North of Cambria is a stretch of coastline accessed by Moonstone Drive. The drive is dotted with motels. As along much of California’s coast, highway 1 is all too near. But the coast itself is scenic, and sea otters may be seen. At this time of year whales migrant along the coast here, and they are often spotted surfacing and spouting offshore.
Further north is San Simeon and the Hearst Castle. A pier built by William Randolf Hearts still stands here. It is said to offer good fishing for mackeral, perch, and smelt.
A few miles further up the coast is the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. Unfortunately, it is not accessible to the public. Its original Fresnel beacon lens was removed and replaced by a more functional but less delightful modern device; the original is now in downtown Cambria.
On the shore near the lighthouse elephant seals laze. They mate in March and pups are born in February; in 2007, 4000 pups were born in this rapidly growing colony. After mating the males head north to Alaska, while the rest of the herd follows in a month or two. By midsummer, however, they will be back at Piedras Blancas, only, as I understand, to travel north again before fall and return once more in November — their comings and goings are complicated and confusing. What are these big lugs thinking?
These creatures resemble giant belicose (but slothful) mamalian slugs, or manatees without the charm. Despite this lack of a cuddly Bambi factor, there is something exciting about encountering these enormous (the males was up to 5000 pounds) residents of the Pacific coast.