elephant seals

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As a special post honoring the upcoming Valentine’s Day, I’ll be putting on my psychology hat and analyzing the heck out of the Ano Nuevo hike. I wrote about this hike a couple months ago and suggested that anyone who wanted to go see the baby elephant seals book their tickets. On the day that Closet Granola and I had reservations, his roommate and her boyfriend also wanted to go. They called Ano Nuevo State Park to see if they could get tickets and all they could hear on the other end of the receiver was laughing. So if you haven’t made reservations, remember this lesson for next year: Good Things Come To Those Who Plan. Or read my special comment below.

This docent-led hike lasts about 2.5 hours and is pretty easy. Upon arrival at the state park, we picked up our tickets and waited for our tour to start. There a few picnic tables if you want to grab a quick bite before heading out. Food is not allowed once the tour starts, so better eat now. The tour begins with a quick introduction from one of the volunteers at the visitors center. The group of 20 or so hikers head out towards the ranger station by themselves, passing a lake meant for bird watching. Closet Granola and I didn’t stop as we’re not the bird-watching types.

At the ranger station, there were some exhibits that I found too creepy - the skull of an elephant seal, fur from a sea otter, etc. A docent picked up the group and started the hike and heading towards the beach where the elephant seals were. We stopped at several points along the way where the docent could address the group and relay facts about the elephant seals. Many people asked questions along the way as well, which were sometimes interesting and sometimes not. This was definitely the most educational hike we’ve been on.

Here are a few things we saw/learned on the hike along with Dr. Hiking Diva’s interpretation:

  • There’s an alpha male for every 40-50 females, known as the harem. (Loosely translated: Men aren’t meant for monogamy. In their ideal world, the dominant males would have a harem and all the other men would get nothing.)
  • The beta males roam the outskirts of the harem trying to sneak in some action, but the females only want to mate with the alpha male. (Loosely translated: We know the best men are taken, but we want them anyway. We don’t want no scrubs.)
  • The mama elephant seal weans her baby after about 25-28 days by abandonment, and then mates with an alpha male again. (Loosely translated: No good man is going to want me while I’m saddled with a kid. Time for the kid to grow up on its own.)
  • Males fight to gain dominance and the right to breed. They rear up and slam their bodies against each other. (Loosely translated: They still haven’t learned to use their words.)
  • The elephant seals come ashore to mate but rarely go back out to sea for food and water. They may fast for several months. (Loosely translated: (The only time you should be this fat is when you’re not planning to eat for the next 3 months.)

Special Note: I overplanned my trip to Ano Nuevo and bought two tickets for two separate weekends, in case the first weekend was a bust. It’s hard to plan these hiking trips around ski weekends, which depend on the fickle weather. But since Closet Granola and I did this hike a couple weekends ago, I’m giving away my backup tickets for this Saturday, Valentine’s Day, February 14th. If you want the 2 tickets for a 2 p.m. hike, leave a comment or send me an email if you have my private email address.

Overall Rating: Flip-flops

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Women are better planners. Not all of them are better planners, but overall, we just kick men’s butts at planning. And that is why I’m letting you in on a little secret now regarding a hike I haven’t even been on yet.

Baby Elephant Seal by Chris Pearson

Baby Elephant Seal by Chris Pearson

I plan on going on the Ano Nuevo hike to see the baby elephant seals in late January or early Feburary. According to the California State Parks site, Northern Elephant Seals come ashore to mate and give birth from December to March. Although you can’t time it exactly, it sounds as if the best times to see the cute cuddly little babies are January and February. These tours are led by docents and must be reserved ahead of time. There are some first-come first-serve tickets, but you don’t want to drive all the way down there only to get turned away.

So take some initiative and plan for this hike if you want to see the cuddly little baby seals. The cost is $7 per person and you can book online 8 weeks in advance. Book your tickets now and look for my review of the hike in a couple months.

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