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Birth, Battle and Baby Making: The Most Exciting Winter Hike on the California Coast

February 1st, 2010 · No Comments · Destinations

Battle of the Bulls. (Elephant seal bulls in battle for a harem.)

Imagine two tons of aggressive, horny, wild animal going after its two ton rival on a California beach.  The prize is big: a harem of up to 50 females for the winner and nothing and nobody for the loser.  It’s no wonder that the state closes these beaches during mating season lest some poor human be run over in nature’s version of a monster truck rally.

Tracks in the sand. From at truck or a bull?

[Cue monster truck commercial voice over] “Elephant Seal breeding season!!  The fights! The s*x!  More s*x!  Even more s*x! 30 women for every successful adult male! No Barry White needed for these massive mammals. Included with every admission through mid-February: front row seats for live births!”

Elephant seal mating (make your s*x on the beach jokes here)

I make reservations every year possible to join the Ano Nuevo State Park guided hikes of their elephant seal rookeries during mating season.  Nature never promises anything, but visit between January and mid-February and visitors can see the circle of elephant seal life plus enjoy a three mile moderate hike along the coast.

Distinctive nose of the male Elephant Seal.

December promises the arrival of thousands of seals, some sparring between young males and maybe a birth.  Late February and March is largely filled with nursing, weaning and adult seals returning to the ocean to seek food while their abandoned pups learn to fend for themselves.

Newborns, still damp from birth, nurse from their mothers on the beaches of Ano Nuevo.

I’m not going to give away everything, but last year my two year old loved looking at the seals, imitating the deafening barking (slightly older kids will have fun with this one)  and goofing off in the sand dunes.  Considering how long the docents let us stop and watch the action, I half three-quarters expected her to get bored and find a trouble.  She also was not (thankfully) able to understand the commentary my husband and I were making about what we were watching.

If you are anywhere near Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, or are looking for a winter getaway, log in and make reservations for your Ano Nuevo guided hike.

Mirielle and yer Dad hiking at Ano Nuevo in January.

Details:

Dates – Approximately December 15 to March 31.

Booking –  Reservations can be made at http://anonuevo.reserveamerica.com/, but weekends and holidays sell out quickly.  If you are not able to get an online reservation, some tickets are available at the gate on a first come first serve basis. (Arrive early!)

Cost: $7 per person plus ticketing fees if reserved online. There is also a per car fre charged at the entrance gate which is subject to change.

Location: Ano Nuevo State Park is <60 miles south of San Francisco along CA Route 1 between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz.  Directions, hours and even an Elephant Seal Camera can be found at http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=523.

Other important notes: Tours are rain or shine. No strollers. Great interpretive center, small gift shop and picnic tables.

Picnic tables with a view outside of the Ano Nuevo Visitor's Center.

So all the Photo Friday commenters who guessed “Elephant Seals” or “Ano Nuevo” were correct.  Stay tuned over the next couple of days to  learn more about the area and what the other pictures are.

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