April 14, 2010

Big Sur Coast and Elephant Seals

Yesterday we drove 90 miles up the coast to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Along the way, we stopped by Elephant Seal Beach. It is one of the only places where Northern Elephant Seals breed and haul out along the mainland coast. Mostly they rely on offshore islands.

They rotate to this beach several times per year, depending on the activity. At this time, it was all females and newborns, while all the giant males are up in Alaska feeding. The females are molting. Once they are done, they too will head to Alaska.

The females and youngsters do not have those long noses.

The newborns are still learning how to swim and forage. They have already weaned and will head to Alaska in the new couple of months once they master swimming in the open ocean and can catch fish.

Rugged Coast and rocks stained white by seabirds

Afterwards, we headed up the Big Sur coast. Upon arrival at Pfeiffer Big Sur SP, we did a short 2 mile trail up through the redwoods and to the valley overlook and Pfeiffer Falls. We were surprised to come across these dense redwoods already this far south.

Redwoods charred by the 2008 fires. Notice the resprouting from the base.

As it turns out, Big Sur is the southernmost area of redwoods. They live in the deep canyons and valleys of the mountains. But, quicky above them the habitat transitions to chaparral and grasslands. We'll venture above the redwoods later today on a hike called Buzzer's Roost.

Hilina gets really excited when there are stairs

Pfeiffer Falls

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