Monday, December 21, 2009

Family Outing

When Ken's mom came, we thought it might be a good idea, because she's going to be here for more than two weeks, that we plan some short adventure, perhaps an over-night, to break up the long expanse of the visit.

Not that a long visit is a bad thing, but it might be fun for the kids to be counting the days for a variety of reasons.

So yesterday, I thought "I'll find out if it's even POSSIBLE for us to visit Ano Nuevo State Reserve, and we'll make that one of the ends of a two-day trip down the coast after Christmas. If we can't, we can always just head to Monterey, and spend a day in the aquarium, and then go farther down the coast." (Ano Nuevo is where the Elephant Seals congregate every year between December and March. It's protected, so you can only access the beaches of the park on a guided tour, and the tours regularly sell out on the first day that the reservation line is opened in October)

I called the reserve reservation line, and asked if it would be possible for our family to visit the reserve in the week after Christmas.

They had exactly ONE ticket available on the 28th.

Um, yeah, that's not going to work for us.

It was looking like we wouldn't get to see the Elephant Seals, when the lady said "But I do have six tickets available for tomorrow..."

Sign me up!

I had to take a deep breath before telling the family, though. Because the only tour time available was the nine o'clock IN THE MORNING tour, and that meant leaving our house shortly after seven. And this is supposed to be VACATION, and I could see the boys whining before I'd even finished explaining what our big adventure was going to be.

They settled down, though, when I said that they could sleep in the van all the way there.

Things were not looking good this morning, though. It was foggy, and misty, and all closed-in, and threatening rain in a big way. And on the drive, we had the windshield wipers going all the way there. I considered not even taking my camera on the hike, just in case it got too wet from the constant cycle of mist-drizzle-rain-deluge.

The museum and gift shop were pretty cool. They're in an old dairy barn, and you had to watch your step and your head... the floor sloped with original old floorboards, and the beams were laid in a time when people were shorter... or just more observant when they walked around...

Lots of things to see inside, too.

As we hiked out to the ranger station from the ticket-area, it was looking pretty icky. I'd take my camera out from its little hidden pocket inside my big winter coat and snap a photo before quickly snapping the lens cap back on and hiding it in the folds of my clothes again.

But the family soldiered on...

It was blustery-stormy on the hike, but the rain stopped as we stopped to look out over the bluffs.

And then I heard this wild noise, like a motorbike dying, or one of my kids dragging their wet shoe across a fence rail. I couldn't put my finger on it, until I looked down...

Our first glimpse of a bull coming ashore. The docent figured he was about 13-14 feet long, and this was most likely his first time coming ashore at this site. He was calling... trumpeting... to see if there were any males that he was going to have to lay the smack-down on. It gave me chills.

As we walked, single-file, across the dunes towards the next viewing area, I suddenly pointed at a lump. Is that an elephant seal?

Yup. Apparently, they're seismically sensitive, and the vibrations from our footsteps had wakened it. Until we came by, it had just looked like a shiny dark brown lump beside the boardwalk. Fortunately, he wasn't willing to exert any effort to scare us off. Whew. He was bigger than my minivan.

We tip-toed, single-file along the boardwalk to the next viewing place, and it was breath-taking!

Two young males, sparring. As the docent said "These guys don't have a chance yet. They're like middle-school boys strutting their stuff in front of the girls. Pretty soon a teacher is going to come by and smack them upside the head. The *real* males of substance aren't going to be wasting their energy this early in the game. They're biding their time, and will move in when there are more females to mate with.

The big males, they were just lounging around, having a rest.

Yup. Closer than I ever thought I'd get.

And check this out... a young female:

Kelly wanted to name her, and take her home with us. Yeah... she's the size of a VW bug. And she blew fluffy white boogers when she exhaled. I'll stick with hamsters.

The kids ended up having a grand old time.

And nobody got trampled.

Ken's mom was just delighted with the event.


And the loser is chased into the surf by the 'winner'...

Don't get any ideas, Skip and Nate...

On the way back, we stopped at a display of pieces of a shipwreck that had washed ashore.

And just as we got to the car, the skies OPENED! It was a deluge on the way home, but the whole time we were out looking at the elephant seals, it had been just lovely. A little cool and damp, but probably nothing below 50F

But by the time I got home, I was EXHAUSTED! I'd been up since 630, and it felt like supper time when we got home at 1pm. I made lunch for everyone, and then lied down on the couch, and the next thing I knew, it was supper time. I better not be getting sick. I still have presents to wrap!

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