Sunday, 24 May 2015

Año Nuevo State Park

Hike 14 of the year was to Año Nuevo State Park in San Mateo County - to see elephant seals! The day started off on a promising note after a week of gloomy, cold weather - and then went downhill as soon as we crossed over into Half Moon Bay. We persevered though, and as we passed Pescadero the rain stopped, and the temperature started going up again. We reached Año Nuevo State Park at 12 pm, just in time for lunch. Note that since this a California State Park, there is a $10 parking fee. There are restrooms in the parking lot, and before you head out to the trails you need to go to the white barn visible from the parking lot and get a free visitor's permit.

The ranger at the barn was helpful, and told us that today, the most seals were at Bight Beach - about 1.5 miles from the barn. Getting there was a pleasant walk through scrub land - lots of wildflowers lining the trail.

Bight Beach is on the other side of a sand dune, so be prepared to walk through lots of sand. As we got closer to the beach, we started hearing the seals, but the sounds didn't quite prepare us for what we got to see - at least a hundred elephant seals just a few feet from the path! Note that most of these huge creatures in the photo below are juveniles, since we went after the birthing season.

As you can see, there were many of them - hard to believe these creatures were nearly extinct. Quite a  conservation success story.

From Bight beach, we walked on to the North Point - fewer seals there, and farther away from the lookout point, but we went there primarily for the wildflowers - as the ranger had mentioned, there were plenty along the trail.

Along the way, we also saw interesting lizards, and in a ditch off the path, some tadpoles, tadpoles with legs and young frogs - all very interesting stuff for a young Wild Kratts kid.

In all, we ended up spending 5 hours at the park, and from the faces we saw when we reached, and the faces we saw as we left, we weren't the only ones :)

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