Wednesday, December 12, 2012

California - Point Loma, San Diego

The day after Thanksgiving, we took a drive west.  We drove until we reached San Diego...Point Loma to be exact.

We couldn't wait to get our first peek of the Pacific Ocean.  Dan and I both grew up in a little town near the Gulf of Mexico.  Every summer as a child my family would go camping at a State Park on the beach and I just love it.  The salt air, the waves, the constant breeze...all of it :).  None of us had ever been to the Pacific, so we were pretty excited!  The waves were big, the breeze stiff, and the air was wonderfully salty.  To be near the ocean was enough to make me happy, as a bonus there was a ton to see and explore on the point.

We drove to Cabrillo National Monument, on the very southern tip of the peninsula.  After parking, we went into the visitor center and the kids got Jr. Ranger newspapers (not books at this one) to fill out.  The fog of the morning was lifting so we tucked the Jr. Ranger stuff away for later and enjoyed the views.  We saw San Diego Bay and harbor - there was a huge cruise ship in port and lots of sail boats going past, Coronado Island, and the city beyond that.

The tide was nearly at its lowest so we hopped back in the car to go over to the tide pools.  We were fortunate and snagged the last parking spot.  We had a short walk to the edge of the rocks and then down to the bottom.  It was so neat to be there!  The kids saw a little fish, some tiny crabs, and quite a few anemones.  There were also pieces of kelp from the kelp beds just off the shore (we learned all about the kelp later that afternoon).

We climbed back up the rocks and just hung out there for a while enjoying the view :).

When we were done there, we gave up our parking spot (there was a line of cars waiting) and moved to the larger parking lot on top of the hill.  From there we set out to see everything else.

The first place we came to was a military history exhibit.  The exhibit, entitled "They Stood the Watch", was inside an old military radio station.  Point Loma and its Fort Rosecrans were used in both World Wars as a place to defend the entrance of the bay. 

We walked the path that followed the coastline and it took us to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse.  This lighthouse was first lit in 1855 and is one of the oldest on the West Coast.  It was so pretty :).  The park has it set up just like it was in the 1800's.  The light keeper and his family lived there and the rooms are furnished just as they had them, there is even a kitchen garden off to the side.  Can you imagine living there :)?

Tristan...always giving big spontaneous hugs :)

Next, we followed the path to an ocean overlook area.  There were educational boards there telling about the kelp forest that was visible just off the coast.  We had seen this brownish "slick" area in the water when we were at the tide pools and didn't know what it was.  It was the kelp!  Pretty neat...this stuff grows a couple feet per day and gets over 120 feet in height.  When it reaches the surface of the water the leaves spread out and form a canopy.  Lots of different sea creatures eat this stuff (people eat it's in ice cream,salad dressing, toothpaste) and make their homes in it, attracting other sea creatures that eat them.  A nice Park Ranger provided a fun lesson on the kelp and the "food web" it enables. 

The last thing we came to on our walk was the Whale Overlook.  We were about a month too early to see the Pacific Grays, they migrate south from late December through March.  We enjoyed reading the boards and learning about them, anyway. 

To wrap up our day, the kids all completed their Jr. Ranger requirements and were awarded their badges.  When we got back to the visitor center, the same Ranger that had done the kelp activity with the kids was at the desk.  She remembered the kids and had a nice chat with them about everything they had seen and learned.  

Cabrillo Monument - Juan Cabrillo led the 1st European expedition to the West Coast, year 1542

Can you tell from this looong post that we had a wonderful day?  We did :)!

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