We decided to take advantage of the 3-day weekend by knocking a few things off of our California bucket list.
Saturday was seeing the Monarch Butterflies at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz. Up to 100,000 monarchs make a temporary home in the park’s monarch grove each year from late fall into winter. Walking through the eucalyptus, you’ll see a few monarchs flying around, but the majority of them are clustered up high in the trees.
Yes, those things hanging from the trees are butterflies all clustered together. Crazy!
The kids weren’t all that excited about seeing the butterflies once they found out that there was also a beach at the park, but once we got on the trail, they loved spotting the monarchs!
After spending some time on the monarch trail we walked down to the beach to check out the natural bridge and play in the sand and surf.
Today it was back to explore another state park – Año Nuevo State Park north of Santa Cruz.
Año Nuevo is known for their resident population of Elephant Seals.
Some of you may remember that we saw some elephant seals in San Simeon on our drive up the California coast when we were moving out here. But it was a nasty, drizzly day, and the kids weren’t even awake when we stopped at the overlook. I had heard that you could get closer to the seals at Año Nuevo, so we decided to go for it.
Now let me tell you, getting to these seals wasn’t easy. The website stated that it was a three mile round trip hike, but when we got to the park, we were informed that it was four miles. That extra mile makes a lot of difference with a three year old, four year old, and 30-week prego in tow. Especially when nearly half of the four miles was trudging through sand.
Charlotte started out the hike in the piggyback rider.
But as soon as we got to the sand, she decided that it would be more fun to walk.
Or make sand angels….
We took plenty of breaks to take in the scenery and stay hydrated.
We finally came up on the seals. There were 300-400 out today – juvenile males and a few females. Next month when the big bull seals and the rest of the females come back for breeding/pupping season there will be between 1,000 and 2,000 out here!
The juvenile males come back early to practice their fighting skills before the bull seals come back.
Elephant seal trunks grow with age, so none of the juveniles really had trunks.
Seeing the seals was really neat. There were some hanging out directly below us – probably 12-15 feet away from us. It was a pretty cool experience.
Trenton really wanted to see a Great White Shark eat a seal, but the park ranger that was at the overlook answering questions told him that the sharks hang out around Año Nuevo Island, half a mile from the mainland. But even if we didn’t see a shark attack, Trenton was still pretty excited about the seals. Just not the smell…
Here is a quick video of the seals. You can see them throwing sand on themselves to stay cool up on shore and some practice fighting in the water.
Once we had seen (and smelled) enough of the seals, it was time to turn back. The trek through the sand took a lot longer on the way out than on the way in. On top of already being worn out, the sun was showing itself so it was getting warm too. Once we got out of the sandy staging area, we stopped for snacks with a gorgeous view of the meadow.
Charlotte didn’t want to ride in the piggyback rider anymore, but she was also tired of walking.
So why not try flying?
She was a little sad that this was as high as her “wings” got her.
Although we were all pretty worn out and happy to make it back to the car, we had a wonderful time at Año Nuevo. I’d love to go back when the bulls and females come in, but I think that hike might put me right there “pupping” with the seals if I were to do it next month!
Exploring the area’s parks before the military moves us this summer was a great way to spend this Veteran’s Day weekend! I hope that you all enjoyed your weekend too, and Happy Veteran’s Day to all of those who have served and are currently serving this great nation.