In just under four weeks, we’ll set out from the Monterey Peninsula, where we’ve spent eight months sheltering from Covid and its aftermath. We’re not leaving the US yet, but moving on to Bainbridge Island, Washington, for the month of August. Much as we are looking forward to exploring a new region, and taking a ferry ride into Seattle at least once during the month, I am sorry to go.
Above all, deciding to leave reminds me how much I like this this part of the California coast. We may even settle here when our roaming days are ending. During the winter months, the Monterey area has much milder weather than most of the US. We saw whales spouting offshore during many of our afternoon walks in December and January. Seals lounge on some of the beaches, while sea lions bark from their perches under the wharf. Sea otters float on their backs and munch little sea creatures (the banner for this post is a raft of sea otters in kelp), then dive down to get more. Gulls circle around, trying to steal the otters’ catch. On one of our first walks by the shore, I saw the outline of a dolphin in the side of a cresting wave.
We ate a lot of nature’s bounty, too. When they are in season, there is nothing better than Dungeness crab. Now there is line-caught salmon from Monterey Bay itself, the definition of fresh seafood.
We’ve seen a surprising number of other animals, too, considering that we live in a neighborhood right in town. On our walks to and from the beach nearby, we’ve seen a bobcat, young coyotes, even a fin whale, or what’s left of it.
Our bird watching has been rewarded over and over again, with everything from bluebirds to peregrine falcons. About the only local species we haven’t yet seen a California condor. That population might have to grow a bit more, as there are still only about 60 condors known to be alive, mostly in Big Sur. That’s a lot more than the days where there were no condors left in the wild, but there’s a ways still to go in bringing them back. Our bird walks have taken us by unusual gnarled tree trunks and enough picturesque conifers to fill a calendar, or two (see the end of this post).
Fires are a tremendous danger around us, so who would believe that flowers are one of my strongest memories in this rapidly browning landscape? I love calla lillies that grow everywhere during the spring, including front yards and vacant lots. Many, many, flowering trees and plants begin to open in February and are still showing off their colors in early July.
Despite our daily adventures, there are still places to visit. We’ve have yet to make it inland as far as Pinnacles National Park. There are still miles of trails on the former Ft. Ord to investigate, and we haven’t seen the blue grosbeak that many birders reported there.
All this and I haven’t even mentioned Big Sur. The drive south is always spectacular and the light is different at each time of day. From Carmel, the first place you pass is Point Lobos, and it’s usually so crowded that we keep going, though our off-season senior pass let us stop in a few times. My current favorite walk is Soberanes Point. Andrew Molera State Park is another. Pfeiffer Beach is justly famous for sunset through its sea arch. The very limited parking is an issue, and don’t bother stopping there on a day with strong wind or you’ll be sandblasted, with nowhere to hide.
[I cannot get the photo of the hawk to stay in a small size. I guess he just wants to show off…]
We’re still in the early days of visiting museums and historic houses, and won’t get to all of them before we move on. That’s ok, we’ll probably be back. We visited local events on July 4th, and enjoyed the small town atmosphere of Pacific Grove’s music and bouncy castle event. In the afternoon, the Monterey Pops played in downtown Carmel. It was our first live concert in ages, and we enjoyed the patriotic favorites.
There is lots of local quirkiness as a complement to the natural beauty. California is known for old cars and fancy cars, because there is no winter and no road salt to create rust. Sadly, contemporary Maserati and Bentley sedans look just as boring as other sedans, but now and then we see a beautiful paint job or a classic car parked by the side of the road. Just on our street are two different vintage pick-up trucks, each painted bright yellow.
People are always a community’s greatest resource, and though we have met only a few thus far, we’ve really enjoyed some of the people we’ve had a chance to meet. When Jonathan complimented a man on his dapper look, he discovered that he designed and sold shirts. Jonathan now owns one. On another day, we passed a woman and her dog on the beach, then noticed she also had a bird on her shoulder. Long time lovers of tropical birds, we know how difficult they are to keep as pets, so we stopped to chat. Her bird is a caique, a small parrot that is bred in the US for the pet trade, though the species originates from northern South America.
In Monterey, we watched a young woman feeding the ground squirrels that live in very large numbers along the shore. Later, a ground squirrel showed us its begging skills (we don’t feel the animals).
There are also surfers, kite surfers, hang gliders, parasailers, and kite flyers, many of whom are highly skilled at their activity. There’s an endless stream of people and sights.
I have so many favorite things that I can’t fit them all here. I love the storybook houses in Carmel, and all the other architectural gems that dot this region. I like the excellent seeded sourdough from Ad Astra Bakery, and ice cream from Revival, in Monterey.
And naturally, I like every beach I’ve walked on, from Big Sur to San Francisco. There are still a few beaches left that I haven’t visited, but I’ll get to the rest of them before too long. Below is a slide show of some of my favorite trees.