Seals & Sur

Our week up in Cambria wasn’t all the same routine. In our rental house, we found a couple of books by Ron Stob on the Backroads of the Central Coast. We’re folks that like to get off the beaten path and so decided to load up Adventure Dog and to spend a day finding some of these back roads.



Our trip took us north out of Cambria towards San Simeon. Most people might know of San Simeon as the home of Hearst Castle, but it is also home to one of the largest elephant seal rookeries on the west coast. We had stopped here many moons ago on our first trip down the Central Coast and read that this time of year is prime birthing season.



Two Bulls Saying Hello, I'm Sure

Two Bulls Saying Hello, I’m Sure

The beach by San Simeon was a mosaic of elephant seals. Bulls, cows, and pups were all around. In fact, we got to see the very “circle of life” tableau of seagulls fighting to get the placenta and afterbirth scraps from a just-happened-before-we-got-there birth. The place was pretty crowded with people as well as seals, so we kept the Pennster in the car for this stop.

Mmmmmm... Placenta

Mmmmmm… Placenta

We wound our way up the Pacific Coast Highway enjoying the sights of our crystal clear day (a benefit of the entrenched Santa Ana) along the southern edge of Big Sur. If you’ve ever taken this drive (and you should if you have the chance) the vistas are spectacular. I had mistakenly thought that the ride was also pretty much just CA-1 the whole time as the coast range is a pretty large impediment to heading east.

No So Sure About All This

No So Sure About All This

Our books however described a small road (Nacimiento-Ferguson Rd) that winds it way through a series of some-might-say terrifying switchbacks up and over the coast range. The road was larger than a single lane, but certainly not two car widths across, which is interesting in a road without guardrails and thousand foot drops. Adventure Dog apparently didn’t like switchbacks, or maybe the guardraillessness of the road, because we heard about it the whole way up the crest. We stopped at several spots to take in the stunning panoramic views.

The PCH was allllllll the way down there.

The Pacific Coast Highway from above

Pacific, Indeed

Pacific, Indeed

After cresting, we stopped and had ham sandwiches at a little turnout and Adventure Dog’s mere presence scared off some lingering deer. (I’m pretty sure she didn’t see them.) We made our way into some back country of sloping hills and gnarly live oaks that looked like a magical world out of an Eyvind Earle painting.

Pretty Much Like That

Pretty Much Like That

Before too long, the golden hills turned to ranches and the ranches turned vineyards and we were in the outer reaches of the Paso Robles wine region. A few delicious tastings seemed like a perfect way to cap off our day before following the setting sun back to Cambria.

Don’t you love a good road trip?


20 thoughts on “Seals & Sur

  1. I don’t blame Penny one bit for complaining about the switchbacks! Just driving along certain sections of Hwy. 1 make my stomach turn. You did get some beautiful shots out of the drive however, so I that makes it worthwhile.

    (I know a guy who rappels off of cliffs to get spectacular photographs of the seashore. He has admitted that there have been “close calls.” Some people are a little too dedicated to their art, I think.)

    Eww on the afterbirth hors d’oeuvres.

  2. My son is recently back from a 6 week trip to the USA (a lot of it driving) and they went to Cambria – unless there’s more than one of course. They went to Moonstone Beach and they were on their way to Monterey. Oh it must be the same place because I see they went to the castle and had a burger on San Simeon Road at a place called Sebastions Store. Lol, he left me a copy of a very detailed itinerary.

    • Jane — it sure is. The sunset pics from the previous post are from Moonstone Beach. The drive along the central coast and Big Sur is really one of the prettiest I know. A lot of car companies use it for commercials — hah!

  3. That painting is FAB! I love it — I’d never have come up with that image in my head but it greatly reminds me of the El Dorados outside of Sacramento!

    • Eyvind Earle was a south central coast painter, who actually worked for Disney back in their early days. There are a couple of galleries with some of his landscapes like this, and they’re beautiful. I’d love to own one some day, but I need to be more successful.

      • Get Penny on it. With all her time surrounded by beauty, she can paint you some masterpieces, then you can SELL them and retire!

  4. Love that view from the road. I love wind-ey roads. I know not every person (or dog) does. I’m the only person I know who can read in the car. Great seal photos too, I hear they can be very aggressive but looks like they were just chillin’ when you saw them.

    • Emmy — the rookery is right by the PCH, so I think they’ve gotten pretty used to people being nearby. There’s a good observation deck, but they’ve fenced off all the ways down to the beach. The males are pretty aggressive with one another, but what we saw it was limited to bellowing.

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