Day 12 :: 1 Februaryr 2007 :: Carmel-by-the-Sea to Pinole

When we checked into our motel the night before, the guy behind the counter had gone on and on about how we had to go on the 17-Mile Drive. So when we got up, we hit the beach from the night before again, then did just that. The drive was beautiful and utterly gorgeous, even for early February. I'm sure in the spring and/or fall, this drive through the Del Monte Forest is painfully gorgeous. We drove past more golf courses that I could shake a stick at. We saw many look out points along the bay, including one called the Restless Sea and Point Joe. The Lone Cypress and the Ghost Tree are hauntingly beautiful. Bird Rock is a personal favorite because of seeing the sea lions and harbor seals, not to mention the sea otters we saw in a couple of different spots. The water was so beautiful and deadly in some spots. It really was breathtaking.

After we went through the 17-Mile Drive, we headed over to Monterey Bay and Cannery Row, with the intention of hitting the aquarium. Yeah, we'd been looking forward to this for a while… Cannery Row was rather neat, the bits we drove/walked thru. In the aquarium's main entrance, there was a "museum" quality exhibit about the canneries, since the aquarium was built in an old cannery. It was neat seeing all of the info there, as well as the machinery.

The first thing we looked at was the 3-story kelp forest. It was one of the things Jenn had first learned about the aquarium when looking it up online, and we'd been dying to see it. It was worth it. We found out later in the day when we watched the feeding session that water from the bay is pumped into this tank every night, then filtered during the day. I've never heard of that sort of situation, as most aquariums seem to be so hellbent on purification and regulation of the water in their exhibits. We also got to see the sheepfish, all 3 of them: female, male, and transition. See, the sheepfish all start out as female, then some will transition into male as the need arises. Natural transsexuals! How frakking kewl!

We had a great time in the sea birds exhibit, and we were close enough to touch. But we were good and refrained from that urge. The best part of the tide/touch pools was the decorator crabs. They just crack me up! And they had this kewl wave pool, for lack of a better word. Basically, there was an indoor part and an outdoor part, separated by a small tunnel. Water would cascade into both from over the tunnel at regular intervals. I got 3 different short vids of that, 2 from inside and 1 from outside. It was just very kewl…

After that, and a quick lunch, we headed over to the Point Pinos lighthouse, so we wouldn't miss it before it closed. We missed the turn-off the first time to get to the lighthouse, and found ourselves out around the point. This gave us some nice shots of the lighthouse, as well as sea lions out on the rocks and in the water. Oh, and there were the boyfriends and squirrels posing for us, too. [Just an FYI, boyfriends are sea gulls. There's a long story behind that for another time…]

So we headed back up the road and found the correct spot to get to the lighthouse. I saw a couple of hummingbirds and we spotted 4 black tail deer outside the lighthouse. Very kewl! We also saw a warning sign about how cougars have been seen in the area. Given that we saw the deer, this really didn't surprise me. Tho' it would have been kewl to see a cougar… The docents were very nice and quite knowledgeable, too. When we went down into the basement for part of the tour/story, the ceilings were very low, so Jenn had to duck her head a lot. I'm not sure what the issue was, as it didn't bother me. *veg*

Then we headed back to the aquarium to finish that out. That's when we got to see the kelp forest feeding. They also said that all of their kelp comes from the ocean, and they try to find the stuff smallish [for easier transport], and whatever the kelp is anchored to comes with, too. They also said that the male sheepfish then arranges the exhibit the way he likes it. The sea otters were fun, tho' we missed their feeding while we were at the lighthouse. I fell in love with the penguins, not that it takes much, and was kind of gutted that we missed their feeding while at the lighthouse. Perhaps next time.

The outer bay exhibit was fascinating. More moon jellies, in various stages, as well as the sea gooseberries [well, they're actually called comb jellies] that were so frakking kewl! There was the circular dome filled with anchovies that was neat to watch. And the best part of this exhibit? The 1 million gallon main tank is neat. It's not set up to look "natural," as it looks like a big old deep swimming pool. But the inhabitants! *happy sigh* Yellowfin and blue fin tuna, dolphinfish [aka mahi mahi], and many other fun fish. Plus the sharks and OMG the giant ocean sunfish! It was ginormous and totally bizarre looking in a creepy kind of way. And there was a second, smaller one that didn't seem as creepy. According to their website, the big one there isn't the biggest they've had either! Eeeek!

When we did our souvenir shopping [like we wouldn't, right?], we found out that we hadn't actually missed the sea turtles. They'd been removed from the outer bay exhibit because they'd been stealing the white shark's food, and they were trying to stave off the white shark getting territorial. So the sea turtles are waiting in quarantine while their new exhibit is being built. I was bummed that I didn't get to see them, but the info was great to know.

After our shopping was done, we watched a neat movie called "Empty Boats, Empty Nets," which is about the fish farming/harvest issues. It was quite eye-opening, and has made us really start to question where our favorite seafoods are coming from.

After the aquarium, we had dinner and headed out toward the northern side of Oakland to stay for the night. The drive up was pretty boring, and our motel? OMG! Ghetto! And rather far away from where we wanted to be the next morning. We weren't even sure we'd be able to make our ferry the next morning, but planned to gamely try anyway.

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