Every once in a while we have to visit Franklin Point to enjoy the utter tranquility of the place. See previous posts here, here and here. It was a last minute decision because we had other plans for this weekend, which were thwarted. We were going to Nevada City to look over a couple of possibilities for our biennial family get together for Christmas this year. The trip had to be postponed due to weather conditions. Highway 20 is closed five miles south of Nevada City due to snow and an avalanche warning.
In San Jose the sun was shining brightly but even here there is a chance of snow. It was forecast that snow could fall at sea level which does not happen very often here. Tom did tell me this morning that snow actually fell in San Francisco last night on some of the highest points but didn’t settle.
On the east side of the Santa Cruz mountains we could see a little bit of snow on the peaks but as soon as we passed over the summit we saw lots of snow, especially in the shaded areas. Tom called it a light dusting. It certainly looked pretty, giving the view a Christmassy appearance. It was a bright day with no hint of fog. Once again we could see Monterey in the distance.
There was more traffic than we were used to on Highway 1 north of Santa Cruz. A lot of folks on their bikes were already up and about. A smattering of rain drops hit our windscreen. We agreed beforehand that if we ran into rain, we would turn back. Ahead there were no clouds in the sky so we carried on.
Just north of Davenport we spotted a sign advertising farm raised abalone for sale. At Davenport Landing Road we turned left and American Abalone Farm is a short drive down. There were lots of buildings which were obviously where the abalone are raised but we couldn’t see inside as plastic sheeting covered the outside. Stacks of pipes were stacked up and we could hear water being pumped. The abalone are raised in tanks where fresh sea water from the nearby ocean is pumped and they feed on fast growing kelp.
We followed a sign which took us to the farm shop and a very personable young man greeted us. We asked how old abalone had to be before they could be eaten and were told 3 – 3.5 years. I looked at a chart on the wall showing sizes abalone from hatching up to 3.5 years. Tom remembers a time when you could wade into the water and pry abalone off the rocks. Nowadays they are protected as commercial farming very nearly wiped them all out and now a license is needed to harvest them. I have never eaten abalone before though Tom has consumed a lot in his lifetime. At American Abalone Farms they sell fresh and frozen abalone. We bought four small frozen tenderized steaks ready to be cooked for $20. It sounds expensive but it was worth the money so I could taste them.
Further along the coast we passed a lot of cars parked along the road. This is where Scott Creek flows into the ocean and a favorite place for surfers. Today they were out in force.
Our main destination, Franklin Point, is a few miles beyond Ano Nuevo. There were no other cars parked on the gravel pull in next to the landmark tree stump. Maybe we would have the place to ourselves. The trail was a little muddy. Thank goodness for the raised boardwalk in a couple of places otherwise we would not have got through. In fact, one of the boardwalks is new or at least it was the first time we had seen it. The roped trail between the last two dunes now has a lake on both sides. In the middle, the sandy path had been breached but someone had put down a few bits of wood and it was easy to cross.
Where the trail ended, the recent storms and high tides had eroded the descent to the beach and it was impossible to walk down. I shuffled down on my bottom. Tom was some way behind as he had stopped along the trail to take photos and I had carried on without him. I knew he would have trouble getting onto the beach with his tripod so I sat on a nearby log so I could help him when he arrived. He also shuffled down on his bottom. I wondered though how we would get back up again.
Once again I strode ahead, with the bench on Franklin Point in my sights. I heard Tom call me back and wondered what he had seen. It was a young male elephant seal lying on the beach. If he hadn’t called me back I would have tripped over him. Wow! This put us in a bit of a dilemma. How were we going to get past him as he was between the bluff and the ocean and you must stay at least 25 feet away? We decided to climb up and walk over the bluffs. It took us a little time and we both took different routes. I know you are not supposed to go off the trail but we did follow trodden paths. I kept my eyes open for any more stray elephant seals but I saw none. I did see paw tracks though. Bobcat or mountain lion I wondered? It made me realize just how vulnerable we frail humans are. I didnt want to run into either animal so I sang as I walked to warn any animals that I was coming.
I saw an interesting plant with runners and small clumps of leaves every so often. To me it looked like a strawberry plant. Then I saw lots more of them and tried really hard not to trample any of them. A bit further on I saw a white flower on one of the clumps of leaves and can confirm that they are wild strawberries. I wonder if they grow here naturally or whether they have been planted to improve the stability of the dunes.
Eventually I found a way through to the trail which led to my favorite bench. From a distance I could see Tom had already reached it and wondered how on earth he had beaten me. As I approached the bench along the boardwalk I realized it was not Tom at all but a stranger who was happily sitting there eating his breakfast. I looked back and saw Tom making his way along the trail to the boardwalk.
Sitting on the bench and soaking in the view was bliss. There was a chilly breeze but the sun was out. I chatted with the man when he finished his breakfast. He had walked along the trail from the south and had passed a couple of elephant seals on the way.
The views were as amazing as ever. Looking back I could see another group had arrived at the beach with children. I hoped they wouldn’t get too close to the elephant seal. Fortunately they gave it a wide berth. There were no pelicans today, which is unusual but we spotted a group of cormorants standing guard on a rock offshore.
Looking back to the beach I noticed that the elephant seal was gone but wasn’t sure whether he had made his way back to the ocean or had hauled himself further up the beach. At least we could walk back along the beach without disturbing him.
Later, as we made our way back, we discovered a trail the to the ocean the elephant seal had made. We also spotted another elephant seal at the top of the beach. This is the first time I have ever seen elephant seals here and it is an amazing sight. To avoid the difficult climb up to the trail we took a shortcut over the bluffs and along the edge of the small lake.
We debated whether to go back the way we had come to Santa Cruz or whether to drive back although Pescadero. The tempting thought of a fresh baked artichoke garlic bread from Arcangeli’s and goat cheese from Harley Farms was too strong to resist. We also bought a ollieberry pie in Arcangeli’s. Tonight we are going to enjoy a real Coastside meal with abalone followed by ollalieberry pie and ice cream. We might even have room finish up with bread (if there is any left by the time we get home) and goats cheese. Mmm, mmm.
Once again we have enjoyed another wonderful day. There is nothing like California with its never ending choices of places to visit and even if we have been to a place before, it is always different each time we go back. I feel so lucky to be living here.
March 14 2011 12:00 am | Special Places