In addition to the sheer beauty, one of the highlights, for me, of the Pacific Coast Highway is the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. This stretch of beach just north of the famous Hearst Castle is the periodic home to 23,000 elephant seals. No matter what time of year you pass by, you can stop and view hundreds or thousands of seals lolling on the beach.
Here are just a few of the amazing facts about these seals:
- Males grow to as much as 5,000 pounds and 16 feet long.
- Only the males grow the long nose.
- The seals can't grow new skin and hair all year long, so they come on shore once a year for a month, when they shed (molt) a layer of old skin and all their hair on the beach.
- This being June, the current population is small and consists of the sub-adult males that are here for their molting. Since they are still young, there is a lot of play jousting between the young males.
- The seals spend 8-10 months of each year at sea, with two breaks back at the rookery.
- During their time at the rookery, they neither eat nor drink.
- On land, they are very social, often clumping together in row after row. In the sea, they are solitary, likely never seeing another elephant seal until they return to the beach.
- They travel as much as 3,000 miles from the rookery in their search for food.