Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Año Nuevo State Park

A couple weeks ago we had family in town and decided to head someplace a little scenic for a hike. Our first choice was to go to Point Lobos State Park, but unfortunately we started seeing smoke from what we think was the Soberanes fire. We didn't know much about the fire at the time so we decided not to risk it and instead decided to head north along the Pacific Coast to find another place to hike (honestly there was no shortage of places to stop). So, we randomly picked Año Nuevo State Park. Going with the flow is easy enough right? Well, the first, I don't know, 30 minutes of our trip were just plain bizarre. First off the park ranger at the gate basically lectured us for being there too early after having let us sit there for about 5 minutes before acknowledging us (I looked up the time they opened at it had been 20 minutes at that point). Then, when we went to pay, our bill was too large because she had not counted her drawer, but between the four of us we came up with the exact amount (again, they had been open for 20 minutes). We were then told the park was known for their elephant seals and how to get there, which included us having to unlatch a fence (weird, but alright). We had a good laugh and drove off to park.


With our sunscreen on and water bottles in tow, we were ready to start our 4 mile hike. We were laughing about the events that had just taken place, wondering if we were on a reality show (good thing we all are polite and kept out composure), when the first bout of terror took place. There was a sign warning about the snakes you'll find in the area. I felt my body go cold like I was losing all my blood, surely I was sick and needed to leave (not a "country" girl at all as my husband says). Sadly no one else seemed to share my terror, so three against one, we were back on track. After a lifetime (ok maybe 5-10 minutes max) of screams and jumping from the snakes (I never saw one but Kevin did) we came to our first obstacle. Which way do we go? Apparently we all listened really well, or same logic as before, four against one, it must have been the park rangers fault. I kid, I kid. I'm sure we were at fault. In front of us was a latched fence (promising since we did in fact listen), to the left, a small building with an equally looking small path, and to the right a rope up with what may or may not be a path, but at least 3-4 workers walking around and sitting in a truck. We quickly ruled out option three because it looked like the truck and workers were blocking off what may or may not be a path. We were unsure about the latched fence because it was pretty big and surely it would be open if we were supposed to go that way. So, you guessed it, we went with option one. It wasn't right, but it wasn't necessarily wrong either. It didn't lead us to the seals, but we did get a very short hike to a decent view. Ok, now we had narrowed it down to the other two options with two new friends whom were also wandering aimlessly looking for seals.  With the workers still sitting in their trucks, we all decided to go with the latched fence option because the lady had told all of us that. As we are walking we were passing busy construction workers working away.  We had made it a fair distance when someone finally stopped us and said we were supposed to be there because it was closed off to public due to them working on it. Um, thank you 6-10(if your counting the initial people blocking the other route) for being kind and letting us know. Obviously you know what came next, we went down the path that seemed to be blocked off. It was so odd. We walked past the workers and the ropes like we owned the place and no one said anything so we kept on our merry way. We kept walking and laughing about our whole adventure thus far, going on boarded paths and then sand that left your shoes full and back again when we stared to not only smell the fishy smell, but hear the elephant seals. We were happy and somewhat relieved (hello beginning of a horror movie thus far). We stood around and watched them for a few minutes. Some looked like they were fighting or playing, hard to tell, and others just laid around and threw sand on themselves. I just kept thinking about how I hate to get sand in my bikini lol, but I'm sure they do it for a reason unbeknownst to me.

We were getting ready to leave when we noticed a couple of those viewfinder telescope things (real technical here) and decided to check them out. That my friends, is when the pure terror happened. We saw an island maybe a mile or two away that we later found out was Ano Nuevo Island (fitting). It had hundreds of elephant seals and a couple deteriorating buildings. It was insanely creepy. In fact, there is actually a thriller book written called New Year Island that is set in modern day on this particular island. I have not yet read it, but I think I'm going to have to! After we had our fill at staring at the creepiness that was Ano Nuevo Island, we made the trek back (faster since we knew the way this time). We, well mostly I, had a "snake plan" of attack for the hike back. It was basically stay in the middle of everyone and run like crazy if I had to! Best plan ever! Take that snakes. Though, I'm happy to report that there were no sightings. Overall, I would go back. It's not too strenuous and once you know your way, the outcome of seeing the elephant seals and some of the coast really made it worth it!  


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