Saturday, June 11, 2011

"I Looove Animals."

(Title is a quote from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back that Joe and I tend to overuse anytime someone says "animals." We are nerds.)

Our first full day in Monterey and we spent most of the day looking at animals, staring at the ocean, walking up hills through lush green foliage and adding layers to stay warm in those chilled bay winds.

Four hours at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is just about right. Our tour guide, Nancy took us on an educational and entertaining behind the scenes tour to start. We went up to the top of the huge Kelp Forest display and looked down and saw where the divers enter the tanks. We saw the concealed tanks for orphaned baby otters where older otters help train them so they don't become too comfortable with people and then are unable to be released back into their natural habitat. We stood in the humid coral growing room and leaned over to peer at the colorful, small coral and anemone as they grow large enough for the public displays.

Nancy told us fascinating stories about the giant octopus and how they are one of the smartest animals around, they recognize each of their trainers and show affection for them, and have to have AstroTurf around the top of their tanks so they don't use their tentacles to suction themselves up and over their plexiglass tanks. We held squid and smelled the pungent seafood that the otters eat several pounds of each day. Then after Nancy's expert and speedy tour, we wandered around on our own. Seahorse exhibits, jelly fish, starfish, otters with their sleek velvety fur coats and playful juvenile tumbles and frolics, hot pink flamingos, dapper penguins, and smooth bat rays.

After lunch at the Aquarium, we hopped back in the car and drove down to Carmel and Point Lobos State Reserve. Point Lobos is easily one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. The steep craggy cliffs, crashing waves, sprinkles of yellow, purple and orange flowers across the mountains and down into crevices and nooks, the vast ocean spread out just beyond the bay. We walked and climbed and Joe took 100's of photos.

Walking through the Whalers Museum we learned the history of the area and realized that exactly where we parked our car, 100 years ago fisherman hauled in whales, dissected and used nearly every inch of the whale for some purpose, from oil to baleen to spermatozoa, right where our Sebring was parked, these enormous beautiful animals were torn down into resources and commercial uses. Strange. This made an Austrian girl behind us very emotional. Then her boyfriend reminded her that she eats beef and said "How is that different." "It just is,"she said in her charming accent.

Lazy seals

We walked up and around another cove and heard the barking noise of sea lions. There they were all splayed out in their natural environment, looking like slackers sleeping on damp rocks and occasionally venturing out for a snack and a dip in the rough water. Today was a day filled with life, wet crawling, swimming, diving, slithering life. From the little baby rabbit nibbling grass next to us on the trail, to the sleek Sturgeon circling above us in tanks, or the adorable happy otters leaning back and closing their eyes while dozing off in a bed of kelp, today was all about the animals.

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