the wandering chick
The big draw, of course, to the San Simeon area is the William Randolph Hearst Castle. But beyond the grounds of the castle lies an enormous playing field that includes beaches, a lighthouse and a colony of elephant seals. All within a five-mile radius.
It can easily be done in a day's time; and the best time of year to see the bull elephant seals (they are the ones that look like Alf) is the winter months.
from castles to elephant seals
A few facts about the Hearst Castle: It was designed by California architect Julia Morgan in a Mediterranean Revival style. Even after 28 years, from 1919 to 1947, the house was not completed. The main structure, the Casa Grande, covers 69,000 sq feet and has 115 rooms. It has 38 bedrooms, 42 bathrooms and 30 fireplaces. It is earthquake resistant combining a series of concrete and steel structures.
The hilltop on which the estate sits was called by Hearst La Cuesta Encantada, The Enchanted Hill. From it can be seen the Pacific Ocean as well as the Santa Lucia Mountains. It was on this hill that little Willie camped as a child. When he inherited the land upon his mother's death in 1919, he decided to build his mansion here, 1600 feet above the ocean. His focus in designing the estate was always on the views.
This is one of three additional houses that comprise the Hearst estate. Known as the cottages, the Hearsts lived in them at stages before moving into the Casa Grande in 1928. This cottage, called Casa del Mar, House of the Sea, has 8 bedrooms, 6 baths and 5 fireplaces. Its size is just under 6000 square feet and is the largest of the three cottages.
The three cottages were named according to their view. This one, Casa del Sol, House of the Sun, has 8 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms and 3 fireplaces. Its square footage is just under 4000.
Casa del Monte, House of the Mountain, has 4 bedrooms, 4 baths and 3 fireplaces. It's almost 3000 square feet in size.
the Neptune outdoor pool. One other pool on the grounds is indoor.
To satisify William Hearst's love of, particularly southern European art, the grounds are graced with 19th- and 20th- century statues.
From this terrace is a view of the water, San Simeon Bay, where the Hearsts first arrived from San Francisco.
Plant life in the way of annuals, perennials, palms and citrus trees is abundant throughout the grounds of the estate.
Above and Right: the indoor pool, called the Roman Pool
Piedras Blancas, White Rocks, is a towering feature on the coast of San Simeon, along the Highway One. Nearby is the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse.
Unfortunately, the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse is not open to the public except by tour on a very limited schedule, depending on the time of year. It is currently under renovation to restore it to its original appearance. The lighthouse was built in 1875 and is located about six miles north of the Hearst Castle along Highway One, San Simeon.
Just across Highway One from the lighthouse were these two blue herons.They were acting aggressively toward each other, possibly either claiming territory or a female heron.
Dusk along the Highway One at San Simeon
On Highway One at San Simeon between the lighthouse and the castle is a colony of elephant seals that is worth a stop. There's a large parking lot and a boardwalk to give access to better view of the seals. There is no beach access, understandably.
Whether you see adults, juveniles, males or females depends on the time of year you visit. I visited in late fall and saw the juvenile males who were resting up before taking out to sea. The juveniles have not yet develed the snout that characterizes the elephant seal. Only the bulls have the developed nose resembling an elepant's trunk (hence the name). The time to see the bulls is winter.
The seals use their flippers to throw sand on their body. It's believed the sand acts as a sunscreen.
Above and Right: A bull elephant seal. The park officials were suprised that this bull was on the beach at this time of year. They were not due in for another month.
Above, Right and Below: Also along Highway One is the Leffingwell Landing day use area of San Simeon State Park.
The shot above, to the left and the remaining shots were taken at the William R. Hearst Memorial State Park, a day use park along Highway One near the historic San Simeon town.
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