branches and the granite rocks of Point Lobos frame
turquoise waters at the edge of fog-bound Carmel
LOBOS, Calif. ó The birds were break dancing.
the best description I can give for the strutting, bobbing
and tail-fanning spring mating ritual of the Brandtís
cormorants I was watching through a spotting scope. They
crowded a guano-whitened rock near aptly named Bird
Island, just one of many natural wonders in 3,400-acre
Point Lobos State Reserve.
gets more than its share of hype, but hereís where it
earns its superlatives. Point Lobos, three miles south of
Carmel, is some of Earthís prettiest coastline.
the Central Coast, off Highway 1 on the way to Big Sur, itís
a treasure of sea-sculpted rocks and roaring, menthol-blue
sea that surges and splashes without pause. From 200-foot
promontories visitors can look down on bodysurfing sea
lions having as much fun as teenagers at Waikiki. You can
spy into shadowy sea caves, visit an old whalerís cabin
turned museum, and wander ghostly groves of Monterey
only grow native here and across Carmel Bay at Del Monte
State Forest, and in the Pebble Beach area," said
Rick Pettit, a docent on a guided walk. But Point Lobos
has a cypress thatís much prettier than the famed lone
cypress thatís the trademark of the Pebble Beach golf
resort, he added immodestly.
Lobos is named for sea lions, who crowd some of its
beaches by the dozens. Early Spanish explorers named
offshore rocks here "Punta de los Lobos Marinos,"
or Point of the Sea Wolves, their name for sea lions.
dozen trails wind through woods and meadows and along
shorelines. The paths can be combined into a 6-mile
perimeter hike of up to five hours or taken in short and
easy walks of less than a mile, three of which are
ADA-compliant and offer jaw-dropping views.
good introduction, I found: Show up for a free docent-led
walk of 60 to 90 minutes, offered most days at various
locations around the park. If you donít have your own
binoculars, be sure to check out a pair at no charge from
the Information Booth (they ask you to leave your car
joined Pettit on the .8-mile Cypress Grove Trail, one of
the parkís most popular walks. If a tree could do tai
chi, it would be the bendy-branched Monterey cypress. It
once grew naturally in a much wider range but withdrew to
these fog-shrouded headlands as the climate changed with
the close of the Pleistocene epoch 15,000 years ago, I
the live canopy are gnarled dead, gray branches cloaked in
Old Manís Beard, also known as lace lichen.
absorbs moisture so well the local Indians used it for
diaper material," Pettit said, giving me a future
item for tavern trivia. "Some people say this grove
looks like a good place for a scary movie," noted
tour-goer Beth Butera, from Livermore, Calif. "You
might expect to see the Wicked Witch of the West looking
soon stepped to the edge of sun-drenched cliffs and those
spectacular views out to the Pacific and across Carmel Bay
ó where, sure enough, fog was creeping in from the
park is a rich mix of interesting geology ó its granite
rock was once attached to the southern Sierra ó and
human history. The preserveís Whalers Cove was the site
of a whaling station from 1862 to 1879, along with an
abalone cannery and a granite quarry said to have supplied
stone for the San Francisco Mint.
more at the whalerís cabin, originally built by Chinese
fishermen in the 1850s, and an adjacent Whaling Station
Lobos State Reserve is off Highway 1 about 20 minutes
south of Pacific Grove, Calif. Admission: $10 per car.
Opens at 8 a.m. year-round; closing time varies
a highly popular site with limited parking. In summer and
on holiday weekends, expect overflow crowds; arrive early
(by 9:30 a.m.) or later in the day (after 3 p.m.) to avoid
waits at the gate. Pick up a helpful $2 trail map at the
Point Lobos Foundation website has more details, including
schedules of guided walks: pointlobos.org