During the last week, we had been amazed, but pleased with the inaccuracies of the US weather forecasts. But this is a huge country, made up of huge States with a huge number of micro-climates from hill top to valley, along the coast and inland. Rain had been forecast on most days, but by UK standards, only brief showers materialised. Today was different though – it poured when we got up and there only a few brief dry spells during which we made the most of beautiful scenery, more Dudleya, and some unusual wildlife never seen before on our cactus trips.
But first, we had to get a replacement for one of Eunice’s Toyota Landcruiser’s headlights, obviously not included in the performance of these indestructible cars. Next was a visit to the Pacific Ocean shores of Pismo that has a location where Monarch Butterflies congregate and lay their eggs. We stepped from the car into big puddles and in the rain hurried to the information centre – closed – then to the circuit. We found and photographed (S1246) one half drowned specimen, the only one we could find, then had enough and returned to the car, without actually having been to the bit of beach that has the concentration of these beautiful butterflies.
The weather showed no signs of easing up. Eunice and I had urgent emails to post and the damp weather made toilet visits more regular, so we found a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf bar with wifi to do our business in the hope that the weather would improve. It did, and we were finally heading north, along Highway 1, the scenic Pacific Cast road. Eunice had suggested a Dudleya stop at Morro Bay (S1247) and the name reminded me of the other Morro’s we had enjoyed in Brazil (Morro do Chapeu, in Brazil and Morro Copiapo and Morro Moreno in Chile. Unlike these hills, this one had a healthy tourist feel in a village based on shore opposite a Morro that rises out of the Ocean, creating the bay. We were able to drive to the base of the Morro and found a different Dudleya, D. blochmaniae growing in the rock debris that over the years had eroded from the rock. We could also now admire the other landmark of Morro Bay – the three chimneys of the local power station – a strange combination – the town planners and conservationists must have been on holiday when the decision was made to build these. I chatted with a retired lady wielding a Canon camera with zoom lens who was interested to know what we were taking pictures of. Hearing our accents she was pleased to announce that she was English by birth (from Epping) but had lived in the USA since the age of 4. She also explained that the small crowd along the water’s edge, across the car park had gathered to admire the sea otters. These creatures have their home in the Californian kelp beds and feed on the clams and abalones that grow on the rocks below the water level. They bring the shells up, roll themselves into the kelp that act as an anchor, preventing them floating away and lie on their backs while devouring the contents of the shells, much to the saccharine of the local fisherman who can get good money for these shellfish. The otters are protected, but the fishermen’s jobs are not.
S1248 was another Dudleya Stop, at San Simeon – again D. sp. for now.
S1249, just past Hearst Castle, now open as a tourist attraction of not on our list of Points Of Interest, Terry Skillin had told us of a colony of Sea Elephants. And sure enough, there they were, littering the beach, protected by a barbed wire fence and a ranger, who reminded us that we could not climb over the fence as these animals, in their breeding season, were very dangerous. However, 3 miles farther along, there was a much larger, more accessible group, and so we moved on to the ‘real’ S1249. These animals, especially the males, are huge, and fitted out with a rather large snout that gives them the name Elephant Seal, as it resembles a short elephant’s trunk.
We made four more brief stops, prompted by Dudleya spots and scenery:
- S1250 – Big Sur
- S1251 – Jade Cove
- S1252 – Lucia Lodge
- S1253 – Pfeiffer Burns State Park