California: Pink Beach!

Short Walk to Pfeiffer Beach through Monterey Cypress Trees

Walk North on Beach

Pink Diamond Patterns in Sand

Pink Sand Around Rocks

Seaweed at Water’s Edge

Sea Stack with Keyhole Arch

Pfeiffer Beach is a real gem tucked away at the end of Sycamore Canyon Road at Big Sur, California (south of Monterey).  This spectacular beach is famous for its pink sand, formed by manganese garnet crystals that have washed down from the cliffs above. Look for ever-changing patterns of increasing pink sand as you walk north along the beach.  A bonus to your walk is the rocky sea arch offshore – watch for the waves to come roaring through its keyhole arch.  Don’t miss this hidden secret!  Learn more at:   https://www.hikespeak.com/trails/pfeiffer-beach-big-sur/  

A previous post about Pfeiffer Beach is at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/big-sur-stunning-pink-sand-beach/

Gorgeous Banksias!

Strawberry Banksia

California Quail on Showy Banksia

Anna’s Hummingbird by Silver Banksia

Golden Acorn Banksia

Teddy Bear Banksia

Candlestick Banksia

Popcorn Banksia

Popcorn Banksia Seedpod

“Hairy” Banksia Man Seedpod

Naughty Banksia Men Illustration in Australian Children’s Book by May Gibbs

Carved Popcorn Banksia Seedpod Vase

The banksias at the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum are gorgeous!  These Australian native wildflowers attract wildlife, and the woody seedpods are carved into vases and other gifts.  Popcorn banksias smell exactly like buttered popcorn!  Banksias range in size from shrubs to full grown trees.  More info is at:  https://arboretum.ucsc.edu/visit/garden/australia/index.html

Spectacular Pincushion Flowers!

Leucospermum cordifolium, Yellow Bird

Leucospermum Spider Portrait

Leucospermum Spider Pair

Leucospermum cordifolium (Perry’s Orange)

Leucospermum veldfire: Close-up of Ribbons

Leucospermum erubescens (natural “bouquet” of flowers at various stages of bloom)

Leucospermum Tango (closed bloom)

Leucospermum Tango (open bloom)

Leucospermum grandiflorum (Rainbow Pincushion)

Leucospermum reflexum luteum (Yellow Comet / Rocket Pincushion)

Leucospermum reflexum (Red Comet / Rocket Pincushion)

The pincushion flowers at the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum are spectacular!  These evergreen shrubs in the genus Leucospermum originated in South Africa.  Proteas are one of the Earth’s oldest families of flowering plants.  The flower structures are incredibly complex and interesting, and heavy nectar attracts birds and insects.  Learn more at:  https://arboretum.ucsc.edu/

Monterey Bay Aquarium is Great!

Striped Pyjama Squid

Scrawled Filefish

Sea Gooseberry

Orange Sea Nettles

Baja Tropical Reef Tank

Orange Garibaldi

Sea Otters Sleeping on Beach Nearby at Moss Landing

Sea Otters Returning to Water

Sea Otter and Sea Gull

Raft of Sea Otters

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a wonderful place to visit – it is one of the top aquariums in the country!  It is located on the beautiful California coast south of San Francisco.  Up to 2,000 gallons per minute of fresh sea water constantly flows through the exhibits.  

We especially enjoyed seeing a recent display featuring the striped pyjama squid.  These shy cuttlefish have never been shown in the United States before now.  More info is at:  https://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/138692614238/were-geeking-out-over-the-newest-addition-to-our

Animators from Pixar Studios visited the aquarium before animation began on the movie “Finding Dory”.  They studied octopus, sea otters, and shorebirds in detail.  That attention to detail shines through in the film, and hopefully inspires a new generation of children to love the ocean too!

California Beach Treasures

California Coast South of San Francisco

California Coast South of San Francisco

Long Exposure of Rocky Coast

Long Exposure of Rocky Coast

Long Exposure of Ocean Waves

Long Exposure of Ocean Waves

Rocky Ledge on San Mateo Coast

San Mateo Coast: “Pig” Rock

San Mateo Coast: Tafoni Rock

Sea Foam on a Windy Day

Sea Foam on a Windy Day

Tafoni Rocks

Tafoni Rocks

Interesting Rock Patterns

Interesting Rock Patterns

Colorful Pebbles and Orange Turban Shell

Colorful Pebbles and Orange Turban Shell

Abalone Shell on Pebble Beach

Close-up of Abalone Shell

Japanese Fishing Float

Japanese Fishing Float

Acorn Barnacles and Red Algae (Nori)

Acorn Barnacles and Red Algae (Nori)

Clear Spiky Gelatinous Shells of Corolla Sea Butterflies and Seaweed

By the Wind Sailor with Green and Blue Sea Glass

By the Wind Sailor with Green and Blue Sea Glass

Green Anemone in Tidepool

Green Anemone in Tidepool

6 Armed Purple Sea Star

6 Armed Purple Sea Star

Agates Collected on Beach

Agates Collected on Beach

Agates Glowing under UV Blacklight

Agates Glowing under UV Blacklight

Agates after Polishing in Rock Tumbler

Agates after Polishing in Rock Tumbler

The California coastline south of San Francisco is very rocky and scenic. At low tide there are all sorts of interesting things to see on the beach and in the tidepools.  Surprisingly turban snails can live up to 30 years! Sometimes you find jellyfish, salp, and pyrosomes washed in from Monterey Bay.  A day at the ocean is always fun!  (Click on the pictures above for additional stories and links.)  Great info with amazing pics of jellies and salp/siphophores is at: 

https://www.jellywatch.org/

https://roaring.earth/giant-deep-sea-worm-discovered/

Monterey Bay Aquarium is the Best!

Leopard Shark in Kelp Forest

Leopard Shark in Kelp Forest

Rockfish in Kelp Forest

Rockfish in Kelp Forest

Pink Fish-Eating Anemones

Pink Fish-Eating Anemones

Pink-Tipped Green Elegant Anemone

Pink-Tipped Green Elegant Anemone

Sand Dollar Bubble Tank

Sand Dollar Bubble Tank

Open Sea Exhibit with Sea Turtle

Open Sea Exhibit with Sea Turtle

Sea Turtle Swimming

Sea Turtle Swimming

Spotted Comb Jelly

Spotted Comb Jelly

Transparent Moon Jelly

Transparent Moon Jelly

Stinging Sea Nettle Jellyfish

Stinging Sea Nettle Jellyfish

Fluorescent Coral

Fluorescent Coral

Monterey Bay Aquarium in California has the best exhibits!  It has been rated best in the nation for kids.  Ocean life is rich and diverse, and the creatures that live there are utterly fascinating.  I can never get enough!  All of our posts featuring Monterey Bay Aquarium are at:   https://naturetime.wordpress.com/category/california/northern-california/monterey-bay-area/monterey-bay-aquarium/

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Fantastic Tentacles Exhibit!

 

Tentacles Entrance Sign

Tentacles Entrance Sign

Tentacles Exhibit Sign

Tentacles Exhibit Sign

Tentacles "Myths Prevailed" Display

Tentacles “Myths Prevailed” Display

Octopus Attacking Golden Gate Bridge in 1955 Movie "It Came from Beneath the Sea"

Octopus Attacking Golden Gate Bridge in 1955 Movie “It Came from Beneath the Sea”

Tentacles "Early Influences" Display

Tentacles “Early Influences” Display

Octopus Petroglyph, Easter Island, Chile

Octopus Petroglyph, Easter Island, Chile

"Night of the Ammonites", Ray Troll, 1998

“Night of the Ammonites”, Ray Troll, 1998

"Colossal Octopus" Pen and Wash Drawing, 1803

“Colossal Octopus” Pen and Wash Drawing, 1803

"Gamochonia" Octopus Scientific Illustration by Ernst Haeckel

“Gamochonia” Octopus Scientific Illustration by Ernst Haeckel

Minoan Vessel with Octopus Motif, Crete, 9th Century BC

Minoan Vessel with Octopus Motif, Crete, 9th Century BC

Giant Pacific Octopus 1

Giant Pacific Octopus 1

Giant Pacific Octopus 2

Giant Pacific Octopus 2

Giant Pacific Octopus 3

Giant Pacific Octopus 3

Mechanical Octopus Display

Mechanical Octopus Display

Bigfin Reef Squid

Bigfin Reef Squid

Broadclub Cuttlefish

Broadclub Cuttlefish

Stumpy Cuttlefish

Stumpy Cuttlefish

Purple and Yellow Australian Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Purple and Yellow Australian Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Chambered Nautilus

Chambered Nautilus

Squid Eggs

Squid Eggs

Richard's Cephalopod Selfie Video taken at Tentacles Exhibit

Richard’s Cephalopod Selfie Video taken at Tentacles Exhibit

We just got back from a visit to California, and tremendously enjoyed seeing the new Tentacles Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  The exhibit features animals in the cephalopod family, including octopus, cuttlefish, squid, and nautilus.  They are masters of disguise and quick color change artists – it has to be seen to be believed!(http://ocean.si.edu/ocean-news/how-octopuses-and-squids-change-color)

Octopus are known for their intelligence (https://orionmagazine.org/article/deep-intellect/), and are said to be as smart as cats.  Each one has its own unique personality.  Octopus recognize and greet their favorite people (and sometimes they deliberately squirt people they do not like).  A link to one of my favorite pictures posted last year by the aquarium is at:  http://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/17955182992/why-were-so-attached-to-the-giant-pacific 

A few years ago one of the night watchmen at the Monterey Bay Aquarium saw an octopus crawling on the floor.  Apparently at night it would leave its tank and travel to other tanks for a midnight snack!  That solved the mystery of the missing fish.  More info about the Giant Pacific Octopus is at:  http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/octopus-and-kin/giant-pacific-octopus 

The Tentacles Exhibit is the best!  More info about these amazing animals is at:  http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals-and-experiences/exhibits/tentacles  As usual, click on any of the pictures in the post to enlarge and get more detailed information.

UPDATE:  An amazing video and pictures of squid egg cases are at this link:  http://deepseanews.com/2015/03/whats-this-viral-video-mystery-blob-hint-its-not-a-pyrosome/

An outstanding book to read is by Sy Montgomery – “The Soul of an Octopus:  A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness”, 2016.

Point Lobos: Sea Lion Point and Cypress Grove Trails

Sea Lions on Rocks Below (bottom right)

Sea Lions on Rocks Below (bottom right)

Wildflower Meadow on Bluff Overlooking Ocean

Wildflower Meadow on Bluff Overlooking Ocean

Natural Stone Staircase to Sea Lion Point

Natural Stone Staircase to Sea Lion Point

Lizard-Tail Wildflowers along Trail

Lizard-Tail Wildflowers along Trail

Sedimentary Rock Pair among Wildflowers

Sedimentary Rock Pair among Wildflowers

Round Sedimentary Rock along Trail

Round Sedimentary Rock along Trail

Powdery Live-Forever or Bluff Lettuce

Powdery Live-Forever or Bluff Lettuce

Solid Rock "Beach" at End of Sea Lion Point Trail

Solid Rock “Beach” at End of Sea Lion Point Trail

Cypress Point Trail in Fog

Cypress Point Trail in Fog

Black-Tailed Mule Deer among Monterey Pine

Black-Tailed Mule Deer among Monterey Pine

Sea Lion Point Trail is one of the most popular places to walk at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve near Monterey, California.  The trail follows a natural stone staircase down to the Pacific Ocean.  Sea lions can often be heard barking on the rocks offshore.  And if it’s not too foggy, you might even see them too!  Sedimentary rocks along the trail are part of the Carmelo Formation and are over 60 million years old.  

Cypress Grove Trail heads north from the Sea Lion Point parking area.  This trail is famous for its extremely rare Monterey cypress trees.  Their striking appearance is the result of constant buffeting by the wind and salt spray.  These trees grow naturally along Monterey Bay at Point Lobos and 17-Mile Drive’s Cypress Point.  More info about Point Lobos is at: https://www.pointlobos.org/

California: Scenic Jalama Beach

Jalama Beach

Jalama Beach

Travertine Onyx Sedimentary Rock

Travertine Onyx Sedimentary Rock

Beautiful Rock Patterns

Beautiful Rock Patterns

Pacific Sea Star

Pacific Sea Star

Orange Club Sea Squirts and Old Growth Kelp

Orange Club Sea Squirts and Old Growth Kelp

Feather Boa Kelp, Giant Kelp, and Surf Grass

Feather Boa Kelp, Giant Kelp, and Surf Grass

Vineyard Entrance Sign and Agave with Massive Flower Stalks

Vineyard Entrance Sign and Agave with Massive Flower Stalks

Mercedes-Benz Car Commercial Being Filmed

Recently we visited Jalama Beach (north of Santa Barbara, California).  The geology of the area is very interesting.  Walking along the beach it is possible to see sandstone, travertine onyx, and agates.  On a super lucky day you might even see petrified whale bone or fossilized fish.  Naturally-occurring black tar coats a few of the rocks on the beach.  It seeps from oil–bearing rocks along fault lines of the Miocene Monterey Formation.  The seeps can be both onshore (La Brea Tar Pits) and offshore, and are a source for oil and gas production in Southern California.  In the past, native Chumash people used the tar to waterproof their boats.  We saw lots of sea life on the beach, including dozens of starfish, a clump of orange club sea squirts, and several kinds of seaweed.  The road to Jalama Beach (west of Solvang) winds through rolling hills past several wineries.  The landscape is so beautiful that we were momentarily delayed while a Mercedes-Benz C250 car commercial was being filmed in the area!

California Sea Glass – History in Your Hands

Overall Ceramic and Pottery Shards

Overall Ceramic and Pottery Shards

Overall Colorful Sea Glass Pieces

Overall Colorful Sea Glass Pieces

This ceramic piece says 1945 – the year World War II ended.

This ceramic piece says 1945 – the year World War II ended.

This ceramic piece says Japan and includes a rising sun and Japanese characters, which dates it to the late 1940s. One of the characters on the bottom line refers to water, and it may be part of the name of the manufacturer.

This ceramic piece says Japan and includes a rising sun and Japanese characters, which dates it to the late 1940s. One of the characters on the bottom line refers to water, and it may be part of the name of the manufacturer.

This ceramic piece has a beautiful blue willow pattern – the most popular pattern in the history of dinnerware.

This ceramic piece has a beautiful blue willow pattern – the most popular pattern in the history of dinnerware.

The writing on this piece ends in “erey” – perhaps it is part of the word “Monterey”.

The writing on this piece ends in “erey” – perhaps it is part of the word “Monterey”.

This unique piece is chicken wire embedded in textured striated glass (used for reinforcement and safety glass in cabinets, plus windows at schools and fire stations). This is a hot new vintage glass being recreated for current products. A piece of sea glass half this size was recently posted for sale on eBay with a starting bid of $69.99.

This unique piece is chicken wire embedded in textured striated glass (used for reinforcement and safety glass in cabinets, plus windows at schools and fire stations). This is a hot new vintage glass being recreated for current products. A piece of sea glass half this size was recently posted for sale on eBay with a starting bid of $69.99.

This must-have piece of glass is Jadite – opaque green glassware dating to the 1930s. It was so favored by Martha Stewart that she reintroduced this glass to modern times.

This must-have piece of glass is Jadite – opaque green glassware dating to the 1930s. It was so favored by Martha Stewart that she reintroduced this glass to modern times.

This ceramic piece is decorated with a beautiful pink pattern - perhaps flowers.

This ceramic piece is decorated with a beautiful pink pattern – perhaps flowers.

This ceramic piece is a bright green chartreuse color – perhaps Fiestaware from the 1950s.

This ceramic piece is a bright green chartreuse color – perhaps Fiestaware from the 1950s.

This clear glass piece is a bottle top ring. It was so highly prized by Calvin Klein that he dressed his best models in sea glass rings.

This clear glass piece is a bottle top ring. It was so highly prized by Calvin Klein that he dressed his best models in sea glass rings.

This piece is part of a striped ceramic plate.

This piece is part of a striped ceramic plate.

Sea Glass Collected in February 2020.

Misc Sea Glass Finds including Hand Painted Ceramic Piece with Orange Poppies, Baby Blue Piece of Tile, and Others.

This round bottom was made by Glass Containers Inc. between 1933-1960s. It may have been from a decorative liquor bottle. On the upper left are what looks like two interlocking diamonds, which are actually the initials GC.

This Mission Dry Corp Round Glass Bottom is from a Mission Royal Punch Cola Bottle from the 1940s/1950s.

Advertisement for Mission Royal Punch Cola in the 1940s/1950s. Matches the Mission Dry Corp Round Glass Bottom.

Recently we found amazing sea glass at Seaside Beach, California (near Monterey). We found some of the pieces on the beach, but Richard noticed that the best pieces were out at the surf line. After I saw a piece I just HAD to have, I took off my shoes and socks and went into the 50 degree ocean water – brrrrrrrr! Although I got soaked, it was worth it. Each piece of glass tells a story – it is like holding a piece of history in your hand. All of the sea glass is worn smooth and pitted by ocean weathering, so it is at least 50 years old. If you recognize or know more about any of these pieces of glass, please let me know.

UPDATE:  We returned to collect sea glass at Seaside in February 2020.  Still lots to find!  Our new favorites include the hand painted ceramic piece with orange poppies, baby blue piece of tile, the GC round glass bottom from an ornate liquor bottle, and the Mission Royal Punch Cola bottle bottom (the camel advertisement from the time is fantastic!).  

Point Lobos: Nesting Brandt’s Cormorants

Brandt's Cormorants Nesting on Clifftop

Brandt’s Cormorants Nesting on Clifftop

Male Brandt's Cormorant Carrying Flowers as Nesting Material

Male Brandt’s Cormorant Carrying Flowers as Nesting Material

Brandt's Cormorants Sitting on Seaweed Nests

Brandt’s Cormorants Sitting on Seaweed Nests

Brandt's Cormorant Mating Display

Brandt’s Cormorant Mating Display

Pair of Brandt's Cormorants Showing Blue Throat Pouches

Pair of Brandt’s Cormorants Showing Blue Throat Pouches

Brandt's Cormorant and Western Gull

Brandt’s Cormorant and Western Gull

Brandt's Cormorant Nesting Colony on Bird Island

Brandt’s Cormorant Nesting Colony on Bird Island

View of Bird Island (background left) from China Cove Trail

View of Bird Island (background left) from China Cove Trail

Brandt’s cormorants are nesting now along the China Cove Trail at Point Lobos State Park near Monterey, California. These sea birds have spectacular blue throat pouches and turquoise eyes during breeding season. The nesting material consists of seaweed and plants collected by the males. This year some of the birds decided to nest right beside the trail, so it is a real treat for photographers!

Monterey: Scenic Lover’s Point

Scenic Lover's Point

Scenic Lover’s Point

Field of Pink Trailing Carpet Ice Plants

Field of Pink Trailing Carpet Ice Plants

Brewer's Blackbird and Ice Plants

Brewer’s Blackbird and Ice Plants

Heart on Rock Wall at Lover's Point

Heart on Rock Wall at Lover’s Point

We’ve just returned from a trip celebrating our anniversary along the California coast. One of the most scenic places we visited was Lover’s Point at Monterey, California. The pink ice plants are particularly stunning this time of year!

California: Scenic Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Scenic Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Scenic Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Pigeon Point Lighthouse with Yellow Buttercup Oxalis Flowers in Spring

Pigeon Point Lighthouse with Yellow Buttercup Oxalis Flowers in Spring

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Coastline

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Coastline

Pigeon Point's Perilous Rocky Coast

Pigeon Point’s Perilous Rocky Coast

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Welcome Sign

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Welcome Sign

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower and Flag

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower and Flag

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Front with Starburst

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Front with Starburst

Pigeon Point Back of Lighthouse with Flowers by Fence

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Fresnel Lens

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Fresnel Lens

Pigeon Point's Ocean View

Pigeon Point’s Ocean View

Harbor Seal on Rocks below Pigeon Point

Harbor Seal on Rocks below Pigeon Point

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower in Fog with Sun Halo

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower in Fog with Sun Halo

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Top with Fog Shadow and Rainbow Prism

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Top with Fog Shadow and Rainbow Prism

Fogbow Nearby

Fogbow Nearby

Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Infrared

Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Infrared

Pigeon Point Lighthouse is located along the scenic San Mateo coast south of San Francisco.  The lighthouse was built in 1872, and is named after the clipper ship “Carrier Pigeon” that went down off the point. The ship even had a gilded pigeon as its figurehead.  Pigeon Point’s original name was Whale Point, because whales are frequently seen offshore.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse is one of the tallest active lighthouses on the west coast (150 feet above sea level).  Its Fresnel lens flashes a rotating beam of light once every 10 seconds.  The lens has 1,008 glass prisms, and weighs over 4 tons! 

Sometimes light stations use fog horns in addition to light signals to warn ships away from the coast.  Early settlers around Pigeon Point Lighthouse described the fog horn as sounding like “an asthmatic old bovine” or “stuck hog”.  The light station’s dock was used by rumrunners and bootleggers during Prohibition in the 1920’s.  Tens of millions of dollars in whiskey were brought ashore during that period. 

The lighthouse is currently undergoing an $11 million restoration.  The first step (completed) was to remove the Fresnel lens from the tower and put it on temporary display in the Fog Signal Building.  The second step (underway) is to stabilize the tower.  The future third step will be complete restoration of the tower, which will begin once funding is secured.  Progress updates are available at:  http://www.calparks.org/whatwedo/improving/pigeon-point/

California: Pebble Beach/Bean Hollow State Beach

Pebble Beach Overlook

Pebble Beach Overlook

Pebble Beach - Long Exposure

Pebble Beach – Long Exposure

Rainbow Seaweed on Pebble Beach

Rainbow Seaweed on Pebble Beach

Colorful Pebbles on Beach

Colorful Pebbles on Beach

Tafoni Rock Layers

Tafoni Rock Layers

Tafoni Rock with Mushroom Shape

Tafoni Rock with Mushroom Shape

Tafoni Rock Honeycomb Pattern

Tafoni Rock Honeycomb Pattern

Tafoni Rock Filled with Pebbles

Tafoni Rock Filled with Pebbles

Close-Up of Colorful Pebbles

Close-Up of Colorful Pebbles

Pebbles and Sea Glass

Pebbles and Sea Glass

Pebble Beach/Bean Hollow State Beach (south of San Francisco) is famous for its tafoni rock and pebble-covered beach.  The lacework tafoni rock is soft sandstone that has been eroded by the wind and waves.  The colorful pebbles are composed of various rocks including green jade, red chert, white agate, jasper, moonstones, and petrified wood.  The rocks are washed in from an offshore Pleistocene-era gravel bed.  Many geological field trips come to this unique location.  More info is at:   https://www.kqed.org/quest/19198/geological-outings-around-the-bay-pebble-beach

Spectacular Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle Main Entrance

Tower Closeup

Patio near Outdoor Neptune Pool

Neptune Pool Modeled after Roman Coliseum

Indoor Pool with Lapis Lazuli Tile and Real Gold

Indoor Pool with Marble Statue

Formal Dining Room

Holiday Decorations

Marble Statuary: Woman and Bird

View from Top of “Enchanted Hill”

Zebra Grazing on Grounds of Estate

The spectacular Hearst Castle is located at the south end of Big Sur.  This palace on the “Enchanted Hill” overlooks 14 miles of undeveloped California coastline.  Construction started on the estate in 1919 after William Randolph Hearst told his architect that he was “tired of sleeping in tents, and would like to build a little something”.  That “little something” took 25 years to build and turned into one of the world’s most expensive homes! 

The Hearst Castle has over 90,000 square feet of living area including 165 rooms, a formal dining room, library, movie theater, and indoor and outdoor swimming pools.  The home is decorated with antiques and statuary collected from Europe and Egypt.  The buildings are surrounded by 127 acres of formal gardens and orchards.  In addition, Hearst owned the largest private zoo in the world from 1923-1937.  The zoo has now been dismantled, but descendants of some of those original animals can still be seen grazing on the grounds of the estate.  The home was especially famous for its parties in the 1920s and 1930s, and movie stars flocked there on the weekends.  After Hearst’s death, the estate became a California State Park in 1958.  The home is especially beautiful over the holidays.  Info about visiting the Hearst Castle is at:  http://www.hearstcastle.org/content/facts-and-stats 

Big Sur: World Class Beauty!

Big Sur Coastline

Rocky Creek Bridge

McWay Falls

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Pink Ice Plants and California Poppies

Fields of Gold and Turquoise Water

Rocky Coast in Mist

Big Sur has been called “The Greatest Meeting of Land and Sea”.  This rugged coastline south of San Francisco is one of the most beautiful in the world.  The scenery is spectacular!

California: Big Sur’s Garrapata Beach

Garrapata Beach Overlook

Garrapata Beach Trail

Garrapata Beach Stairs

Garrapata Beach Ocean View

Garrapata Beach Pyramid Rocks

Big Sur’s Garrapata Beach is a particularly scenic place along the California coast. Although the area is often shrouded in fog, the views are gorgeous on a sunny day in June.

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Outer Bay/Open Sea Exhibit

Monterey Bay Aquarium – Outer Bay/Open Sea Exhibit Window

The window at the Outer Bay /Open Sea Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is massive!  Standing in front of it is like scuba diving without getting wet!  At night a wall of bubbles obscures the window so that the fish don’t run into it in the dark.  We arrived at the window before the bubbles were turned off for the day.  The beautiful blue color of the exhibit comes from the blue tiles covering its walls – over 1.6 million tiles were used! 

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Draw Your Own Digital Jelly

Draw Your Own Digital Jelly Touchscreens and Wall-Size Virtual Ocean

Draw Your Own Digital Jelly Touchscreens and Wall-Size Virtual Ocean

Touchscreen to Draw Jelly

Touchscreen to Draw Jelly

Touchscreen to E-mail Jelly Link

Touchscreen to E-mail Jelly Link

Richard’s Digital Jelly Swimming in a Virtual Ocean

Richard’s Digital Jelly Swimming in a Virtual Ocean

Pam’s Digital Jelly Swimming in a Virtual Ocean

Pam’s Digital Jelly Swimming in a Virtual Ocean

At the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Jellies Experience Exhibit, you can use a touch screen to draw your own digital jelly and launch it into a wall-size virtual ocean. You can also use the touchscreen to e-mail your jelly link. This display is irresistible and very popular!  

UPDATE December 2015:  Videos of digital jellies swimming in a virtual ocean are no longer available online since the special exhibit has been closed. 

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Glowing Jellies and Corals

Flower Hat Jellies

Button Polyps

Glowing Coral

Tiny Elegant Jelly

Fluorescent Jelly Proteins Display

At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, jellies and corals in the Light Show Gallery can be seen brightly glowing under special lights as a result of fluorescence and bioluminescence. Scientists use fluorescent jelly proteins for laboratory research and diagnostics. Richard has used glowing jelly proteins in his own research. The protein was famously used in the year 2000 by French geneticists to create a rabbit named Alba whose hair glowed green under ultraviolet light. For those especially interested in science, check out this new article on the world’s first artificial jellyfish at Harvard University that is being used to study pumping of the heart muscle:   http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22088-heart-muscle-helps-cyborg-jellyfish-come-alive.html

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Delicate and Beautiful Jellies

Spotted Jellies

Upside Down Jellies

Egg Yolk Jelly

Blubber Jellies

Crown Jelly

Moon Jellies

Indonesian Sea Nettles

Crystal Jelly

The new Jellies Experience Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is outstanding!  Jellyfish are extremely delicate and beautiful.  Their bodies are 95% water.  They are a main source of food for sea turtles and ocean sunfish.  Some jellies sting as a defense and as a way to collect food, so always be careful around them.   An excellent article about how Monterey Bay Aquarium grows its jellies for display is at:  http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/how-to-grow-a-jellyfish/

Weedy Sea Dragon with Eggs

Sea Dragon with Eggs at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Sea Dragon with Eggs Illustration

We got extra lucky at the Monterey Bay Aquarium last week and saw a male weedy sea dragon with eggs. The male sea dragon doesn’t have a pouch like sea horses. Instead he has a tail that grows cup-like crevices for the eggs. He watches over the eggs until the baby sea dragons swim away. Note that the picture was very difficult to take because of the round glass of the tank UPDATE August 6, 2012:  The weedy sea dragon Dad and his 80 babies are now being cared for behind the scenes!  Success!

Monterey Bay Aquarium: New Jellies Experience is the BEST!

Jellies Experience Entrance

Tubes of Moon Jellies

Moon Jellies Lamps

Jellyfish Polyps Lamps

Comb Jelly Walk-Through Light

Beautiful Comb Jellies

Beautiful Comb Jellies

Crown Jelly Lamp

Jellyfish Mod Wall

Glowing Jellyfish Seat and Wall Art

The new Jellies Experience Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is the BEST!  It is one of my ALL-TIME favorites!  I particularly enjoyed the exhibit’s “mod” feel and cool lighting.   

I remember when the Monterey Bay Aquarium debuted their wildly popular “Planet of the Jellies” in 1992, they enhanced the mood of the exhibit with a wall of lava lamps (the “lava” looked like jellies swimming).  In 2018 it was announced that the cybersecurity firm Cloudflare in San Francisco uses a similar wall of lava lamps to encrypt the internet.  It turns out that the randomness of the lava’s movement is so unpredictable that it is much more secure than randomly generated code.  Read more at:  https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/encryption-lava-lamps

UPDATE August 2016:  The aquarium has now figured out the best way to raise comb jellies.  It all comes down to what the baby jellies eat.  You can read about it at: https://futureoftheocean.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/untangling-comb-jelly-culture/?utm_source=AugustEnews&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2016-enews    

You can watch a video about shimmering rainbow comb jellies at:  https://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/34849426540/checked-out-our-comb-jellies-these-beautiful

Mission San Miguel

Mission San Miguel, California

Mission San Miguel Belltower

Mission San Miguel Altar

Mission San Miguel Cemetery Entrance

Mission San Miguel Cemetery Entrance

Mission San Miguel Tile

Mission San Miguel (east of Big Sur) was founded in 1797.  It is one of California’s most authentic and beautiful missions.  The colorful murals inside the church are the original ones painted by Indian artists.  Mission bells were central to life at the mission, and were blessed upon installation.  Bells were rung in a special way, and were used to call people to worship, meals, work, and gatherings. 

Eberle Winery

Eberle Vineyards

Bronze Boar at Entrance to Eberle Tasting Room

Bronze Boar's Shiny Nose (rub for good luck!)

Giant Hopper for Grape Crushing

Fermentation Vats

Wine Barrels Stored in Cave

Stained Glass Mural at Eberle Winery

Eberle Winery in Paso Robles, California (east of Big Sur) is one of the highest award-winning wineries in the United States.  Eberle means “wild boar” in German.  A bronze boar greets visitors at the entrance to the Tasting Room.  It is considered good luck to rub the boar’s shiny nose!  Grapes are picked by hand in the Fall and placed into giant hoppers for crushing.  The juice is then pumped into fermentation vats, before transfer to barrels for storage.  Aging time varies from months to years.   Finally the wine is tested and filtered before bottling for sale. Eberle’s vineyards and caves are very scenic!

Lost Movie Set of “The Ten Commandments”

Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge

1923 Silent Movie

Sphinx Head from “The Ten Commandments”

City of the Pharaoh from “The Ten Commandments”

Recovered Movie Set Pieces from “The Ten Commandments”

1930 Movie “Morocco” Filmed at Nipomo Dunes

Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge is located north of Santa Barbara.  The refuge has the largest and most extensive coastal sand dunes in California.  Cecil B. DeMille filmed his original The Ten Commandments at this location in 1923.  Before filming began, an entire Egyptian “City of the Pharaoh” was constructed on the dunes.  The scale of the production was amazing!  The elaborate movie set contained 300 chariots, 21 sphinxes weighing 5 tons each, and 4 statues of Ramses that were each 35 feet tall!   When filming ended, the set was secretly buried in the sand.  Now historians are using ground-penetrating radar to recover pieces of the set for display in the Dunes Center Museum.   A documentary on the film history of the area by Peter Brosnan is currently in production.   Past “Sahara” movies filmed on the dunes starred Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Gary Cooper, and Marlene Dietrich.  A more recent movie filmed on the dunes was Pirates of the Caribbean starring Johnny Depp.

UPDATE October 2014:  Recent excavation has unearthed one of the giant sphinx heads buried in the sand.  It will be displayed at the Guadalupe Dunes Center Museum.  Articles are at:  http://www.newser.com/story/197287/archaeologists-uncover-giant-sphinx-in-calif-desert.html   and http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/santa-barbara/cecil-b-demill-ten-commandments-excavation-nipomo-dunes.html 

UPDATE December 2015/January 2016:  After 30 years, the documentary by Peter Brosnan is finally finished!  The movie “The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille” is now being submitted to film festivals.  An article is at:  http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/the-lost-city-of-cecil-b-demille-the-film-about-unearthing-a-1923-movie-set-that-took-30-years-to-a6787021.html

A trailer about the new movie is at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAfhfNGRACU&app=desktop

The official website for the movie is at:  http://www.lostcitydemille.com/index.html

Info about visiting the  display is at:  http://dunescenter.org/visit-the-dunes/dunes-center/exhibits-and-activities-research/the-lost-city-of-demille/

Eagle Castle Winery

Eagle Castle Winery at Paso Robles

Eagle Castle Winery Entrance

Eagle Castle Winery Door

Eagle Castle Winery Awards

Eagle Castle Winery Coat-of-Arms

Paso Robles Scenery in Spring

Eagle Castle Winery in Paso Robles is one of our favorite California wineries.  This award winning building has a moat and full coat-of-arms.  The scenery is fantastic, and the wine is delicious!

UPDATE November 2014:  Eagle Castle has been replaced by the Tooth and Nail Winery.  The name changed, but the building is the same:  http://www.toothandnailwinery.com/  and https://www.pacbiztimes.com/2015/06/19/paso-robles-wine-castles-woes-fade-into-medieval-history/

Rare Albino Redwood Tree

Albino Redwood Tree

Contrast in Albino and Green Needles

Albino Redwood Needles

Albino redwoods are the only white evergreens in the world, and are extremely rare.  Their locations are closely guarded secrets, except for two public instances.  We saw this albino tree at Big Sur, California.  Since albino redwoods lack chlorophyll and can’t make their own energy, they always grow as a sprout from a mother trunk.  It was a privilege to see such a unique and special tree!  Read more about this tree at Fernwood Campground at:  https://www.fernwoodbigsur.com/albino-redwood-tree.html

California: Favorite Big Sur Sunset

Big Sur Sunset

Big Sur has the most gorgeous sunsets along the California coast!  We took this image at dusk.  We used a long exposure to saturate the colors and give the ocean a dreamscape look.

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