Leaving Pinnacles National Park, we entered America’s salad bowl – Salinas Valley. Taking road G17, we passed miles and miles of vegetable farms. Then we turned to Calif. 68, and finally came to the start of Route 1 at Monterey. Greeted by masses of stately bluish cone shaped blossoms of Pride of Madeira, we embarked on our trip on Route 1. Vehicles were parked by the road near Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. It must be a popular tourist site. Driving through Carmel Highlands, we came to the start point of Big Sur. After traveling for 25 miles on Route 1, we arrived at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground.
Hoping to find a parking spot at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, we left early in the morning. We would tour the 17-mile drive if we couldn’t visit Point Lobos. Luckily, we were able to get in the reserve. But the parking lots near popular trails were all packed. We drove around, and found a spot at Weston Beach in the south. There lay a tide pool with an exposed rock bed covered with seaweed. The ocean seemed placid at low tide. Walking on the multi-colored rock bed with interesting patterns, we discovered lots of small marine life. Our faces lit up with the find of snails, shells, crabs, and more. A couple of black oystercatchers with bright orange beaks hopping on the rocks searching for food. We were exhilarated to discover a tide pool filled with beautiful purple colored urchins. They looked like purple flowers blooming in the clear and shallow pool. I touched the spike of an urchin and its spike moved a bit. They were real and alive! Wow! I fell in love with this place right away.
A bright pink creature on the rock caught my eye. Taking a close look, it looked like an organ inside an oval shaped creature. I touched its pink part, and that part retreated. Its soft body was camouflaged with multi-colored small grains of pebbles. There were a few other similar creatures hidden in the crevices and water. Surprisingly, the air didn’t smell fishy with all these marine life. Climbing up to the tall rocks, Bird Island came into view in the south. The mighty Pacific Ocean extended to the horizon and seemed to merge with the blue sky. Waves rolled in and crashed into froth at the rocks below. The deep blue color of the ocean was captivating. And the fresh and cool air was intoxicating. A colony of big green colored crabs ducked down in the shallow water between the big boulders. Most of them stayed put waving their giant claws, and bubbled out tiny air once in a while. A few brave crabs climbed out of the crevices and crawled sideway to other hidden places.
Taking a stroll along the South Shore Tail, my eyes were busy with the exotic coastal plants growing between the forest and the ocean. A dazzling display of spring flowers exhibited among the low and dense bushes. Succulents and colorful wildflowers formed hanging gardens on the cliffs. Hidden Beach had a small sand beach tucked away in a cove under the cliffs. In another cove, quiet harbor seals were basking on the rocks in the water. A mom and a pup were swimming in the water by the rock. On the white sand beach were two pairs of mom and pup seals. Harbor seals have patterns of spots and have various colors from brown, tan, gray to black. The jade-green colored water in the China Cove was mesmerizing. At the southern end lay the fine Gibson Beach which is accessible from a staircase. At the foot of the mist shrouded mountains is Camel Highlands. Impressive houses perched on the cliffs for the magnificent view and sound of the ocean. On the furthest headland where a house sat, crashing waves was almost as high as the cliff. Colonies of cormorants nest on Bird Island close to the shore. The sound of birds mixed in with the sound of waves and the breeze.
Walking north along the trail towards Sea Lion Point, we passed Sand Hill Cove and saw harbor seals again. A mom seal was nursing a pup on the rock in the cove. The vista at Sea Lion Point was gorgeous. Ocean displayed its power here with thundering crashing waves. Huge offshore rocks were surrounded with churning water. Waves were beaten to froth on the rocks. We could hear the loud sound of sea lions, but couldn’t see them. At the Headland Cove, I spotted a sea otter lying on its back on the water. Then we walked towards Cypress Grove Trail. The reserve is famous for its gnarled Monterey cypress shaped by salt spray and wind. Point Lobos is one of the only two natural groves of this species, the other one is on the 17-mile drive. We walked through the cypress grove and came to a view point by the cove. The wind sent the sounds of sea lions across the water. Stephen looked through the binoculars towards the offshore rocks across the Sea Lion Point. And he claimed that the sea lions were on those rocks. Not until then did we know where the sea lions hang out. Aside from seabirds, there were a few sea lions on the Sea Lion Rocks hauling and moving around.
When we returned to the Weston Beach, the tide pool was inundated. I felt lucky that we were at the tide pool at the right time. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a great place where you could enjoy the sight and sound of the seascape and wildlife, inhale fresh air, hike among trails appreciating the beautiful meadows, bask on the sandy beach, or lost yourself in discovering marine life in the tide pool. If you are a diver, you also have the privilege to explore the Reserve Underwater world.