Pt. Pinos Light
This historic lighthouse was established in1855 and automated in 1975. Other structures on the site are the oil house, cistern and radiobeacon. It is open to the public under a lease to the CITY OF PACIFIC GROVE/MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
Hours of operation: 1 - 4 p.m., Thursday -Monday Admission is free
"The first light source was a whale oil lantern in which the oil was forced up from a tank by a gravity-operated piston. A falling weight mechanism rotated a metal shutter around the light causing the beam to be cut off to seaward for 10 out of every 30 seconds. ...
"Point Pinos was named by the Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino in 1602 during an exploration of the California coastline for the Count of Monterrey, the acting Viceroy of New Spain (Mexico). The name Punta de los Pinos translated to "Point of the Pines", an appropriate designation for the thickly wooded northern tip of the Monterey Peninsula where the pines grew almost to the water's edge.
" In 1850, after the Mexican War and the American acquisition of Alta California, Congress appropriated funds for the construction of lighthouses on the West Coast. In 1852, the Secretary of the Treasury ordered the building of seven beacons along the California coast, one of which was to be located at Point Pinos, the dangerous southern entrance to the Monterey Bay.
"The first lightkeeper was Charles Layton, appointed to the post at $1000 per year. He was killed in 1856 while serving as a member of the sheriff's posse chasing the notorious outlaw, Anastacio Garcia. He was succeeded by his widow, Charlotte, who remained head lightkeeper until 1860, when she married her assistant lightkeeper, George Harris.
"The most famous lightkeeper was Mrs. Emily Fish, who served from 1893 to 1914. She was called the "Socialite Keeper" due to her love of entertaining guests at the lihthouse."
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John Denver in Pacific Grove
Each time I visited the Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary, I have noticed the strange park bench with the engraving "John Denver: The Legacy Continues." Thinking it was just some fanatic's last tribute to this fine singer, I cocked my head then moved on. Recently I was listening to what is arguably John Denver's best song, "Country Roads," and I did a search on his life on Wikipedia.
On 12 October 1997, after taking off from Monterey Airport around 5pm, he performed several touch and go landings. Then he flew west t to the ocean and circled around to Pacific Grove where he crashed 150 yards off of Point Pinos in the Pacific Ocean at about 5:30pm. Denver was flying an unfamiliar aircraft that was low on fuel with improperly marked controls, while his pilot's license was suspended...a recipe for disaster.
The coastal area where he crashed is informally known as John Denver Beach, and it hosts an annual pilgrimage of John Denver fans of the anniversary of his death. The beach is located at the turnout on Ocean View Drive between Acropolis and Asilomar Streets, 1.2 miles northwest of the Monterey Bay Aquarium
There is also a tree planted in his memory and a plaque honoring John Denver in the Monarch Sanctuary. Finally, there is a small "Christmas Tree" named Alfie at Lovers Point in Pacific Grove, named in honor of Denver's Christmas poem about a tree named Alfie. On 23 September 2007, local papers reported that a memorial plaque was placed at John Denver Beach, but on my visit in November 2007 there was still just a sign announcing intent to install the plaque.
California ground squirrel
The California ground squirrels hang around some of the rocky coastal areas along Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, and Point Lobos. They tend to stick close by some of the picnic areas looking for scraps and handouts, but I'd be leery of feeding them by hand. I got bit by an eastern gray squirrel once, and he took a big chunk out my my little finger, biting clear through my glove.
Other then people flesh, these squirrels tend to eat seeds, berries, roots, and leaves of various plants. I watched one of these little guys pull some ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis) right out of the ground and nibble on it a little bit.
A note on ice plant... it is also called Pigface or Hottentot Fig, and used to be known by the scientific name Mesembryanthemum until it was reclassified by those all-knowing scientists (maybe the same guys who declared Pluto not a planet?). Ice plant has a beautiful purplish-pink flower, but it's an invasive plant that grows quickly, spreads rapidly, and pushes out native plant species.
Sea Otters in PG
Pacific Grove has a few little areas where you can catch a glimpse of the elusive sea otter (How elusive? In my first five months here, I only saw one up close with distant sightings of a few others). On a recent visit to PG to sit on the rocks along the water and read, I saw at least four if not five sea otters all swimming in one small area just off the shoreline. For about an hour they dove, swam, ate, and fended off evil seagull attacks to protect their meals.
The area where I watched them was at Point Pinos along Ocean View Drive and Acropolis St, beside John Denver Beach. The other sea otters I watched were in Monterey along Commercial Wharf and along Cannery Row; I also hear there are lots at Point Lobos State Park south of Carmel. They tend to enjoy areas with lots of kelp.
Southern Sea Otters are an endangered species with only about 2,200 remaining, all of these are along the California coast. Their range is limited from Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco, through Monterey Bay to Point Conception near Santa Barbara. Southern sea otters are about 4 feet long with males weighing 65 pounds and females 45 pounds.
Wildlife at Asilomar State Beach
Like other areas of the Monterey Peninsula, Asilomar State Beach is full of a variety of wildlife. Though you'll rarely spot otters, sea lions or seals on this unprotected ocean coast, land-based animals are very common here. From the curiously goofy California ground squirrels to the always-hungry deer and seagulls, you are sure to see a lot of animals if you spend much time here.
It is illegal to feed the animals according to California state law. Visitors should use caution to not approach the wildlife, even if they seem tame. Deer can also be aggressive, especially during certain times of the year such as mating season (known as "the rut"). Raccoons are ferocious little devils and could bite your finger off.
Harbor Seals "Haul Out" at Hopkins Marine Station
Hopkins Marine Station is a Stanford University research area in Pacific Grove. Their facilities sit on Cabrillo Point (also called Mussel Point), and are surrounded by an area known as Hopkins State Marine Reserve. Like other areas on the Bay, this point has sea otters, seals, and sea lions. What makes this area really unique is that it's the haul-out area of the harbor seals and where they birth their pups each year.
When I visited in Feb 2007 there were at least 100 harbor seals hauled-out on the shore, looking like a bunch of rocks. Their birthing season is during March and April. The birthing area is visible from the coastal trail, just a quarter mile northwest of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This beach area is fenced off to keep the animals and the people separate!
The harbor seals are easily distinguished from the sea lions by their silvery light gray skin with dark spots. They also do not have external ears and are much, much, much more quiet than their cousins, the mouthy sea lions (I didn't hear a word from this group!). Harbor seals swim with their back flippers and have a tough time on land. It is said that these mammals rarely associate with other harbor seals, but after seeing this scene, I beg to differ.
I was amazed to see a pair of elephant seals hauled out on this beach in April 2008. I have never before seen them here in two years, and I had read they spent most of their time at Ano Neuvo and San Simeon. The Hopkins Marine Station's website does mention that elephant seals do occasionally spend some time on this sheltered beach.
This is also a popular scuba diving area.
Harbor Seal "Pupping" Area
The harbor seals raise their young in a "pupping area" with small beaches and shallow water. One of these areas exists in Pacific Grove for the local harbor seals. Along Ocean View Blvd, there is a small section of the coastal trail lined with a temporary white fence each year from March to June. This area is on the Bay across from Jacobson Park between 5th and 7th Street.
If you are just walking through you might not immediately notice the seals as they look like rocks along the beach, and the pups are so small when they duck underwater they are nearly invisible. If you stop and look you will see maybe a dozen mothers with their young teaching them to swim while keeping a close eye on the pups!
VISIT THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY SANCTUARY
Starting around October, the Monarch Butterfly starts to show up in Pacific Grove. They can come as far away as Canada and Mexico. The present sanctuary gets an average of 25,000 Monarch Butterflies in the season, which runs from late Autumn till Spring. It is worth going to see them in the trees and flying around when the sun is out. Located off Lighthouse Ave from town, head toward Point Pinos and turn left at Ridge Road, pass the Butterfly Grove Inn and park on the street. Look for the easement entrance to the sanctuary.
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Candy Cane Lane
Every year this small area of PG sets up an elaborate, neighborhood-wide Christmas display featuring Disney characters, nutcrackers, lots of Santas, and miles of lights. Platt Park is the focus of the festivities with trains, Santa's House, dozens of cartoon characters, and much more to keep the kids entertained. When we visited, we even saw some live reindeer running around checking out the decorations and posing with the fake deer.
The neighborhood is lit up from dark until maybe 9pm each night in December.
Candy Cane Lane is centered around Platt Park, Beaumont Ave, MacFarland Ave, and Morse Drive, all just off of Forest Ave/Route 68 near Safeway.
Old Monterey-PG Railway Grade Trail
Monterey's first train, which began in 1880, was Southern Pacific's Del Monte Express. It operated from San Francisco to Pacific Grove's Lover's Point until it was disbanded in 1971. While the train originally stopped at Lover's point, it later was extended a few miles around the bend at Point Pinos and to the edge of Pebble Beach, mainly for the purpose of hauling sand from Spanish Bay to glass blowers. This is actually the train that struck and killed Doc Rickets along Cannery Row in Monterey.
A second railway along a similar route was the Monterey and Pacific Grove Railway. It ran from 1891 until its abandonment in 1923. This was originally operated by 10 horse-pulled cars on rails, which traveled from Monterey' Old Del Monte Hotel (now part of the Naval Postgraduate School) past Lovers Point. This method of transport was so famous, even President Benjamin Harrison visited Pacific Grove on April 1st, 1891, and he rode on the railroad's very first trip. While the railway was never extended past Lovers Point, there were plans drawn up in 1904 to extend the railway all the way past Spanish Bay, through Pebble Beach and Carmel to the Carmel Mission. This same year, the route was electrified, eliminating the need for the horses. Unfortunately after World War I, automobiles grew in popularity and the last train trip on this route was conducted in 1923.
Today the stretch of trail from Monterey to Lovers Point forms a short stretch of the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail. However, few people use or even know about the rest of the old rail route from Lovers Point to Spanish Bay. From Lover's Point the first leg of the railroad grade is actually blocked by a gate, then is quickly opens up as part of the Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course. Behind the Cemetery at Point Pinos, the trail opens up for Public use, though it is still owned by Southern Pacific Rail. This length of trail to Spanish Bay is a beautiful, flat, wide trail that is used only by locals. The trail is owned and maintained by Union Pacific Railroad.
PG's History Mural on the recreation trail
Along the Recreation Trail in Pacific Grove, you will find a huge mural that depicts the history of the village. From the left the mural starts with the local native people including the local wildlife and their fishing culture. Moving along the mural, the next panel illustrates the arrival of the Methodist tent city in 1875 on land purchased from local land baron David Jacks. Further right you'll learn about the arrival of the 70 person Chinese fishing village that stood near the aquarium at Hopkins Marine Sanctuary and was destroyed by fire in 1906. The final panel of the mural shows the Japanese abalone fishermen who arrived in 1898, setting up shop at Lovers Point and fishing with innovative diving helmets.
Walk from Asilomar into Pebble Beach
I finally got around to jogging in Pebble Beach. I parked at Asilomar Beach along Sunset Drive between the surfer beach and Fishwife restaurant. The trail cuts though some evergreen trees, then immediately becomes a narrow, but sturdy boardwalk on the dunes between the beach and the Links at Spanish Bay golf course. For about a mile you can continue on this boardwalk enjoying great views of the Pacific Ocean until it ends at a big parking area and picnic spot at Moss Beach along Spanish Bay. The trail continues as packed dirt along the water and next to the road in various sections, taking you past Point Joe and the Unsettled Sea (about 1.5 miles from Asilomar), China Rock (~2.25 miles), then Bird Rock (3 miles). This is as far as I have ventured on foot, but the trail definitely continues.
My goal is to have someone drop me off at Asilomar then pick me up at Carmel Beach an hour or so later (it's about 9 miles total if you stick to the eater).
By the way, walking into Pebble Beach is free! Driving costs $9.
Jelly Fish Ballet
Although the famous aquarium in Monterey California (virtually adjourninig Pacific Grove) is hardly unknown -- it has some really special features worth the trip!
There are several tanks of jelly fish -- beautifully lit and floor to ceiling. Music playing in the room, makes the jelly fish seems like graceful ballet dancers. It is hypnotic!
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