Point Lobos: The Sea Wolves Calling

If the cozy views of Carmel-by-the-Sea get too saccharine for your taste, head four miles south to witness “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world,” Point Lobos State Reserve, 554 acres of cliffs, meadows, and forest trails and over 700 acres submerged undersea (a scuba diving, snorkeling and kayaking haven, I learned too late).

Cliffs of the Point Lobos State Researve

The quote belongs to Francis McComas, a transplant from Tasmania, who landed in California as a merchant seaman and found success as a landscape painter–the man spoke from experience.

Point Lobos State reserve cliffsMcComas was not the only artistic spirit moved by the place. According to local legend, Robert Louis Stevenson imagined his Treasure Island along these very cliffs, and Robinson Jeffers, California’s great poet, was inspired by the scenery. Jeffers settled in Carmel, built his house from local granite, and named it “Tor” (this  looks like a fascinating place to visit). Point Lobos is prominent in “Jeffers Country,” and there is an online field guide to the Reserve, tracing the “geologic features that represent the bedrock to Tor House and Jeffers poetry.” It suggests specific Jeffers poems as an accompaniment to the park’s most prominent landmarks and formations. I will have to read up next time I come.

Poetry aside, even on a monotonous grey day, the views were stunning: the cliffs, the trees, tortured by winds and the salty air (don’t miss the Cypress Grove Trail, one of only two wild Monterey cypress groves remaining in the world and the reason for this Reserve’s formation), the waves, and the great sky overhead–yes, drama was in the air.

Point Lobos State Reserve, California

Point Lobos State Reserve cliffs and wildflowersStone arch, Point Lobos State Reserve Wildlife in Point Lobos is abundant. Spanish sailors named this land Punta de los Lobos Marinos, the Point of Sea Wolves, after the haunting barks of the California sea lions, still seen (and heard) on cliffs along the Sea Lion Point and Sand Hill Trail. Harbor seals, southern sea otters, and whales are a regular presence. We just missed two of the year’s highlights: seal pups being born along the shoreline rocks and gray whale mothers migrating close to shore with their calves in April and May (the Cypress Grove Trail, we were told, is the best spot for whale watching, December to May–bring binoculars).

Year-round, birds are everywhere. We saw western gulls glide majestically overhead, black-crowned night herons perch on boulders (in spring, watch for fledglings on Pelican Point), great blue herons inspect gnarled pines (March to June, they nest in pines along Coal Chute Point), black oystercatchers wade in low tide, and garrulous colonies of Brandt’s cormorants claim Bird Island. In mid-June, brown pelicans return for the season, alone a reason to visit again and again.

Birds along the Bird Island Trail, Point Lobos State Reserve

Brandt’s cormorants of the Bird Island Trail

Western gull, Point Lobos State Reserve

Western gull, observed and observing

I’d like to spend a day or several along the Reserve’s trails, breathing in the ocean air, listening to the calls of birds and mammals, watching the fog coat the hills and the trees–then lift.

Hills of Point Lobos State Reserve in fog

Point Lobos State Reserve, CA

We lingered for as long as we could, but the hazy, moody morning flew by, and our afternoon plans called us 90 miles north toward San Jose and what turned out to be another memorable visit, the University of California’s Lick Observatory.

Sign to Lick Observatory, Mount Hamilton, CaliforniaRelated posts: 

15 thoughts on “Point Lobos: The Sea Wolves Calling

  1. What beautiful photos! I love the rugged coastline so much more than sandy beaches. Great post as well! I bet it was really haunting to the Spanish sailors to hear the barking, and it made for a great name! Sorry to hear you missed the pups and the whales, but it sounds like you had a great time regardless! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you for stopping by, as always! This was a beautiful, beautiful morning. I do prefer this type of rugged, moody wilderness as well. I think, if we go back there, I’ll be sure to do it in April or May. Seems like EVERYthing is extra alive that time of year.

  2. You’ve given us another great location for when we head west. For another great coastline come to mid-coast Maine anywhere from Rockland to Stonington. We’ve spent 2 weeks here and love it.

    • I am glad! Definitely bring cash if you go–entering the Reserve is only $5.00, but they don’t take cards or have much in the way of change… Maine has been on my agenda for years now. I will have to do it soon! Would you recommend a particular season?

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