Highway 1 and Elephant Seals

This entry is part 6 of 17 in the series GDB & Route 66

I picked up my husband at the San Jose airport, and we headed south. And because this trip is about the journey, not about getting there — wherever “there” is — in a hurry, we of course took Highway 1.

Pacific surf crashing against sand at the base of cliffs

a typical high view of Highway 1 coast

Highway 1’s most famous stretch is of course the rocky cliffs and surf between Santa Cruz and Los Angeles. It’s all tight turns and steep climbs and drops along rocky beautiful Pacific coast.

I’d totally forgotten we’d pass San Simeon and Hurst Castle; we didn’t stop because it really deserves a full day, not a quick drive-by. Another time.

Apainted sign offering avocados, 7 for $1nd I was flabbergasted — yes, flabbergasted — by this roadside stand’s prices for produce. Because at home, I get all giddy when avocados go on sale for $1 each, which is an usually great deal. Oh California dwellers, how can you stand this avocado bounty? Are you properly appreciative?

But the highlight of our drive was the accidental discovery of the elephant seals.

I saw a few seals on a beach, lying so still they seemed dead as we drove by (they weren’t), but there’s a pull-off with parking and overlooks for an area which is a popular haul-out and rookery. We stopped and walked.

I hadn’t realized exactly how large elephant seals are. I mean, yeah, most of the pinnipeds* are significantly bigger than your average house pet — but elephant seals are huge. Like, the males can be 16 feet long, I read, and weigh up to 5,000 pounds.

That didn’t really sink in until I looked over the beach from a closer vantage point and saw a group of sunbathing seals, and then I realized the boulder beside them wasn’t a boulder.

male elephant seal lying huge alongside smaller seals

See that guy on the right? Wow. (And by March, they haven’t been eating through the breeding season, and he’s probably lost a literal ton of weight by now. So, yeah, big.)

Seals were everywhere, young and mature, sunning and — oh, my. That guy over there, another big guy, he just decided he wants that female. He just started ripple-flopping his way over to her. And that baby seal in the way, just totally ran him over, like a freight train.

The squeal the baby seal made as he tried to wriggle out from under a couple tons of horny elephant seal papa was totally not funny. Not. Funny. No, I’ve got a cold or something, that’s why I’m making that sniffing noise. Definitely not laughing. A baby seal getting squished by a randy behemoth does not make a funny noise at all.

(He wriggled and finally popped out, and he was fine.)

The lady seal ran for it, but she wasn’t fast enough, and he caught her at the edge of the water. And then it happened, sex on the beach, right there in the surf, like some six-ton reenactment of From Here to Eternity.

Cover of "From Here to Eternity"

Cover of From Here to Eternity

I have video, but I’m not sure that “elephant seal sex tape” is really the search term I want this blog to own. So I’ll just say that it happened.

And baby seals ran around (okay, flopped) and played face-bitey games like they were fierce, and lady seals rolled their eyes, and a couple of males squabbled over beach territory. It was all pretty cool to see. If you’re in the area, check it out.

Then we went on to LA, where the proper Route 66 journey would begin!

(*This is how you talk when you hang out with exotic animal trainers, ethologists, biologists. Sorry.)

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  1. Someday I would enjoy taking that drive down memory lane. Looking forward to further installments in the adventure story.

  2. Clearly we hang out with similar people, as I didn’t think anything of your use of the term pinniped!

    I’d love to make a similar trip someday. Living vicariously through you!

    • It just came out! I wasn’t trying to sound all smarty-smart or anything. But I couldn’t follow a conversation about combustion engines, so it’s all what you know.

      Stay tuned, I have lots of pics to share!

  3. Thank you for alerting me to the existence of Avocado Heaven.

    You’re currently 8th on the Google results list for “elephant seal sex tape”. I knew you’d want to know. ;-)

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