Friday, November 9, 2012

Day 6 - Piedras Blancas and San Simeon

Thursday was another beautiful day. We got an early start and checked out of the Cliffs Resort to head up to San Simeon. We were going to visit another lighthouse or light station to be exact. We had learned by now that if the head lightkeeper lived in the same building that housed the light, then it was considered a "lighthouse" but if he lived in a separate building, it was then known as a "light station". Our destination this morning was the Piedras Blancas Light Station.

We met at the site of a former motel just north of the light station entrance. We waited for several minutes with a few other cars before the BLM ranger arrived. After paying a $10 per person fee, we were divided up into two groups and we then caravaned up to the driveway that led into the light station.

Our group was greeted by Dave who was our volunteer guide. His tour lasted two hours and about half of it was about the marine mammals in the area which included a walk along the bluffs overlooking the ocean. The other half was a talk about the history of the light station and a tour of several buildings.

Right from the parking lot we had a closeup view of the Piedras Blancas or "white rocks". It's white because of the guano and we saw a number of birds on it including a perigrine falcon perched on top. At the base were a number of sea lions lying on the rocks and making their barking sounds.

Eventually, we made our way around the point heading towards the beaches on the mainland. On the beaches were hundreds of elephant seals. Dave told us that they were mostly immature males who return to the area before the females and adult males return in December. These animals are fun to watch and they make a lot of noise although they supposedly are resting since they do not feed in this area and need to maintain their strength.

The lighthouse and support buildings are in the process of being restored. The Coast Guard had removed the top of the lighthouse because of structural weakness. The foundation operating the station hopes to replace it in the near future so that the tower will look like it did before. We were able to enter the tower which houses a number of exhibits but we were not allowed to climb the stairs. We also entered the old oil house and the brick sound signal building that was constructed in 1906.

We really enjoyed our tour of Piedras Blancas. We had fabulous weather and it was great to learn about all the wildlife but this part of the tour could be uncomfortable if it was windy or drizzly because of fog. People taking this tour should come prepared and not dress in t-shirts and shorts like we did in case they are not as fortunate as we were with the weather.

After the tour, we were pretty hungry. Dave had recommended Sebastian's Store at San Simeon Landing. On our way there, we stopped briefly at the elephant seal viewing area along Hwy 1. It's amazing how close you can get to them here. The sounds and smells are incredible. We were hungry though and knew we would return the next morning and spend more time here.

There was quite a wait at the Sebastian's Store to order lunch but well worthhile it turned out. The sandwiches are delicious here and they are huge. My $5.95 burger was made with Hearst Ranch beef and was outstanding. They have a great selection of beers at reasonable prices and there's a wine tasting bar (Hearst Ranch Winery) where you can buy wine by the glass. The outside dining on the patio was delightful. This place is not to be missed.

Next, it was off to the Hearst Castle. We had not been sure we would get on the light station tour since it's limited and we weren't sure how many people might show up and so wanted to keep the Hearst Castle tour open. Once we knew we were on the tour, we called the state park and booked a 2 pm tour of the great rooms.

We've done all the castle tours in the past but it was nice to be back up on the hill and walk through the great rooms again. The opportunity to linger and explore the gardens and pool areas that was instituted a couple of years ago is a nice change. We took advantage of the opportunity to sit by the pool and enjoy the wonderful sunshine and pretend we were guests of Mr. Hearst back in the 20's and 30's. A couple of guides were present to answer any questions about the estate and offer recommendations about things to do and places to dine in the area.

When we arrived back at the Visitor Center, we missed the showtime for the IMAX movie that's included with the price of the tour and didn't want to wait for the next showing so we decided to come back the next morning and view it.

We then drove back to San Simeon and checked into the Sea Breeze Motel. We had a very nice room at a very reasonable price. We could view the ocean from our room window even though it was a couple of blocks away. We enjoyed another great sunset and green flash as well as another Giants World Series win.

No comments:

Post a Comment