Thursday, January 24, 2008

Otters and Jellyfish and Elephant Seals, oh my!

It's Thursday, and I'm just now getting around to writing about our fabulous weekend. It was so good, i had to have time to gather my thoughts (ok, I'm lying, but you'll indulge me, won't you?).

Friday night, Rich, Vivian & I drove up to Monterey (and listened to a very interesting book: "The Year of Living Biblically" -- I highly recommend). I've been wanting to take Vivian to the aquarium for months, but it took a while for schedules to align. I have very fond memories of going to the Aquarium as a kid, and I couldn't wait to be able to share that with my family.

On Saturday, we, along with my dad, Grant & Mel and their son Mark, headed over to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Well, almost. Before we went to the aquarium, we headed out to breakfast (because these babies wake up early! Believe me, this group of people would otherwise never voluntarily be out the door for breakfast at 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday when on vacation). And then we had to head back to the hotel for mid-morning naps (babies, not adults -- although aren't adult naps awesome?). So we finally headed over to the Aquarium at about 12:30 p.m.

This aquarium is awesome. I've been to zoos and aquariums all over the country, and this is still my favorite. You just get so close to the animals and see them in great detail. I was afraid that Vivian would be too young to be able to get anything out of the visit, but she really seemed to enjoy it. Fast moving animals, like the otters, were just a blur to her, but she was fascinated by the bright colors of the jellyfish, which moved slow enough for her to follow.

We stayed until closing time, and then took the kids back for naps. Dinner was (awesome) pizza eaten with friends.

Sunday, we took the opportunity to bum around and tour the area. We drove 17-Mile Drive and were in awe of the scenery. It was just beautiful.

Monday, we checked out of our little hotel, leaving our friends and my dad. We decided to drive down the coast, taking the 1 from Monterey down to Paso Robles and then the 101 into LA. We'd stop every once in a while to take in the beautiful sights.

We happened to pull over in Piedras Blancas, which is the periodic home to hundreds of elephant seals. It turns out that it is currently mating season for the elephant seals (late December to early February). The females come ashore to give birth and then the males line up to mate again. The beach was covered with seals!

The beach was even more covered than this photo shows (we forgot our camera!). It was just incredible. And then, as we looked on, an elephant seal gave birth right in front of us, maybe 30-40 feet away. It was the most beautiful, amazing site I've ever seen in nature (beyond Vivian's birth, of course). Rich & I were so moved, we could hardly speak. We stood there for 20 minutes, just watching the mom clean her baby (and the sea gulls trying to sneak a beak into the placenta). It wasn't until Vivian had had enough of the cold and the wind that we left.

The weekend totally recharged me. Sometimes just connecting with friends and family for a few days can completely change your point of view and remind you of what's really important.