Sunday, June 3, 2012

Monterey, California (May 28-June 4, 2012)

Having spent some time at the Naval Postgraduate School in the early part of this century, I knew my way around and was able to see the great things this area holds for visitors. Monterey, California was the birthplace of the state of California in 1846.  It and the surrounding area is rich in history and is a haven for artists throughout the world.  Besides that, it has some of the most beautiful coastline in this country. School was still in session so the vacationers were not clogging the streets and beaches, yet.

We spent our first full day exploring the town and local area. I could see a huge change in the town from the last time I was here. "Cannery Row" and the Monterey "Fisherman's Wharf" were both modernized and were attracting loads of tourist even in this off season. It was good to see this for ten years ago they were struggling.

A big attraction here are the seals, sea otters and other bay wildlife.  The seals cover every square inch available on the old piers and rocks and the Sea Otters you'll see swimming in and around the kelp forests close to the wharfs and piers. When the Sea Otters are eating, they'll be lying on their back happily munching an Abalone, a Sea Otters favorite food. Unfortunately, due to the large volume of tour buses in this area we did not get a chance to see them.

Remember, if you click on a picture it will bring up all the pictures in a full screen format.

Fisherman's Wharf

Lot's of seafood and tourist gifts here.  All very expensive.

Monterey Harbor Marina

Later on in the day we noticed the police blocking off several blocks of the main street in the town.  I then remembered they always had a farmer's market in the late afternoon on Wednesdays. We hurried to find a parking place and watched the vendors set up.  The crowds were starting to gather and the traffic was getting heavier.  The Monterey Farmer's Market has been running continuously every Wednesday, rain or shine, since 1991. The atmosphere was like that of a small carnival.  Great looking vegetables right out of the ground.  Loads of artisan items like honey, breads, relishes and cheeses.  We bought some fresh vegetables and some good tasting cheese.  We would enjoy them for dinner.

On the next day we decided to take a day trip down the Pacific Coast Highway, affectionately called the PCH by the locals. A short distance from Monterey, just past Carmel, the road intersects with the Santa Lucia mountain range.  From this point on the road is very narrow and, at times, rises 300-400 feet above the rocky coastline below. Did I mention very few guardrails? Well, everyone knows by now my aversion to heights and why I do this to myself is beyond my comprehension.  I guess it is a sense of adventure and the need of seeing beauty first hand. 

We took our time and made many stops to take pictures and just to experience the vistas. The day was clear and cool (55F), but the wind was blowing quite hard.  Guinness and Rosco were not impressed with the wind, but sucked it up for it was better than being in the truck. There were impressed, however, by the seals.  On several of our stops we were able to get within 20 feet or so and both Guinness and Rosco did not know what to make of them.  They were, actually, frightened of them. Probably because they were so big and loud. Needless to say they stuck close by us.

After a 100 miles, almost 6 hours, dozens of stops and hundreds of pictures we decided to head back to Monterey. It was close to 5 PM and the drive back was going to be a long one. We did not want to drive back on this road in the dark so we headed east on a road just south of Cambria to Paso Robles which is located on Highway 101.  That is a good 4 lane highway that would take us back to Monterey in about 2 hours.  Must say, this was an awesome day with awesome sights and experiences for us all.

Harbor Seal soaking up the sun.

Looking for Sea Otters

Point Pinos Lighthouse-a bed and breakfast

Cormorants taking a break

Momma Sea Otter and her pup

Bixby Creek Bridge

Fog rolling in.

Ice Plants

Point Sur Naval Facility
Notice Guinness' ears-very windy

Western Scrub-jay

Notice the house on the cliff

High above the beaches

Taking a break
A Seal Beach

Ground squirrel

Hearst Castle from afar.

Once we finally returned to our RV it was quite late so we had a light dinner and planned the next day.  We were here for just a week so we had to see as much as we could.

Next day we headed north on the PCH with our destination being San Fransisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. This route was not as mountainous as yesterday's, but there were still plenty of twisty-curvy road stretches. Besides the mountains there were also many stretches where we were down to beach level. The entire journey was beautiful, but in a different way than our previous days trip.
Pacific Ocean coast near Pescadero, California

Pigeon Point Lighthouse and Hostel, Pescadero, California

Flock of Brown Pelicans

We continued up the coast on the PCH through Half Moon Bay, Pacifica and into the outskirts of San Francisco we arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge Visitor Center. This is the second time for me visiting this architectural wonder and the first time for Joyce. It truly is an amazing sight. Even Guinness and Rosco were taken by the huge thing in front of them.  Of course it was extremely windy, but the weather was warm in the mid 70s.  After many pictures and walking around the vista park and the Persidio Park we headed north again.

Photo OP

San Francisco from the bridge vista park

"The Rock" AKA Alcatraz Prison

San Francisco from the bridge park on the north end.

North end of bridge .

Constant state of construction.

For Sale. Hmmmm.

Once we had finished taking pictures and looking around the bridge's vista park on the north side we decided to head back to Monterey for it was getting late and we did not want to get stuck in the city's rush hour traffic. As it was we did not get back until almost 7 PM (PDST).

The next few days we did some maintenance on our trailer and truck, took walks with the boys around the waterfront, visited a professor I had become friends with while attending the Naval Postgraduate School, stocking up our vittles cabinet and just generally relaxing. We did make one trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, just a few miles away.  Beautiful place, but we did not get to meet the former mayor, Clint Eastwood. It was kind of good not to be driving much for a few days.

Our next destination is Oakhurst, California, our base camp for our visits to Yosemite National Park, one of my favorite places on earth.

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