Guest Post: Spending a day at Año Nuevo State Park


Jennifer is a writer and travel enthusiast based in the Sacramento area of Northern California. She has recently given in to the insatiable urge to wander and loves to share photos and experiences over on her blog, People + Places + Things

When my mom and I decided to treat ourselves to a beach getaway weekend in April of this year, we knew we would be spending much of our time relaxing at a beautiful vacation rental, eating delicious food and exploring the area around Pescadero, California.

We had heard about Año Nuevo State Park, which offers stunning coastal views and the opportunity to see elephant seal pups in March and April. Naturally, we decided to go for it.

The park is located south of the town of Pescadero on Highway 1 and is a major gathering spot for northern elephant seals. Over a span of several months, female seals give birth, males fight for dominance, mating takes place and pups are nursed, weaned and begin molting.

We showed up in mid-April after many of the adult seals had gone, leaving hundreds of sleepy, molting pups behind. They were adorable.

In all honesty, they didn’t do a whole lot. There was quite a bit of snoring, snorting and grunting happening. Other than that, they just seemed to be resting. We were fascinated, though. Seeing creatures like this up close was pretty amazing.

The seals completely covered the beach. This seal had just lifted up her head, stretched and then looked right at us:

One of the rangers on duty was kind enough to take a picture of us with our new friends:

We didn’t get too close to the seals, even though they were everywhere: on the path, in the dunes and right in the middle of the viewing area. Visitors are advised to stay at least 25 feet away at all times. If these cuties get angry enough, they can move pretty fast and know how to throw their weight around. So, my camera’s zoom feature got a nice little work out.

To get to the multiple viewing areas in the park, visitors follow a well-worn trail for about a mile and a half (3 miles round-trip). There is also a section where you’re walking on sand dunes, so be prepared for that. You definitely won’t be viewing elephant seals from your car.

Luckily, the sights along the way are pretty spectacular:

The trip to Año Neuvo State Park was incredible and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the outdoors. To learn more about the elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Park and the best times of year to visit, click here.

Jennifer has also authored an app titled Northern California for Nature Lovers, which can be downloaded from the App Store here.


Volunteers Head to Malibu Creek

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”
–Muhammad Ali

Malibu Creek State Park is a popular Santa Monica park that has been the set for many TV shows and movies, including M*A*S*H, Planet of the Apes, Love Me Tender, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Pleasantville.  Although it looks great on the big screen, these days it needs a little extra TLC to maintain it in all its glory.

Malibu Creek State Park
Photo © Brent Durand

Thankfully, we have a throng of awesome volunteers heading to Malibu Creek this Saturday to fix it up. It’s all part of our Annual Earth Day Restoration & Cleanup event.  Normally our Earth Day takes place in April, but this year we had to reschedule due to heavy spring rains.  We are glad the big day has finally arrived!

Volunteers, Edison International employees, park rangers, CSPF staff and Malibu Creek Docents will all work together to restore the lawn by planting several hundred native grasses and plants, remove other non-native plants and conduct general cleanup of the Visitor Center area. This is a great opportunity to do this clean-up because in a few weeks there will be water in the creek. They will also be putting up a temporary fence to protect the plants from the deer while they are getting established.

We are very grateful to Edison International, whose grant has made this day possible. (Volunteer registration is full.)

CSPF Annual Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup 

Statewide, thousands of volunteers each year plant native trees and community gardens, restore trails and wildlife habitats, remove trash and debris from beaches and parklands and make overdue repairs to fences and boardwalks. Since its inception in 1998, CSPF’s Earth Day Restoration & Cleanup program has resulted in — 76,000 participants contributing more than 305,000 volunteer hours worth over $6 million in park maintenance and improvements.  Additionally, the program has awarded more than $1.35 million to state parks throughout California.

Our next Earth Day is scheduled for April 13.  Stayed tuned for opportunities to register as a volunteer at a state park near you!

Park-Inspired Poetry


Roberta Hutchinson took a hike at Butano State Park for the first time and came home feeling so inspired about the quiet lush beauty that she wrote this poem:

Butano State Park, photo © Michael Carl

Forest Walk

Take me to the redwood forests of ancient years
Where I can feel my feet on softly padded trails

Let me remember to look upward and pause
To think of so many years these trees have lived before me
And be grateful I can touch these ancient giants

I long for patience to hear the sounds the forest holds
and to still my soul to hear the trees

My ears listen to the sound of water
softly running in the canyon and talking many tongues
and wonder what meandering paths will it take

Butano State Park © Kathy Schrenk

How sweet to see the clarity of the forest stream
moving slowly over colored pebbles and stones

I stop under a tree and look down
to see a a wild young fish
living out its wildness in such a creek

The cool mist of fog rolls over the trees
and the chill suddenly brightens my step

I grow tired now with the long walk
and wish I could grow young again
to walk forever in this redwood forest of ancient years.

— by Roberta Hutchinson    7/31/2012

Roberta Hutchinson is a retired travel agent who still loves traveling and nature photography.  She has always enjoyed hiking in our California state parks and several years ago got the opportunity to lead a hiking class in the Mountain View/Los Altos education system. Now she has the fortune to share these beautiful parks with others.

Thank you to Roberta for sharing her poetry! Do you have any park-inspired poetry?

An Important Step for Parks

An important line in the sand got drawn for state parks last month when Governor Brown signed two bills into law, Assembly Bill (AB) 1478 (Blumenfield) and Assembly Bill (AB) 1589 (Huffman). Both bills have measures that will help California’s ailing state parks system.

AB 1478 appropriates the recently-identified $20.5 million in State Park and Recreation Fund funding to the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to keep parks open that had previously been slated for closure. The bill also contains new qualifications for appointing members to the nine-member State Park and Recreation Commission. The changes to the Commission are intended to improve its ability and capacity to provide oversight of DPR and foster a more meaningful connection between the public, park stakeholders, and DPR. AB 1478 also establishes a two-year moratorium on closing state parks, in Fiscal Year 12-13 and FY13-14.

Governor Brown made the first important step toward restoring public confidence in California’s state parks by signing AB 1478. The governor’s signature is a good sign faith on the part of California’s government that all the hard work of communities, organizations and donors across the state who stepped up to support their parks is recognized and appreciated. The governor also signed AB 1589 (Huffman), which requires DPR to develop a new action plan for increasing revenues in state parks, allows purchase of annual park passes on annual tax returns, and encourages an independent assessment of California’s state parks.

AB 1589 gives the state important tools for a future that is increasingly emphasizing the need for more self-generated revenue in our parks. While we do not believe that our state park system, a true public good, will ever be able to sustain itself without a core of dedicated, public funding, we do wholeheartedly agree that the movement toward more revenue generation should be done with a roadmap. The action plan required in AB 1589 requires such a roadmap and maintains the need for revenue ideas to be appropriate to the mission and uses of our state parks.

We look forward to working with the governor, Legislature and all Californians to implement provisions of AB 1478 and AB 1589 and to maintain and strengthen the legacy in our state parks.