The day was warm and sunny, we couldn't have asked for more beautiful weather :)! It was a weekday, but I guess because of the gorgeous weather the park was busy (maybe it's always busy?). We pulled into the first parking area, Whaler's Cove, and it appeared that all of the spots were full. We were turning around to leave when another car pulled up next to us and the couple told us that we were allowed to park at the end of the lot. We just backed straight up and parked in the perfect spot and there was room next to us for the other car, too. How nice of them to share that information with us!
Whaler's Cove was beautiful (get used to me saying that, the ENTIRE park was absolutely gorgeous). The water was calm and crystal clear...the prettiest shade of turquoise blue. There was an area for divers to suit up and enter the water...and then get everything cleaned up with fresh water when they were done. It was neat because we could see the shapes of the divers moving around beneath the water and their air bubble trails on the surface.
We had just started our walk up to the Whaler's Cabin when the couple that had shown us where to park came up beside us. Introductions were made and we learned that they were both retired school teachers. SUPER nice people!!! They were helpful (again!) in pointing out the poison ivy plants that we should avoid and the more notable things to see in the park. We parted ways, they were going on the trail that outlined the cove and we were going to explore the Whaler's Cabin.
The Cabin, built in the 1850's by Japanese and Chinese fishermen, was SO interesting! There was so much good information inside, a great little museum. We learned about the early immigrants that harvested abalone from the bay and the various ways they prepared it for eating and shipping. The volunteer showed us several examples of tools, diving suits (those huge, clunky old suits), and the pretty shells. She also told us about a cheese that was first made in Monterey...Monterey Jack! While touring the cabin, she pointed out a section of one wall where a cypress tree growing just outside was slowly lifting that side of the cabin! And we also learned about the whaling industry...can't forget that! The cove was used many years ago by fishing boats that would drag the whales they had caught into the protected water and shore to be processed.
After leaving the Cabin, we walked around the cove for a while to admire the views before heading back towards our car. It just so happened that our new friends, the retired teachers, arrived at their car at the exact same time we did...I don't think that was a coincidence! I believe that God puts people in our lives at the moments He does for a reason. This nice couple that we kept "running into" were such a blessing to us that day!!! First the help with parking, then the help with pointing out the poisonous plants that we were walking quite close to, then...they gave us an awesome gift... We were all talking about what we had just seen over the past hour or so and it was obvious that these two have a genuine love for children. They asked them questions about our travels and experiences so far in the Monterey area and the kids were happy to answer. Then they asked if we had been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. When we told them no, they asked if we would like to go as their guests? For free??? They have memberships that come with free guest passes and they were offering to let us, complete strangers, use them the next day so that we could visit the aquarium (which if you look up the price of tickets for six people, you'll see that this was a HUGE blessing to us financially as well!). We gladly accepted and exchanged phone numbers with plans to meet up the next morning.
Where we had parked just happened to be right next to one of the two picnic areas in the park. The other picnic area was at the complete far side of the park, so we decided to go ahead and have our lunch while we were there. After eating, we climbed the stairs behind the picnic area to check out the view from the top before moving on.
We were able to get one of the last available parking spots at the next lot, too. This lot was centered between the trailheads for the Cypress Grove Trail and the Sea Lion Point Trail. There was an information kiosk set up alongside the parking area. Here the kids were able to touch and study the furs from sea otters, seals, and sea lions. The docent also gave them each a wildlife identification checklist to use on their hike, which they always love!
We followed the Cypress Grove Trail first. Remember I told you that we visited one of only two original Monterey Cypress Groves in the world when we went on the 17 Mile Drive...The Crocker Grove? Well, this trail took us through the other one, the Allan Memorial Grove. I could have spent an entire day just wandering around under those trees...they were SO BEAUTIFUL!!! I loved everything about them...the way their branches intertwined, the various mosses and lichens that adorned them, the way the light filtered through them and made each turn feel as though we were seeing a new place. It was awesome!
At this point, the kids were getting tired. We decided to take one last hike before leaving. The final place we saw was China Cove. The trail to get to the cove has LOTS of stairs (there is a more gradual trail that you can take), but it wasn't overly strenuous. The reward at the top of all those stairs was worth it! Picture the perfect secluded cove with rock walls, a sandy beach, and glowing turquoise waters to rival the Caribbean. There was also a sea cave! So pretty...
We hung out for a while just soaking in the view. Then it was time for...what? Well, check back soon to find out what we did the rest of the day! I do believe this post has gotten to be long enough :)