park. Yes, this is an RV!

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We were lucky: this way we did not have to drive any further and were able to enjoy the sunset at the beach. And we finally met our first Trump supporter, as up to now everybody we talked to did not think it was a good idea to have him President of the United States. Our neighbour had a cap identifying him as a veteran of the Vietnam War and without too much questioning, he told us that this man (i.e. Trump) is the best thing that ever happened to America and that his attitude was exactly right – stomping relationships with other countries is exactly what is needed, as Americans are paying too much for others anyhow. So the Trump supporters do exist after all… It will be interesting to see who will win the election in November then.
The next morning, we were surprised by an overcast sky. This is worth a mention, as we had been treated to ongoing sunshine with sometimes a cloud here and there for over six weeks now. So not to see the sun or even bits of blue sky was a bit of a strange feeling.
We spent the day exploring Santa Barbara and were lucky to find excellent food at Rebar, close to the train station. And there was a skatepark – and this time it was not that crowded so we allowed Max to go. So he was happy! We also checked out the main attractions of Santa Barbara: the County Courthouse and the old mission church before heading north towards Pismo Beach.

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When it came to finding a place for the night, we were a bit cautious with driving our van into the sand to stay at the state recreational vehicle area. That is an enormous stretch of beach and sand dunes in which camping along the beach is allowed and any kind of vehicles can ride freely in the dunes. So we saw loads of dune buggies, quads and trucks with flags such that they can be seen even in the valleys of the dunes.
So after a couple of unsuccessful trials to get a slot at various campgrounds, we ended up at a nice (but costly – a new record) RV park directly along the beach. When checking out the beach, Sam noticed the water fountains coming up in regular intervals and we concluded that there must be whales out there. And after a run out to the pier, Sam got to see them even closer and was treated to a nice sunset on the way back.

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We had a nice plan for the next day: we wanted to do some shopping at the Pismo outlet mall. We were not really successful, as the designer clothes there did not appeal to us. We’ll try again another time. At least we had good lunch there: Huckleberry’s treated us to a nice Florentine quiche, a seafood wrap and grilled cheese with fries.
The whole afternoon we spent at the beach and on the pier in the hopes of seeing whales again. On our first time out at the pier we saw a sea otter, a shark and a school of dolphins. A bit later we noticed from the beach that there were whales again. So we went out to the pier again in order to be treated to a couple of whales showing off their tails and later also to do nice jumps out of the water.
After we were treated to a nice sunset at the beach, we left for our campground, the Oceano County Campground and enjoyed being able to camp on grass again for a long time. And there was another surprise: the camp hosts were inviting all campers to 9” funnel cakes with fresh strawberry topping, whipped cream and powdered sugar. Wow – what a treat!

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The next morning, we headed off quite early, as there was so much to be seen and we wanted to make sure that we’ll start looking for a place to stay overnight when it’s still light outside. Still, leaving so early also meant that the think marine layer had not yet cleared and consequently we saw Montana d’Oro State Park still in the fog and had to imagine how it would look in sunshine, just like for the view down to Morro Bay.

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As we just did not get a slot in San Simeon State Park Campground anymore (the car in front of us got the last one), we continued and checked out the pier of San Simeon located in a really nice bay. Even though we spotted Hearst Castle on top of the hill, we decided that we’d rather concentrate on the natural sights surrounding us vs. visiting the castle.

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First on our list were the elephant seals just a bit further. At this time of the year, the males occupied the beach for molting (i.e. shedding their fur). And wow – the older males are gigantic at up to 5000 pounds each. Seeing them lie at the beach was one thing, seeing them move from the water to the beach or on the beach was even more impressive.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 20:37 Archived in USA Tagged beach whales pier shark cold trump otter seaelephants Comments (0)

Famous Highway Number 1

From San Simeon to Monterrey

sunny 20 °C
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A bit north of San Simeon started the famous part of Highway 1 – built in the 1930’s as part of the ambitious new deal projects despite the steep rock faces. We were impressed with the road right from the start – what a view down to the ocean!
Unfortunately, the view did not last for long, as we found ourselves in the middle of a thick marine layer obstructing the sight down to the ocean and even around the next curves.

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Anyhow we did not go too far. Given the ‘campground full’ signs at all official campgrounds, we fell back to our usual alternative and went for dispersed camping. So we turned off the highway along the Nacimiento Ferguson Road and went in steep curves upwards hoping to get above the clouds. On our way up we passed some redwoods along the way and eventually were in bright sunshine. We found our spot soon and enjoyed a lovely view down onto the clouds.

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The only downside to the nice location were the flies. What a nuisance! With flies all around us, I even took up the discussion with Sam if we really want to go to Central Australia in a couple of months… But on the contrary, the birds were really nice!

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In the morning the marine layer cleared and we were rewarded with a nice view to the Pacific Ocean. Around lunchtime, it was time to go and explore at least a bit. So while I got the van ready, Max and Sam already headed off to bike / run down the road. They made 3.4 miles by the time I reached them and picked them up at the next turnout.

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We did not have to go far for a nice place to visit, as Limekiln State Park was just down the road. After a nice stroll through an impressive forest of coastal redwoods, we checked out the limekilns first, before heading to the 100’ waterfall. After lunch, we enjoyed some more time at the beach.

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On our way back to camp, we once again saw whales, this time even jumping completely out of the water, resulting in big splashes. Really cool, the whales are fascinating!
The weather was great and the marine layer had cleared completely. Therefore, this time we were not forced to go so far up along the road and we stopped a bit lower. We found a nice big turnout along the road with a great view.

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The next morning we headed north along the coast and enjoyed great vistas along the way. But the nicest view of all was in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The waterfall falling onto a secluded and inaccessible beach is probably the signature view of Big Sur.

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Next on our list was the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Not surprisingly, the campground was full, but we were admitted for day use. So we used the opportunity to do a hike along the river and got food at the lodge. By coincidence more than anything we got to watch part of the soccer Euro 2016 finals to the end of regular play time when it was still 0:0. We did not want to wait for the game to finish, so we did not see the celebrations of the Portuguese once they won, we only read about it in the evening.

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Our next destination was Carmel – by – Sea. We did not really know what to expect, but were pleasantly surprised by a very nice town. The downtown area was clearly groomed towards the needs of tourists and it was clearly high end tourism. Prices were not low – neither for ice cream or pastries, nor for realty – we did not find a single place advertised that was less than 1.5 million, but there were several above 10 million – which then gets you a nice property and house on at the coast. It felt like a nice place to visit, but not like a place to live.

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When doing the 17-mile drive, we were really impressed. Less so by Pebbles Beach Golf Course (even though we’re absolutely aware that it must be the non-plus-ultra for golfers to play there), but much more so for the mansions and properties we saw along the way. Some of the place we saw, were by far nicer and more impressive than the mansions around Hollywood – and they definitively had a marvellous view!

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We stopped a couple of times along the way and were lucky to see some deer on the golf courses.

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Bird and Seal Rock promised some wildlife viewing and in fact we were able to complete our collection of marine mammals: after sea lions and sea elephants, it was about time to also see some seals and there were lots of them.
By the time we left the 17-mile drive and drove through Monterrey, we were all already rather tired and keen to get to our campground. Given how full everything had been in the last couple of days, I had made reservations in the afternoon and after four unsuccessful calls, the Monterrey / Salinas KOA reserved their last slot for us. We were not too thrilled by the location directly next to the highway, but at least we had nice neighbours. Their four-year-old son had a pedal bike looking like a Yamaha endure and Max raced with him around our van. The whole family had spent their weekend watching the superbike world championship run at the Monterrey racecourse. This would have been fun to see as well, but we did not know about it and even if we would have known about it, there’s simply so much to do and too little time to do it all!
The next day we took advantage of California’s fruit and vegetable production: in the self-proclaimed ‘World’s Artichoke Center’ we bought a full case of fresh fruit. A bit later we stopped at a beach. The location was great, but eventually we realized that quite a couple of visitors prefer it for getting their suntan complete also in those parts that usually don’t get as much sun. We rather just had lunch and eventually headed on towards Los Altos.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:32 Archived in USA Tagged coast beach whales golf highway road redwoods produce limekiln pebbels Comments (2)

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