By good fortune, my sister has friends in Carmel, a scenic community just south of Monterey, the Spanish capital of old California. They hosted our visit. Carmel is the home of Clint Eastwood, but we didn’t see Clint at the deli. Instead, we ate seafood at a family-owned restaurant on the Monterey wharf. While there, we visited the Monterey Aquarium, probably the best in the world, with live tide pool exhibits, jellies, and once-endangered California Sea Otters. This is a seriously great aquarium and worth several hours of your time.
Back in Carmel, I cycled the scenic sea loop which can only be appreciated fully at bicycle pace. The Mission at Carmel is the resting place of Father Junipero Serra, the Spanish missionary who first established the string of missions up the then nearly empty coast of California. Father Serra’s canonization is imminent. I wonder if little Carmel will survive the inevitable new visitors making pilgrimage.
At nearby Point Lobos we visited China Cove, a birthing beach where expectant mother seals gather to gossip while waiting. I used to swim there, but now it’s protected, the steps down from the bluff overgrown. Some change actually represents progress.
California Sea Otters are cuddly-looking little critters who float on their backs with head and flippers above water. They dive for abalone, but dine on the surface using their tummies as tables. Normally, one sees them in ones and twos, occasionally a mother and pup. The exception is the Moss Landing Gentleman Otters Society where a group of a dozen mature males gathers to socialize on their backs in the morning sun. At this nature photographers’ paradise one may rent kayaks and call on the gentlemen otters so long as you keep a respectable distance and aren’t noisy, both mandated by California law. Imagine how a conviction for otter molestation would blot your family escutcheon!
I left Carmel by bicycle, taking a morning sentimental journey to Big Sur, a home of the California Coastal Redwood. This was the reprise of a much longer tour I took as a fourteen-year-old on a three-speed English bike. I slept on beaches and by creeks which yet remain pristine. I found myself lost again in the unique beauty of Monterey Cyprus, Redwoods, cliffs, and pounding sea. Vaqueros driving cattle south to the village of Los Angeles once passed along this same trail.
We spent the night in Morro Bay and will be on to Southern California tomorrow morning.