Sunday, November 22, 2009
A day for the Mammals
We got out of our great camp at 9:30 this morning with no dishes to do at breakfast. There are lots of hills on today's ride. Many smaller climbs and one large hill with two peaks. I felt a little slower today going up the hills, but I was in a good mood and kept a consistent pace. We had another sunny day with great, sweeping views of the ocean below. We hit the first peak of the big hill and felt pretty good. Then we started to go down, and down and down. It seemed like were losing a lot of elevation, just to gain it all back again, and then some! Our chocolate chip cookies from Trader Joe's really helped us through the climbs today. Mmm...cookies.
After the biggest hills were conquered we were riding along some picturesque winding road when I saw a GSA truck (a federal government truck) with someone outside using telemetry and looking through a spotting scope. I had to bother this guy and ask him what we was studying and if I could please look through the scope. It turns out that he is was looking at some wild sea otters and I got to look through the scope at them floating on their backs and playing in the kelp leaves. I got to see three wild sea otters today, how exciting! We found out from this guy that there are only about 2,600 sea otters in California, with strong populations around Big Sur. The females have a several mile long home range, while the males in his study were traveling over 40 miles to the north of where we were standing. We thanked him for his time and got on our way again, although I know Greg and I could have asked him questions for a long time.
We ate lunch at a picnic table at the Forest Service's fire station in Pacific Valley. Trout filets and cheese on crackers, so good. After a small climb out of Gorda, we had a great road with wide shoulders and rolling hills. Not to mention a very helpful 15mph tailwind. YES! We were cruising easily at about 19-20 for miles. We saw a turnout on this road and decided to take it so we could get some pictures of the coast. There was a huge crowd at this site and it was not until we pulled in that we realized everyone was gathered here to see the elephant seals. Elephant seals come to this beach twice each year. Once to breed and give birth and a second time in the spring to molt their skin. We got to see the groups just begin to form harems. I think the pups were all born by this time because they seemed to be pretty big by now. Elephant seals are very cute. They lounge about on the sand and scratch their tummies with their flippers. What I liked the best is the big smiles on their faces when they sleep in the sun. They also throw sand on themselves. It is very obvious which animals are males and which are females. The males have a big snout and can weigh up to 5,000 pounds. The females are smaller (1,200 pounds) and lack the bulbous proboscis. It was a first for both Greg and I seeing the elephant seals and it was quite unforgettable.
We also passed the Hearst Castle State Park on the route today. We could see it perched on a ridge out in the valley. Another oddity we encountered today was the sight of zebras grazing in a pasture with black angus cattle. Yes, zebras. I can't explain this one. It has been an interesting day of mammal sightings.
San Simeon State Park Campground is just mediocre. The hiker/biker sites are right next to the highway and far from the showers. But, I can't really complain too much, we paid $5 while everyone else paid $35. Tomorrow we ride through San Louis Obispo.