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Ano Nuevo Trail

Ano Nuevo State Reserve

Ano Nuevo Links:

January 3rd, 1999

3.0 miles
50 vertical feet
Total Time: 2:30

Rating: 7/10

Directions:   View Driving Map

Christine, Jean, Landa, Randy, Tuan and I did a guided walk in Ano Nuevo State Reserve.

We met at the visitor's center at our appointed time, and the ranger there told us that the start of our hike would be a self-guided walk out to the staging area, nearly a mile away. We (there were 20 in each group) walked along the packed dirt trail.

The staging area has a restroom and a small display with some information on elephant seals, sea lions, etc. We met our guide, a volunteer who'd been to Ano Nuevo every year for 20 years. This was her first year volunteering as a docent.

Lone seal dragging itself out of the ocean.

How cute can you get?

It didn't take long before we spotted a large (which goes without saying), lone elephant seal dragging itself onto the beach. Shortly, we started walking in the sand and crested a hill. There we had our first glimpse. A few elephant seals bathing in the abnormally warm January sun. Some of them were quite large, but some were very small -- yearlings. It's interesting to watch the big ones when they move -- their bodies flop up and down and they can move with surprising speed for creatures which can weigh thousands of pounds.

Galumph, galumph, galumph

We walked very close -- within about 25 feet of these creatures. There was nothing protecting us from them, or vice versa. In fact, on our way back, we walked over the same ground which was occupied by a huge male elephant seal just a few minutes earlier.

That's about 20 feet right there.

After walking across the elephant seal mine field, we saw several elephant seals on the beach. Many of them were flipping sand on themselves -- presumably to protect themselves from the sun. A short walk later, we saw even more of them lying on the beach.

The elephant seals have taken over the beach!

But the biggest sighting was after we walked back across the field, up a sandy slope, to our viewpoint of dozens upon dozens of elephant seals, basking in the sun. A couple were next to the water, but the rest were all in various parts of the beach. Sea gulls stood, waiting (they like to eat the stuff remaining from the after-birth). A few pups lay next to their mothers. There wasn't a lot of movement; mostly, it looked like they were just lounging around, sunbathing.

Some birds on the way back.

After enjoying the sights and sounds (but not the smells) of the elephant seals, we walked back to the staging area, and then back to the visitor's center.

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