I went on a spur of the moment trip and met my daughter in Cambria this past Sunday. It was a little over 3 hours drive about 200 miles north of where I live. The drive up was gorgeous. The most beautiful scenery starts above Ventura where the highway runs along the ocean. The day was sunny with moderate temperatures and the ocean appeared calm and blue. You get a beautiful view of the ocean up to Santa Barbara. Then again above Santa Barbara where you start getting more open countryside. Everything is still green. Up into Solvang there are rolling hills and oak trees. Above there around Los Alamos you start seeing vineyards. The vines are dormant now for the winter. Then you swing by some ocean communities again like Pismo Beach. Onward to San Luis Obispo and you connect with Highway 1 and head toward Morro Bay. Highway 1 then runs along the ocean up to Cambria.
I met my daughter at a restaurant called the Indigo Moon for lunch. She had driven down about 3 ½ hours from Northern California. There is a lovely beach in Cambria called Moonstone Beach. There is a wooden walkway on the bluffs and we took a walk there before sunset and had dinner at a restaurant above the beach. There are many inns along Moonstone Beach and we could see some people sitting out on the balconies.
The next day ,after a delicious breakfast at a local diner called the Cambria Cafe ,we drove a bit further north to San Simeon. The Hearst Castle is located atop the hills here. We did not go to Hearst Castle but I have toured it in the past. The Hearst family owned many acres of land around the castle. My daughter and I said how glad we are that they gave the bulk of the land to a nature conservancy so it will not be developed. What a gift to have all this open land preserved. We went to the beach at San Simeon for more gorgeous views and saw an elephant seal sun bathing on the beach, (photo above). There were signs posted about the elephant seals stating they are a protected species. The signs warned not to approach them too close. It recommended staying back about 50-100 feet from them.
When we first saw the elephant seal I was worried it was sick, injured or worse because it was laying so still. Then it opened its eyes, looked around and, as we walked over to look, started to roll over and yawn.
It had a snout, that looked like a short elephant trunk, called a proboscis. I spied a couple of pointy teeth in its lower jaw. I thought it was a young male because of its size. It had some open wounds around its neck. I told my daughter that maybe it had gotten in a fight with an older male and been driven off. A park ranger later confirmed it was a male probably about 5 years old.
My daughter and I did a little hiking along the beach and on the bluffs above. It was so beautiful with clear blue skies and sunshine that reflected off the water. We saw a few monarch butterflies among the eucalyptus trees above the beach. The eucalyptus were so fragrant as we walked along and stepped on their fallen leaves and acorns. The Eucalyptus tree is not native to California. It was brought to California in the 1850s during the California Gold Rush from Australia.
We said goodbye in the early afternoon to make our drives in opposite directions. This trip made me realize I need to do this more often. Get out and see the beauty that is so close and is the California coast.