Driving from the Bay Area to Monterey, we’ve gone through the Elkhorn Slough area many times but have never stopped until recently. The Moss Landing Power Plant’s large stacks and structures can be seen from miles away and it’s easy to overlook the beautiful estuary next to it if concentrating on the unsightly nature of the power plant. The area is truly a gem hidden in plain sight. We recently joined the Elkhorn Slough Foundation on a morning kayaking trip led by area experts and volunteers. The Slough is home to around 100 otters and many harbor seals, and it was such a joy to observe them from water level.
The quiet splendor of Lassen Volcanic National Park in Winter is best experienced on snowshoes. Buried under 15 feet of snow, there was no sign of the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center or the main road beside it. We followed the foot prints and ski tracks of those that came before us North on the main road, and were rewarded with magnificent views of snow capped mountains and valleys. The steam vents and boiling mud pots of Sulphur Works were our destination and in the snow offered a rare juxtaposition.
The views along the rim of Crater Lake are nothing short of breathtaking. The intense blue color of the pristine water offset by the steep walls of the caldera is truly something to behold. The caldera was formed approximately 7,700 year ago when Mount Mazama collapsed following a major volcanic erupution. The eruption was 42 times greater than that of Mount St. Helens in 1980. The summit of the mountain was approximately 12,000 ft before collapsing and creating what would become the deepest lake in the United States. The highest point along the rim now is Hillman Peak at a mere 8,159 ft. More information about the eruption can be found on the Mount Mazama USGS site.
Meandering trails through ancient cypress forests, abundant wildlife, and iconic central coast vistas are all hallmarks of this popular California State park. It’s one of our favorites and an easy drive from the Bay Area. The park can become quite crowded, so we generally go early or on iffy weather days. During our most recent trip we were treated to humpback whale, sea otter, and harbor seal spottings aplenty. Sea otters, an endangered species, are one of the main attractions for the park but can be tricky to spot. We always bring binoculars.