Sunday, September 20, 2009

17 Mile Drive

The 17 Mile Drive is a scenic road through Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach. It follows the coastline and passes through famous golf courses and huge mansions and is the main road through the gated community of Pebble Beach. Most of the drive is owned and operated by the Pebble Beach Corporation. I am not sure why it's called 17 Mile Drive, because it is only 9.6 miles long. There are several turnouts along the drive where you can stop and get out of your car and take pictures and see some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere. The only services open to the public in Pebble Beach are at the Lodge at Pebble Beach and the Inn at Spanish Bay. This is a toll road--$9.25--but is the only way to get to Pebble Beach. You will find the Lone Cypress along this route and the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course.
The beaches along the route are pure white and you see many trees like this one that are white and weathered. It just adds to the beauty.

The ocean is beautiful and restless. It would be easy to find a spot on one of the beaches and just sit and gaze at the water all day.

Harbor Seal (Phaca vitulina)
To spot a harbor seal, look in the rocks for a sausage shaped animal with its head and tail arched upward. Hauling out on rocks is a seal's way of resting, warming up and avoiding predators, such as great white sharks. When a seal is hungry, it slips into the water to catch a fish or shellfish dinner.
Another Cypress Tree

California Sea Lions (Zalophus californionus)
You may see a sea lion group (raft) floating with flippers sticking out of the warer. A raised flipper helps keep the body temperature comfortable. The flipper's blood vessels are close to the skin's surface. Water evaporating off a flipper cools the blood. A sun-bathed dry flipper warms the blood.

Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera)

A giant kelp forest, with its top floating at the water's surface, supports a wide variety of shellfish, fish, birds, marine mammals--and humans. Fish you eat, such as snapper, live in kelp forests. You've probably eaten kelp, too. it's used to smooth processed foods and medicines--even toothpaste.
Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris)

Look for a small dark "log" at the water's surface, resting in a bed of large brown seaweed (kelp). At mealtime, each otter has favorite foods. Some like sea urchins; others eat mostly octopus or snails. To get to the meat in a shell, an otter floats on its back and bangs its catch against a rock on its chest.

Forests in the Sea
Giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) is the largest of all seaweeds, up to 200 feet tall. It's also one of the world's fastest growing plants--adding as much as 14 inches in a day. A rootlike holdfast anchors the plant to the rocky bottom and gas-filled floats keep the leaf-like parts (blades) at the surface.
This was the first stop on 17 Mile Drive--Shepherd's Knoll, with a view of Monterey Bay.

Stop 2 is Huckleberry Hill--all the bushes you see are huckleberry bushes.

Why is the sea so restless? Some say currents collide here to create the restless sea you see on most days. But it's unlikely that offshore currents create the motion so close to shore. The more likely cause is submerged rocks which slow the water causing waves to break early. This makes the sea look restless.

Seashire life depends on the restless sea to deliver food and nutrients. Many marine animals catch and eat plankton--microscopic sea life that drifts by. But ocean waters can be deadly. Waves slam into the beaches, ripping seaweed and gthe sea life from the rocks. Living here is a balancing act between the hazards and the benefits.

Whi was Joe? Joe was a Chinese man who lived alone in a driftwood home
near this point in the early 1900s. He made a living selling trinkets to tourists and tending goats. No one knows for sure if the point was named after Joe or if he was named after the point.

Joe probably saw a variety of wildlife from this spot. During the summer thousands of pelagic (sea-going) birds migrate past this area. From December to MArch, you can sea gray whales swim by on their yearly trek from feeding grounds off Alaska to calving and breeding grounds off Baja California. In late spring the whales return north.

One of the five golf courses.

Granite gives this coastline a rugged look. Point Joe, and much of this coastline is made of granite rock. Granite begins as magma--hot liquid rock deep beneath the Earth's crust. Over time, the magma slowly cools into crystals, creating granite's speckled appearance. The rocks here formed 65 million years ago near what is now SOuthern California. Since then, the land has inched north along the nearby San Andreas Fault, forcing the branite to the surface. Sea spray and waves slowly wear away at exposed granite, eventually creating coarse beach sand.

Bird Rock--Not Just For The Birds
At tiems its easy to see hiw this rock got its name. During spring and summer, nesting cormorants and gulls and roosting pelicans v=cover Bird Rock. At one time Bird rock was just for birds, but after its coating of bird droppings (guano) was mined for fertilizer, seals and sea lions moved in--or so the story goes. Bird Rock is a granite outcropping shaped by wind and waves. The rock's location providesd a somewhat sheltered spot between the waves and the shore. Here, you can watch sea otters among sea weeds, sea birds diving for fish, and sea lions bellowing and barking from the rocks.

Westen Gull (Larus accidentalis)
Along rocky shores, the Westen Gull finds a year-round food supply and safe summer nesting areas. This is the only gull species to nest along the California coast. Gulls are common scavengers along bays and beaches, but they also catch fish, squid and seashore animals.

Brandt's Cormorant (Phalancrocorax peneculatus)
Look for birds swimming or perching with their bills pointing upward. Or, find a bird with wings outstretched sunning on a rock. Cormorants don;t have waterproof fearthers, so after diving under water for fish, they must dry their featrhers in the sun.
The cormorant is a permanent resident that raises its young in a large colony. About 1,300 pairs nest in Bird Rock each spring through summer. A pair builds a cup-shaped nest out of seaweeds from the sea and twigs and leaves from land. The female lays a clutch of four eggs usually, which hatch in about 30 days.

Sea Otters MAke a Comeback
In the waters between here and Bird Rock you may see a sea otter. Buit look carefully--a large seaweed float can look a lot like an otter's head. Watch for a whiskered face, short front paws (for hunting and grooming) and large webbed feet (for swimming). Sea otters are making a comback along the coast. Hunted for their fur in the 1800s, they were thought to be extinct off California. Then, in 1915, a small group was sighted off Big Sur. The more tha 1,500 sea otters along California's central coast today are descendants of that group.

Crocker Grove--Monterey Cypress Naturally
In this grove are the oldest Monterey Cypress trees, some nearly 300 years old. These trees occur naturally only here at at Point Lobos, south of Carmel; all others have been planted.
The grove, named for a founding family of this area, became a nature conserve in 1952. In their natural range, Monterey Cypress stand gnarled, sculpted by the wind. With cones to hold seeds, they're like Monterey pine trees.

To compare the two, look at the needles. Oine needles grow in round tufts; cypress needles grow flat and scaly.

The Lone Cypress
Perched Over the Pacific for Hundreds of Years
Even though the Monterey Cypress tree prefers this area's rugged, bare, granite headlands, the Lone Cypress is a testament to the ahrdiness of these tress. It has withstood Pacific storms and winds for nearly 250 years.
Fences and cables now offer added protection in the hope it will live to be 300. Due to Samuel F. B. MOrse, the preservation-minded founder of Pebble Beach, the Del Monte FOrest now consists of nature trails and reserves, spectacular 17 Mile Drive, resort and golf courses, and private homes. Lone Cypress is the cymbol of Pebble Beach Company, owner and manager of much of the 300-acre Del Monte Forest. The Lone Cypress is a Monterey Cypress Tree.

These trees, once near extinction, occur naturally only here and on Point Lobis, south of Carmel. They can reach to 70 feet and live about 300 years. Their popularity may have saved them from extinction--they're planted in California and around the world.

The Lone Cypress--A Trademark of Quality
Lone Cypress is the corporate logo and trademark of Pebble Beach Company. As such, the use of the tree's image is regulated by law.

Photographs or art renderings of the Lone Cypress of commercial or promotional purposes cannot be taken or created without written permission from Pebble Beach Company.

Photographs and renderings for personal use only are welcome.

Coastal Forests Need Fog
Fog is a natural part of summer on the Monterey Peninsula. As breezes blow from cool waters to warm land, water vapor condenses, producing fog. Sea breezes and fog keep summer temperatures mild along the coast. Fog os good for coastal forests. Plants water themselves with fog drip--water droplets that collect on leaves and needles drop to the ground. Since it seldom rains in the summer, fog drip helps watrer coastal plants.

Cypress Point Lookout
Snow or Trees
In 1542, the explorer Cabrillo called this point of land Cabode Nieve--Cape Snow--to describe the white landscape before him. No one is sure what he saw. In 1774, TOmas de la Pina, a missionary, gave this western most point on the Monterey Peninsula the name La Punta de cipresses, or Cypress Point. The name stuck and became official in 1967.

Surrounding you are the majestic trees for which Cypress Point was named. During Cabrillo's time this species was near extinction. It occurs naturally in only two places--from here to Pescadero Point and at Point Lobis, south of Carmel. Today Monterey Cypress have been planted worldwide, usually near coastlines.

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Brown pelicans visit this area every summer after nesting on islands off southern and Baja California. These non-breeding birds roost on nearby rocks through the fall. Adult females are all brown. Adult males have white heads that turn yellow during the breeding season.

Bull Kelp (Nereacystis luekeana)
This kelp has a single, hallpw, hoselike stalk (stripe) that grows to 115 feet long. This annual species grows to that size in just one year. A single, large, gas-filled float keeps the leaflike parts (blades) at the surface.

Pescadero Point--Protecting a Fragile Beauty
Pescadero Point is the northern boundery of Carmel Bay Ecological Reserve. Within the reserve, which extends to Point Lobos south of Carmel, you may not take any marine invertebrates, such as crabs, starfish, abalone, snails, etc.

More of the rocky shore with Ice Plant covering
Did You Know Ice Plant's Not Native?
Most Californians are familiar with the spear-shaped leaves and colorful flowers of ice plant, also called hottentot fig. But this familiar plant isn't nativ to the area. It was introduced here in the 1600s, arriving from Africa as a ship "stowaway". Today gardeners use it as ground cover and to control erosion. Introduced species can become pests in a new place. Free from natural predators or diseases, an introduced species may compete with native species for food and space. Too often the natives disappear.

Pescadero Point

More Weathered Cypress Trees

The Ghost Tree
This is called the Ghost tree because the salty breezes off the Pacific Ocean have caused the tree to becaome white and pale, like a ghost.

Even the bark of the Cypress trees that are alive tend tobe pale and white

More of the rocky coast.

Pescadero Point

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