Thursday, January 31, 2013

California - Point Pinos Lighthouse and Tide Pools

The oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the West Coast, Point Pinos Lighthouse, was next on our list to see.  It's still in operation and only open for tours a few days out of the week, so we had to plan around that.  Not a big deal,'s only a short drive from our campground.  I just want to say, there is so much to do and see in the Monterey Bay area and all within about thirty minutes of driving.  Lovin' that!

Our schoolwork took longer on the day we had planned to go to the lighthouse.  So long that we almost didn't go.  I could have just said forget the school (hehehe), let's go, but they really needed to get it done.  SO, we headed over later than planned.  We only had about an hour to take the tour, but really that was just about perfect.  It all works out :)

an anchor from an old shipwreck off the point

Anyway, we arrived at the lighthouse and followed the path up to go inside.  It was so cute!  Like a little cottage by the sea that just happened to be a lighthouse :).  The admission to enter is a recommended donation of $2 for adults and $1 for kids.  Well worth it!  We put our donation in the box just inside and visited for a minute with the super nice lady that was running the little gift shop.  She told us that her husband was down in the basement giving a tour and that we could just go on down whenever we were ready.  So that's where we started.

He was just as nice as she was and really gave us a thorough tour of everything down there.  All kinds of neat things...a foghorn, Fresnel lens, various mechanisms that were/are used in the operation of the light, buoys, marine charts, shipwreck information, just tons of great information.  He was really patient with the kids and let each of them try out the different things and get a hands on experience.  Kids always love that :)

beautiful wavy glass :)

We spent most of our hour downstairs and I didn't get a single picture.  It was so interesting that I simply forgot about my camera :).  We quickly toured the main level and then the upstairs, too.  The main level had a room that was set up as it was 100 years ago by the female lightkeeper, Emily.  The story told to us was that she was a socialite that threw great parties and kept poodles at the lighthouse.  Ha!  How fun is that!

Upstairs was a room set up as it was during World War II.  The lighthouse was used during that time as a military command post.

The grandfather clock on the main level chimed to let us know it was 4:00 and time to leave.  We didn't want to make the nice couple have to stay late, so we thanked them for the tour and hurried on outside.  I didn't mention, but we were the only visitors there that last hour.  It made it so nice, we could just walk around freely and see what ever we wanted.  With five kids, that made it really nice :)

When we left the lighthouse, we decided to go back over to the tide pool area along the coast.  We went farther south this time to the Point Pinos Tide Pools, also known as the Great Tide Pool and supposed to be "one of the richest tidepool habitats in the world".

We had the best time...scrambling from rock to rock was fun.  Add to that the little creatures we saw and it was awesome.  The hermit crabs were there along with some little fish, some bigger crabs, sea urchins, various little plants things, and some small jellies.  We saw some of the prettiest little shells along the shore, but we didn't touch them.  The tide pools are strictly for viewing only :) (and yes, I had to keep reminding my kids of that).

It felt like we were on the edge of the world...

As the sun started to set, we walked across a small beach to some bigger rocks with nothing but the ocean in front of us.

The light was so beautiful.  It made us all happy :)

We found a nice spot to enjoy the show

It was probably the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.  (Do I say that every time?  hahaha)

So thankful :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tide Pooling

One afternoon, while driving into town, we noticed that the water was super calm...hardly any waves at all.  From what we've seen of the Pacific, that is pretty rare.  We scrapped our plans to shop for groceries and instead decided to go to the tide pools.  There are many areas along the Monterey Bay to go tide pooling, but none can compare to the sheer size of the pools that skirt Pacific Grove.

We started in Pacific Grove at Lover's Point, a beautiful little park right on the edge of town and the ocean.  From there, we followed  Ocean View Blvd. as it hugged the coastline.  It's really neat, all along this road are turnouts to park and walk down to the pools.  The turnouts are nice and big, too...small dirt parking lots, really.

the kids joked that these birds were waiting on the tide to go out and the buffet to begin :)

It wasn't low tide, but there was still lots to see.  Just the view alone was amazing...

see the kelp peeking out of the water just past the rocks?

We had fun climbing from rock to rock while trying to keep our feet dry.  We mostly succeeded at the dry part ;).  There were some interesting plant looking things amongst the rocks...

The primary resident that we saw that day?  Hermit crabs!  Lots and lots of hermit crabs.  They were ornery little things, fighting each other and trying to steal shells away.  Hahaha!  It was funny to watch them :)

the victor dragging away a new shell

The boys thought they saw a tiny octopus, it swam away too quickly for us girls to get a peek at it, though.

The tide pools are such a great place to visit.  It is so quiet and peaceful...a wonderful spot to explore and dream...

We stayed until nearly sunset, hungry tummies demanded that we head back towards town.  To continue our spur of the moment kinda afternoon, we decided to just pick up some food to take home and get the groceries another time.  What could be better than a bread bowl with warm clam chowder from Fisherman's Wharf... good :)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Donuts and sea glass

I wanted to do something a little bit special with the kids one morning.  Just because :).  Instead of our usual breakfast at home and then time for school work, I declared a fun morning.  I woke the kids up at daylight, we quickly dressed, and went into town to get some donuts at Red's.

Red's is a tiny little donut shop in Seaside with a great variety of fresh donuts.  The place was busy, but the sweet ladies working the counter had us in and out quickly and with a smile.  We took our box of donuts and drove over to the beach, just a couple minutes away.  It was early enough in the morning that we had the beach to ourselves.  Donuts on a quiet beach with my favorite little peeps?  Any day :)!

We ate our donuts as we walked along the shore...and what a walk it was!  We had our best day yet for finding sea glass.  We literally could not take a single step without seeing a piece, or lots of pieces.  Some small but many large and perfectly frosted. There were also quite a few pieces of pretty sea pottery. 

I decided to take a fun picture of some of our finds.  These are a few of our prettier sea glass pieces (and one rock on the bottom) from the morning...

There was so much sea glass that we could have spent all day just walking and looking.  It's so fun because each piece is totally different from the last.  You just never know what you'll find :)

We didn't stay all day, after a few hours it was time to go home...we were out of drinking water and little legs were getting tired.

What a fun morning we had!  I love that we are making these special memories with our kiddos :)

Monday, January 28, 2013

California - Moss Landing Sea Otters

Just like most people, we enjoy watching animals and sea creatures.  Not so much in zoos or aquariums, though.  That's always kinda sad, ya know?  We prefer to see them in their natural habitat whenever possible.  From a safe distance, of course :)

I had heard about a "secret sea otter hangout" not too far from here and we just had to go.  It was so much fun watching the one sea otter do its thing the day we drove to Big Sur, we were excited for the chance to see more of them. 

We drove north on hwy 1 until we came to a sign for Moss Landing State Beach.  Took a left at the sign and drove all the way down to the last parking area facing the harbor.  Oh my goodness!  There they were!  We counted over twenty of them, swimming, playing, and mostly just floating together in a big group.  Sleeping, maybe?  I dunno.

They were so cute!  Two of them were chasing each other through the water and they kept bumping into the sleeping ones.  It really didn't seem to faze them, they kept on snoozing :).

We stayed and watched them for a while hoping more of them would wake up, but they never did.  It was mid to late afternoon when we went...does anyone know if there is a better time to see them being active?  It was also low tide, don't know if that matters or not either.

They really were adorable :)

At the same place, just across the channel and closer to hwy 1, we saw a large group of sea lions all piled up on a small jetty.  Actually, we heard them barking and then saw them.  They are pretty loud :).

Also, from where we were standing watching the otters, over to our left was a little sandy beach lined with resting seals!  Wow!  This place was a sea critter jackpot :).  We think we saw at least one baby seal in the bunch, but can't be positive.

With the otters sleeping, the kids soon tired of being there.  We decided to go to our favorite sea glass hunting beach and go for a walk until sunset.  The beach was gorgeous, as always, and the treasure hunting was pretty good, too.  We found several handfuls of nice sea glass :).

We had such a fun afternoon...watching the otters and other sea creatures, taking a walk on the beach at sunset, and collecting a bag of pretty sea glass to take home.  What makes it even better?  It was all completely free!  In a world where everything seems so high priced, that in itself is just awesome :)!