Sunday, January 13, 2019

The beauty of Point Lobos State Reserve

Spring flowers add a gentle touch to the rugged coastline
along Highway One near Carmel, California.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve was a mere five-minute drive from our Carmel, California Hyatt resort. Dedicated to preserving native relationships of the unique animal and plant life, geologic features, and scenic qualities found in their natural state along Highway One, the Reserve is a wonderland of ocean, trails, coves, and meadows.
The coastline along South Shore Trail at Point Lobos State Reserve
in California
Although we anticipated a quick stop, the Reserve was so fascinating that we spent three and a half hours exploring this bountiful landscape. That’s because the beautiful scenery--a mosaic of ecologies was shaped when rocks formed below the earth’s surface, later uplifted, exposed, and then eroded into a variety of forms by waves and weather—was far more enticing than we had expected to find in a reserve.
Coastal scene along the Cypress Cove Trail at Point Lobos State
Reserve near Carmel, California

To see all that Point Lobos offered, Larry and I walked several trails, starting with the South Shore Trail near the parking lot between Sea Lion Point and Bird Island. The accessible one-mile trail took us along cliffs with a magnificent ocean view and through one of nature’s lovely seaside gardens filled with dunes, rocks, splashing surf, caves, and driftwood. Sea Lion Point and Sand Hill Trail include cove overlooks and easy views of sea lions resting on rocks offshore or basking on the beach--moms tending their young as our visit was during ‘pup” season.
Monterey cypress trees frame the ocean on Cypress Grove Trail.
The Cypress Grove Trail, a loop from Sea Lion Point parking area through coastal scrub and woods and cliffs, serves up dramatic and spectacular ocean views. It winds through one of only two naturally growing stands of Monterey cypress trees remaining on Earth (The other grove is across Carmel Bay at Cypress Point). In fact, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve was originally acquired by the government to protect these trees.

Old Veteran cypress tree is estimated to be at least 300 years old.
These cypresses formerly extended over a much wider range but withdrew to the fog-shrouded headlands as the climate changed 15,000 years ago. The outermost trees reflect the forces of nature and time—they survived salt spray and wind with their roots seeking nourishment in whatever cracks and crevices could be found. A short side trail led to “Old Veteran,” a cypress tree about 300-350 years old. Even though it has split (possibly from lightning) it is still growing and sports a leafy canopy.
Deer can be seen in the meadows of Point Lobos State Reserve.
Our last trail was to Bird Island. To get to the trailhead we drove to the southernmost parking area, passing by two white, sandy beaches—China Beach and Gibson Beach. We then hiked the path highlighting pine forest, coastal scrub, rocky shores, and beautiful wildflower displays.
Trail marker

Notable were the huge boulders where thousands of sea birds roost during spring and summer. Cormorants nest close together on the flat part of the island, while sea otters rest in kelp offshore.

Mother seal tending to her pup at the beach below Bird Island Trail.
From the upper-level trail, we also had a great view of harbor seal moms tending their pups in the cold water and on the beach. Their actions resembled mothers everywhere!
Birds come by the thousands to roost on the rocks, which have a
distinctive white covering--and smell!
To get to Gibson Beach later, we walked down a sandy incline and a 56-step staircase. Wading is allowed there, but the water is very cold year-round, and with a cool breeze blowing, we decided a short look around was all we needed.
Beachcombers enjoy relatively secluded Gibson Beach at the
southernmost end of Point Lobos State Reserve
Bottom line, we were very glad we had time to wander around the trails and learn more about the multiple terrains and beautiful environments of Point Lobos State Reserve. So plan enough time for discovery when visiting this interesting place.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier


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