On Saturday MJ and I made the 2 hour drive north to Drake’s Beach near Point Reyes to join other Marine Mammal Center guests to watch the release of 5 harbor seals and 3 elephant seals back into the ocean!
We arrived around noon and pick up box lunches to eat at picnic tables near the beach where we got talking with a family who regularly attended releases. Around 12:45 we gathered to hear a few words from the center about the animals being released and some of their upcoming initiatives at the center. From there we all went to the beach to wait for the animals to be brought out in large carriers.
The first five to be released were the harbor seals, Cece, Chocolate Chip, Ripley, Little Bear and Teacup. A couple were clawing at the door to their carriers, eager to be released. Once their carriers were open they all rushed out and joined each other in a clump of seals as they hurried toward the waves. It took several minutes for them to overcome the initial waves coming in at them, but before we knew it we could see their little heads bobbing in the waves.
Then it was time for the elephant seals, Cyrus, Higgins and Norfolk, to be released. They are much larger animals than the harbor seals so their carriers were significantly bigger. They also were a bit more reluctant to head for the sea. Two of them made it together, meeting up with one of the harbor seals in the process, and the third required a bit more convincing from the staff.
The experience was an exciting and a bit of a sad one. We hadn’t personally been involved with these seals, and getting them released into the wild is the best thing for them, but it’s still emotional to watch the little rescued animals disappear into the water, uncertain of what their fate will be. We’ll have to see when other releases are this year, I’d like to attend another if we’ll be in town for it.
More photos from the release are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157634633455929/
Since we were all the way up there, we decided to make a day of the Point Reyes area. First stop after the seal release was to Point Reyes Lighthouse and the epic walk down the long walk down the stairs to get to the actual building. We waited to go inside the lighthouse where a park guide shared stories with the small crowd and told us about the Fresnel lens. Most amusingly given all the fog, he explained that we had come on one of the clearest days of the year, saying that most days the visibility isn’t more than about 20 feet.
More photos from Point Reyes here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157634637630583/
We spent the evening in the town of Point Reyes Station, about 45 minutes from the lighthouse. We had a few minutes before dinner, so stopped in at the charming little Point Reyes Books where I picked up a couple California-themed books. We then had dinner at Osteria Stellina, a little California Italian restaurant in town and made for an enjoyable wrap up to the day before driving home to San Francisco through the curving back roads of Marin county.