It was a good hop!

Day Seven: (Part Two)

The City of Morro Bay web site summarizes the facts: Morro Rock is a State Historic Landmark. It is the most visible of 9 similar peaks—the Nine Sisters—which stretch from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay, formed about 23 million years ago from the plugs (whatever they are) of long-extinct volcanoes. Named by Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo. “El Morro” means crown. Five hundred and seventy-six feet tall, it has always been considered by mariners to be an important navigational aid.

I had seen Morro Rock listed in guidebooks from time to time, but could never believe a “rock” could be worth stopping to look at. Until we stopped there on our aforementioned trek from LA to Oakland the previous December and took a look at it. We had been so wowed by this bizarre sight that we made a point of bringing our friends to see it. this place presents a totally incongruous sight: a charming little seaside town that, instead of being set against a backdrop of blue ocean, blue sky and puffy clouds, is tucked up beside a giant…massive, pointy, barren… rock. We drove through the streets of this unprepossessing town. It’s not charming in the way of Carmel, or beachy in the way of our own Manhattan Beach. In fact, with a waterfront dominated by a power plant and its smokestacks, an extensive commercial fishing pier, and this hulking jagged stone mass, the town (except for a small tourist jammed area near the marina) gives the impression of being a  no-nonsense, we’re-working-people-here place. But then there’s the Rock. From  town, it looks like the tip of a peninsula. But, in fact, it’s simply the exclamation point on the end of a really long sandy sentence that is… the incredible California Coast. We had seen, on our last visit, falcons’ nests high up in the crags that climb towards the rock’s summit. And so, we drove the road to the parking lot at the base of Morro Rock and took some sign to search the heights. The location of nests is easy to spot (just look for the white “paint” of accumulated falcon droppings.

My first introduction to falcons was at a nature program at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center (on an East Coast excursion with Joan and Dave a couple of years prior to this California adventure). I wanted to refresh my memory. So drew the following information from The Morro Bay National Estuary Program.  The peregrine falcon is one of the largest falcons in North America, with wingspans of up to 43 inches. They are the fastest animals in the world; their high speed hunting dive has been clocked at 242 mph. In 1970 there were only 5 pairs left in California (thank you, DDT). UC Santa Cruz managed to save the birds by swapping thicker-shelled eggs from a captive flock with the thinner-shelled eggs of wild falcons. The population has recovered, and so the birds were  removed from the California Endangered Species list in 2009. Two nesting pairs remain at Morro Rock. On this visit, as well as our previous one, ur visits we were lucky enough to catch glimpses of them.

A pleasant lunch at a seafood restaurant overlooking the water followed..

Then back onto Hwy 1 for about half an hour drive to San Luis Obispo. From there we took Hwy 101—the coastal route—all the way to “the 405.” (Angelenos refer to their freeways without identifiers like “Route” or “Highway” or “Expressway.” And so, infamous Interstate  (a very tough rush hour commuting route) is known simply as “the 405.” Once  we negotiated Sepulveda Pass, we were back in  familiar—all too familiar—territory (for this is the freeway we try, unsuccessfully, to outsmart on every excursion to the Getty Center) every trip to the eye doctor (in Westwood), the dentist (in Beverly Hills) and our younger daughter (in Brentwood).

Finally: We were back home. As Uncle Joe would say: It was a good hop!


A note on the image above: To show you how different Morro looks depending on whether you’re back in town, or right next to it. I combined two photos (pretty proud of myself for figuring out how to do this!)

The paper trail: I was inspired to write about our seven-day road trip when I happened upon the clutch of papers (and books)I had collected along the way. My kids tell me not to pick up free brochures, newsletters, booklets, maps, but I seem to find them irresistible. Why? I rarely sit and read through them (as in my mind when picking them up I envision myself doing). In any case, here’s the count:

Starting out: Three sheets of paper printed out from my computer: California Road Trip itinerary. Map printed by the Official Travel Website at, Map of Yosemite Valley.

Day One: Map of Grant Grove Village given to us upon checkin at the John Muir Lodge, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks (56-page booklet), Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks Visitor Guide, Spring 2107 (12-page tabloid-style newspaper)

Day Two and Day Three: Yosemite Valley Lodge map; Yosemite Valley Shuttle System Map with Hours of Operations information on the back; Yosemite National Park (National Park Service foldout full-color map/brochure)

Day Four: foldout map (with ads for “The Finest Business of Carmel-by-the-Sea), Domenico’s on the Wharf brochure; Dining Guide Monterey Peninsula (96-page booklet)

Day Five: 17-Mile Drive Map, Pacific Hotels brochure; Welcome Map compliments of FogCatcher Inn 

Day Six: Hearst Castle Foldout Map, The Illustrated History of Hearst Castle (136-page  book, The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst (687-pages; will I ever read it?)

Day Seven: Please note: No papers collected for this day!

E-Seal News (11-17 folded newsletter; why three copies?); promotional card Piedras Blancas Light Station Tours

Total Weight: 2 lbs. 13 oz.

Now for the moment of truth: The books, which I’ll keep on my “travel” bookshelf, together weigh two pounds. And, okay, except for the original Itinerary and maybe the National Parks Map of Yosemite, I will now ceremoniously dump all the rest of the paper in the recycle  bin. I know. It’s only 13 ounces… but it’s a start. Now the question is: At this rate, how long will it take me to clear out my office. Unfortunately, the situation is akin to that of the pile of books by my bed all waiting to be read. My friend Bert’s comment when he saw these: “You won’t live long enough!”