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Gazing into the Abyss: Michael Rawdon's Journal

Monterey Bay and Pacific Grove

Today I went down to Monterey Bay to meet Trish to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Unfortunately, I direly miscalculated how long it would take to get there, allowing an hour for an 80-minute trip, and got on the road 10 minutes late to boot. I was going over the hills to Santa Cruz and saw the sign: "Monterey: 78 miles". Aargh. Trish had gotten there early, so I kept her waiting about 40 minutes, which given my usual propensity for promptness (Karen once chastised me for showing up exactly on time for a party she was throwing) must be some sort of worst record for me.

But Trish didn't kill me, so I lived to write this account for you.

I went to the aquarium last year with John, and it's pretty nice, somewhat better than the Steinhart Aquarium I saw in August with Matt. I commented to Trish that it was nice to be able to drift through the aquarium without feeling rushed for any reason. We even went out for lunch and came back and finished looking around.

I brought Trish's digital camera with me and took some photos. So, here are some thumbnails of picturesque things to see at the aquarium; click on them for the larger image:

A fuzzy photo of a tank of sand dollars. (40k) It took me a long while to get the hang of turning off the camera's flash; Trish had to show me. It also had trouble taking photos through some glass, such as this curved tank surface.
We saw the sea otters being fed. (76k) They ran water down the windows before the show; amazing what the eye just ignores until you see it in a photo.
More otters. (52k)
An otter from underwater. (52k) It was really hard to capture the otters underwater, as they were always moving pretty quickly, and the water seemed to accentuate that. The otter tank is deep and has windows down below where we saw the otters diving before the feeding, but they were always diving at other windows, or moving too quickly to get a clear shot. Or maybe they were afraid the camera would steal their souls.
A blurry shot of an impressive tank of large jellyfish. (36k) The jellyfish tanks are all in dark rooms with the tanks backlit with blue light, as seen here, and soft new-agey music (sort of like the soundtrack to Riven), which makes for a very calm, deep-water feeling.
Deep sea life. (28k)
King crabs. (32k) Ugly suckers, aren't they?
I wasn't sure how many photos the camera would hold; it claims initially to hold 20, but after experimenting I see now that it estimates how many photos it has left, but each photo varies in size, so certain photos take less space. Probably I could have held more photos, and should have gotten more shots at the aquarium, like of the whale and dolphin models hanging from the ceiling. Unfortunately, the octopus wasn't performing, or I'd have gotten a shot of it. (Octopi are neat.) Anyway, I'll know better next time.


I was saving some photos because after the aquarium Trish and I headed westwards to Pacific Grove, which has some lovely seashore. Last year with John I remember driving down this stretch after going to the aquarium, and then doing the 17 Mile Drive, for which you have to pay, and thinking that the wild, rocky landscape you can see for free was more impressive than all the neatly-maintained seashore on the 17 Mile Drive. (And no, the hideously valuable houses don't compensate.)

We drove slowly along the seashore and stopped at various points to see things, walking along a second of coast, later walking along a beach where we saw several beached (and probably dead) jellyfish, and then walking (and climbing) a goodly distance out a lengthy section of shore that jutted into the ocean. (Trish reminded me several times that I was crazy for climbing all those rocks. That wasn't half as crazy as a few of the hikes I've done with John.)

Here are some photos I took in Pacific Grove:

A lengthy section of shore near where we parked the first time. (72k) We walked to the tip of the shore in the distance of the photo - about half a mile, I'd guess.
The shore in the other direction. (64k) We didn't walk down that way. The rocks in the distance mark the end of the shore; it then cuts back about a quarter-mile to the right, with the beach just on the other side of the rocks. Surprisingly, there was a lot of parking all over the place here, although on a cloudy Sunday, I guess that's not surprising.
Some of the funky plant life along the shore shown in the first picture. (64k) The reddish bushes are very strange, and seem vaguely cactus-like. The shrubs on the ground are also rather odd, although it's hard to see them clearly here.
Some rocks beyond the rocky outcropping I described. (60k)
Some more rocks to the right of the previous picture. (64k)
Sure are a lot of rocks out here. (48)
A shot back from the farthest point we got to on the outcropping. (88k) The climbable terrain went another hundred feet or more beyond this, but the increasing density of bird crap dissuaded us (me) from going any further.
The indomitable Trish. (52k) It took surprisingly little argument to persuade her to let me take this picture.
The domitable me. (52k) Afterwards, Trish complained that I hadn't let her take off her sunglasses, but didn't seem in a hurry to do a re-take.
The sun was nearing the horizon as we took these last few photos (hence my silly squint in the last one). I wanted to hang around until sunset, but it turned out that the clouds started rolling in shortly after these last photos, and there wasn't going to be a sunset to speak of. Bummer. I'm still waiting to see the sun set over the Pacific.

I was feeling quite tired for unknown reasons by this point. Too much sun? I dunno. We drove back along the coast and went into downtown Monterey, which is really quite small and is dead on a Sunday night. We had Chinese for dinner, walked along the main street (assuming we hadn't deluded ourselves and missed the real main street altogether), and popped in a smallish book store. Then, I drove Trish back to her car and we each headed home. (I was tired enough that when I came home I only wrote up the previous entry before crashing. So no, Trish, it wasn't you!)

It was a nice day. It's nice to get out and see the sights of the area with someone.

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