Piedras Blancas (CA)

December 30, 2014

From San Francisco you can head south following State Route 1, the highway is famous for running along some of the most beautiful coastlines in the USA.

City of Carmel-by-the-Sea

120 miles south of San Francisco, you can do a quick stop at Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Carmel is also known for several unusual laws, including a prohibition on wearing high-heel shoes without a permit, enacted to prevent lawsuits arising from tripping accidents caused by irregular pavements

The Central Coast

The area I drove is better know as the Central Coast. The region is known primarily for agriculture and tourism. Major crops include wine grapes, lettuce, strawberries, and artichokes. 

The mountainous terrain, environmental restrictions and lack of property available for development have kept this area relatively unspoiled.

As a result, real estate prices are high, with land and homes prices above $2 million. There are no urban areas, although three small clusters of gas stations, restaurants, and motels are often marked on maps as "towns"

Piedras Blancas Light Station

From the distance you can see Piedras Blancas Light Station. The tower and some support buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Access to the light station is only by guided tour every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning.

The views are spectacular. The scenes are unforgettable. Many places to visit and see, this is California at its most gorgeous. Lots of places to pull over and take pics. Steep and narrow at times, but so lovely. Fill up with gas before you start because the only place that sells it along the way charges much higher prices.

A great attaction during this time of the year is the Elephant Seal Rookery.

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

In 1990, biologists spotted over a dozen animals for the first time. The total population of this colony is now more than 15,000.

Battle for Dominance (Click here to see video)

In the 1880's northern elephant seals were thought to be extinct, harvested by shore whalers and sealers for their blubber

A small group of between 20-100 elephant seals that bred on Guadalupe Island, off Baja California, survived the ravages of the seal hunts. Protected first by Mexico and later by the United States, they have steadily expanded their range.

A dominant bull

This is breeding season, a busy and noisy time. Bull hierarchy is established with dramatic and often bloody battles.

Males challenge other males with battle cries. Females snarl to ward off males. Moms coo to their pups, and pups cry for mom's attention

The males are on the beach for up to 100 days. The seals are fasting while they are on land, and both males and females lose about 1/3 of their body weight during the breeding season.

Pregnant females give birth and nurse their young amid the chaos.

The pups are usually born within 4-5 days of the female's arrival, and weigh between 60-80 pounds. They nurse for 24-28 days on the richest milk in the mammal world.

Mating occurs during the last 2-3 days of nursing. The peak of mating activity is around Valentine's Day.

Males enter puberty around 4 years of age, at which time the nose starts to grow. The nose is a secondary sexual characteristic, like a man's beard, and can reach the astonishing length of 2 feet.

Dude showing how to pick up a girl at the beach

Males reach physical maturity around 9 years old. Prime breeding age is 9-12, and they can live to a maximum of 15 years. Females are considered physically mature at age 6 and can live to a maximum of 23 years.