Are these sea lions on the wharf at Santa Cruz, or post-Thanksgiving gluttons digesting their meals? Given the barking and groaning, one might guess the latter.
Zoooom! This trip is flashing past at an alarming rate. Crazy to think we left home two weeks ago... in The Way of Trips, it seems both ages ago and only yesterday.
We spent the Thanksgiving holiday near Auburn (north of Sacramento), visiting friends and seeing yet another view of this massive state. We did all the usual Thanksgiving rituals: too much food, driving in traffic, and even watching football. (Although I couldn't tell you who we watched or how the game was. Watching sports always puts me to sleep.)
On the way home we got OFF the interstate and wandered some back roads through farm country and over the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. Much more our style! I do love being the navigator, and not just because I hate driving in traffic. I love maps... love looking at them, figuring out where we are, deciding where to go, and then discovering all the things about the route that a map doesn't show us. Artichokes, for example. In my mind I knew that they were in the thistle family, but I never imagined what acres of huge, cultivated thistle plants might look like until we drove past some yesterday. I wish we could have stopped to take a closer look because now I have lots of questions. (Such as, do these big, cultivated plants have the same array of thorny, stickery bits as wild thistle?)
We spent Sunday at "home" in Soquel, venturing out only to the grocery store. Ahhhhhh!
But YESTERDAY. Yesterday I hypothesized that the Monday after a 4-day holiday might be a good day to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Probably no school groups on field trips. Probably not many families, as they've just spent the last 4 days together and are probably sick of each other. So off we went.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium has been on my list of places to go for ages, and I wasn't disappointed. "The Secret Lives of Seahorses" exhibit alone is worth the trip... and the DM could have spent all day mesmerized by the jellies.
I didn't take a lot of time to draw (I could have settled in there for days), but I did get some sketches done of the The Most. Fun. Things. to Draw. Ever.
Leafy and Weedy Sea Dragons! Bizarre, otherworldly, and yet somehow completely plausible. A fish that looks like a horse that looks like a dragon that looks like a plant? Why the heck not, I say?
Talk about fun to draw! Always moving, always changing... I had to stop and focus on one thing at a time: shape of head, undulating shape of body, locations of appendages, shape of appendages. In this Leafy Sea Dragon I only drew HALF of the "leafy" appendages. Each is paired along the length of the critter, but I ran out of time and brain cells to stay with it. As I work on this post I am trying to upload some video that we took... but Blogger isn't cooperating very well. I may have to try again later.
Adjacent to the Aquarium is a pedestrian/bicycle trail that runs along the coast through Monterey and Pacific Grove. Just a couple of blocks down from the Aquarium we found these interesting rocks.
Oh, wait! Those aren't rocks! They are harbor seals. Cool.
Another five minutes down the road is the Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary, a tiny patch of woods behind houses, a motel, and a school, that is winter home to migrating monarch butterflies. This was supposed to be the peak of their arrival, but the docent on duty said they didn't have nearly as many this year and they didn't know why. (Climate change, anyone?) Typically they have as many as 25,000 butterflies. We saw maybe a thousand. But like all living things, butterflies are unpredictable. Maybe there are a lot fewer, and maybe they're just hanging out somewhere that no one has identified yet. Maybe both. It's the sort of question that keeps scientists employed, I'd say!
Late afternoon light meant the clusters were mostly backlit and hard to photograph, but it was fun to stand there and watch as new little clusters formed to wait out the night. In this rather pathetic shot, there is a cluster sort of in the light in the upper left. The large dark mass below is a cluster, and to the right, about midway down, another cluster. Really! Look hard.
It was a full and wonderful day... we even wandered through the tiny Pacific Grove Farmers Market... open all day on a Monday? Strawberries are in here, and there was a fellow from Santa Cruz selling fresh seafood, but I missed our market at home. June seems so far away....
After 2 attempts and more than 30 minutes, Blogger still hasn't uploaded my sea dragon video, so I'll have to consult my technology guru (the DM) and see if I need to do something else. Right now that same technology guy is upstairs making hungry noises, so it must be time for lunch. Better go before he starts gnawing on chair legs (or eats all the lunch and doesn't leave any for me!).