Elephant seals, and lots of them. That’s one reason we adventured to San Simeon, the town of Hearst Castle, along the central coast of California. At the time of this writing, it’s the birth and breeding season for these big ol’ blubbery girls at San Simeon’s Elephant Seal Lookout.
Such a gorgeous day, we caught it without much wind and just enough sun. We were hoping to grab lunch at Sebastian’s historic restaurant, but we sadly discovered they were no longer in business.
Sebastian’s angelic, white building from the 1800’s now sits quiet near the ocean. A contrast to previous visits when people piled up for burgers and wine, vying for seats. Fortunately we were still able to whet our whistle. Hearst Ranch Winery now occupies a renovated barn across the street from the historic Sebastian’s building, adjacent to the ocean front. A much larger venue, a lot more elbow room, a food truck on site, gift shop with artistic trinkets and of course wine!
After ordering a few burgers, we purchased a bottle of Hearst Ranch Winery’s 2017 Glacier Ridge Chardonnay. The wine was nestled in a cooling sleeve, to provide crisp sips in the glass.
We then nestled ourselves underneath a grove of Eucalyptus trees with a scopious view of the ocean and San Simeon Pier. In fact it was gorgeous. It was one of those Chardonnay-kind-of-days, so excuse me as I commit a foodie-faux pas . White wine and a burger. One can argue that the buttery Chard complements the fat in the burger. I state my case.
Now fully satiated, we drove the very short distance to the Hearst San Simeon State Park parking lot to commence our hike to San Simeon Point. While the hike is touted to be 2.5 round-trip miles from trailhead to point, it was a hair over 4 miles round-trip from our car to the point. I know this because I’m somewhat obsessed with tracking my steps on most days, gotta get in those 10,000!
It’s a slight, sand-filled walk along the shoreline, to reach the trailhead. Having stomped this trail a handful of times in the past, I was eager to slink in to the tree-branched alcoves that dart off the path for rock-climbing and expansive views of the ocean. We saw a score of otters swimming and frolicking around in the water as we sat out on a flat rock ledge. Such a generous gift from nature, as I hadn’t seen them here before.
Making our way out to the point along the ridge, there was no wind. A first for me as it’s usually a bit breezy, particularly in January. We thought we saw huge rocks below us, but on closer inspection they were elephants seals! A large male with a harem of females and possibly a couple yearlings. Had we known the seals would have a private viewing in store for us, we would have skipped the mass of humans and tour buses at the Elephant Seal Lookout before lunch.
The male was nestled near the shore with a pile of kelp along his big belly to keep him cool, while the rest of his large lot snoozed in the sand. We soaked up their special presence as they soaked up the sun on their big backs.
Heading back on the soft-dirt trail and gradual declines, my feet were happy, but watch your step because there are some tree roots that pop up along the bends. On that note, there is plenty of nature to discover on foot, wild flowers were thinking about poking their heads out and I thought for sure we would see some Monarch butterflies; I know they are currently in abundance further south, but I saw only one straggler fluttering. Also saw mushrooms of various sorts, sucking on fallen logs, enjoying the recent rain we just had.
It was with a full stomach, heart and spirit that we sashayed back to the car. Another central coast excursion in the bag; blubber, burgers and so much incredible beauty.