The sky is clear today, the water below as well, the water is generally like this here but the sky that breeds the Spanish Moss draped on the Oaks is often gray and holding a mist, (It’s not really Spanish moss, it’s Lace Lichen, so my biological Mom says..). The meeting of the mist and the ocean has formed one of the most beautiful spots on earth, the collision of ocean and rock that is Point Lobos, on California’s Monterey Bay.
Inspiration abounds in the vistas and tides of Point Lobos today as it has before any of us were around. A hike through this paradise gave Robert Louis Stevenson Treasure Island, and convinced poet Robinson Jeffers to build a house of stone by hand while also becoming convinced that mankind is not worthy. Natural beauty like this can make a strong argument in that direction, and although mankind’s encroachment has seen it’s effect almost everywhere else, Point Lobos remains a pearl. Speaking of pearls and inspiration John Steinbeck grew up twenty miles away in Salinas.
But today Point Lobos is a well chaperoned state park with maintained hiking trails, no dogs allowed here, nothing to change the balance of the way nature and time made it. An abundance of wild flowers, mossy rocks and ancient wind ravaged trees, a hike through Point Lobos today is refreshing to say the least, spiritual to say the most. Along the trail you come to The Whalers Cabin, now an incredible museum dedicated to Point Lobos’s whaling past. Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese and indigenous fisherman and abalone divers worked these waters for hundreds of years. The museum’s parking lot used to be occupied by gigantic iron rendering pots, turning blubber into oil, until kerosene came along and made whale oil less than profitable.
Walking past the lupine to the living tidal pools you meet one of the area’s most prominent residents, the barking and basking sea lions. The deep waters just beyond the beach provide for a higher than average oxygen content and abundance of sea life; ideal for the restricted divers and a subterranean buffet for the sea lions, often occupying the beach nursing their pups. On the beach the sea lions seem cute but ungainly slugs, however underwater they dance and fly around the towering kelp forests with a grace that establishes the ocean as their true element, a place the divers just visit. There are other residents outside of the sea lions and influence of the a fore mentioned literates, Point Lobos is a bird watching haven. The Great Blue Heron, American Krestels, White-tailed Kites, Band-tailed Pigeons, Blue Jays, Red-tailed Hawks and the ubiquitous oft diving Cormorant – amongst countless others make Point Lobos the place for all things Avian. And of course one can not speak of prominent residents of Point Lobos without mentioning the Sea Otter, floating on their backs in the kelp beds using rocks to break apart shellfish gathered from below. The kelp itself, although hardly seen above water is a complete forest towering dozens of feet from below, and at low tide limps without the support of the water, washing across the rocks like spaghetti on a broken watermelon.
For me it is the hike. A person could spend a lifetime on these bluffs below the Carmelite Monastery, but possibly feeling like a pollutant. The description pristine does not do Point Lobos justice. Myself, I was looking for a breath of fresh air, a recharge of sorts. Point Lobos put me in a place of understanding and peace that while far away from the office, made it OK to go back.
How To Get There:
Alaska Airlines has a direct flight from Seattle to San Jose (SJC), about 1.5 hours (sans traffic) drive north of Monterey – around $250 round trip if booked ahead, $400, at least, if the week before. The connector to Monterey Peninsula Airport (MPC) is a bit pricey, (near $700-$800 dollars total) and probably outweighs the cost of a rental car from SJC, you will need transportation getting to Point Lobos from Monterey or Carmel anyway
Amtrak – Coast Starlite – this would have to be part of the trip as opposed to a means of getting there, we are talking at least 24 hrs though does travel through some incredible scenery and you would need to de-train in Salinas – perhaps giving time to visit the John Steinbeck Center and the ability to claim that you have visited “The Lettuce Capitol of the World.”
Greyhound – You could, but…
Where To Stay:
High end: Highland’s Inn, beautiful suites overlooking the point.
Bed and Breakfast Inns: Green Gables Inn
Pacific Grove Low end: Clarion Hotel, Monterey
Where To Eat:
Highlands Inn—the California Market downstairs has an outdoor patio that overlooks the ocean…Lunch ($9 to $25 w/o drinks) Dinner slightly more. The Pacific Edge upstairs is a truly elegant dining experience, also overlooking the ocean, price (if you have to ask, you can’t afford it)
Pebble Beach: Peppoli is incredible and not cheap
Carmel Proper: for all kinds of appetites try Pastisse Boisserie, Graslings, or il Fornaio
Mouth of the Carmel Valley: Rio Grill -In the Crossroads shopping center
In the Barnyard: Lugano’s Swiss Bistro (Fondue!!!) always tops!