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an extraordinary day

lindyjean's picture
on July 18, 2011 - 11:55pm

i sort of skipped out on work was the doctor's first day back from his vacation, and until he sees patients and dictates their notes, i have nothing to type, so, there would have been nothing for me to do today, so i took the day off. i'll go back tomorrow and dive in and be a good soldier.

but today, my HOG and i did something we've been trying to do for over 15 years. we got to tour an old lighthouse near san simeon. for most of the years we've lived here, it has simply been off limits to the public. then several years back, volunteers went to work on the structure and its outbuildings, and in the last few years, it's been open for tours. each time we are in the area, we are either too late for the 10 AM tour, or are there on a day when they aren't conducting tours. This time, we planned on being there on a day it was open, and we got up and left early enough to catch the once-a-day tour.

the lightstation is still functioning, though the Fresnel lens was removed in the 50s and now uses an electric light. With ships all having GPS now, lighthouses are going the way of the VCR, but survive with the help of passionate, tireless volunteers who give their time and work to keeping them a part of our history. this station sits on a point at the southern end of the magnificent Big Sur area, in the middle of the Monterey Marine Sanctuary. There are three large rock formations offshore covered with birds, seals, and bird poop---hence the name Piedras Blancas ("white rocks") Lightstation.

the docents not only know the history, but included in this tour is an extensive lesson on the natural history of the area, as well as a nice dose of teaching how the volunteers ripped out all the non-native ice plants, and let mother nature reclaim her hills with indigenous shrubs and flowers. we not only had our very knowledgeable docent who could answer whatever question lobbed at him, but another docent who is the naturalist in the bunch. as we were moving along from point to point, we were led to the bluff facing the big blue Pacific Ocean. The white rocks were right there, teeming with birds and noisy seals, while massive, slower elephant seals swam in the shallows of a cove, the males doing mock battle with other males, making their deep, gutteral snorts at one another. a couple of otters floated lazily in the gentle ripples of the cove. the stretch of beaches here are already tourist attractions, as it is an elephant seal rookery, and on this day, three different kinds of pinnipeds were laying in the sand together---small harbor seals, california sea lions, and the massive elephants. the weather was a crystal clear 60 degrees, without a cloud in the sky, and only a hint of a breeze. it couldn't get any more perfect, could it???

well, you know it did! i have spent countless hours (days, weeks) at the beach, staring out to the horizon. our family has land with a private beach, and grey whales tend to come close to shore since there is little boat traffic to disturb the new moms and babies, and i have seen hundreds of whales in all these years, gliding thru the water at the surface, making their way to and from the arctic on their migration. but with all these sightings, i have never seen a whale breach or spy-hop, until today. about a mile offshore, a small group of humpback whales (so said the naturalist docent) put on a show, jumping out of the water and landing with huge splashes, or smacking their flukes down, creating a huge spray. in a span of about ten minutes, we saw at least two or three dozen such breachings as the whales cavorted. i was speechless. it was awesome, in the truest sense of the word. realizing the extraordinary sight being played out, the docents didn't try to distract us from enjoying the incredible experience, they simply turned and watched the display right along with us. when the whales settled down, our attention was again drawn to the nearby rocks, and finally, to the lighthouse. but for the rest of the tour, i kept one eye on the horizon, looking for more occasional spouting was all they gave us, but my day was complete with the earlier showing---heck, i'd have been happy to see one whale jump, let alone see all that i'd seen. it was worth the wait of nearly 20 years to see the lightstation, now that we'd gotten the unexpected treat of seeing the whales, too. i know it was one of those times when you find yourself in the right place, at the right time, and the stars align and the tumblers fall into place....
it was magical.

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