Carpinteria Seal Pups and Salt Marsh Sierra Club Hike
By an edhat reader
We had 21 people for our Carpinteria Seals and Salt Marsh Sierra Club Hike on Sunday! To minimize risk, we suggested that people not carpool for the first time ever. And we suggested that people practice "social distancing" as much as possible during the hike.
Here are all of my photos as well as a few nice ones by Ana who was on the hike.
We were very fortunate with the weather as the forecast called for on and off showers. But we did not have any rain at all until after the hike was finished.
We started the hike at the Bailard Avenue trail head to the Carpinteria Bluffs.
There is a really cool map of the area along with a Thank You to all of the people who helped make it possible to preserve this coastal treasure. It used to be that our taxes would pay for such preservation, but now it seems to be up to energetic organizers to make these projects happen one at a time.
Here is the map:
Don't miss the seals in the upper right corner!
We encountered plenty of these flowers which I believe are Bush Sunflowers – Encelia californica.
It was a fairly short walk, with a careful crossing of the railroad tracks, then we could see plenty of harbor seals on the beach below!
I scheduled this hike so that we were most likely to see some newly-born seal pups and indeed we saw quite a few.
We were also fortunate to have a volunteer docent on duty to explain what we were seeing. His name was Robert, so of course he was very helpful!
He explained that these harbor seals are very different than the elephant seals in their mating habits. These seals mate whenever they feel like it. The males do not have to fight each other for a female and the females mate with whoever they feel like mating with. They do not pair up. About half the harbor seals we were looking at were males.
Most interesting: The females can delay the gestation of the fertilized eggs! The females synchronize this gestation so that they all give birth around the same time. No doubt this offers some safety in numbers when it comes to predation by sharks.
The mothers nurse their young for about six weeks and then the seal pups are on their own, eating fish and crustaceans like their parents. We did not see any pups actually nursing, but we did see quite a few pups alongside their mothers on the shore and swimming in the water. The pups grow quickly, so they were almost as long as their mothers.
After we got a good view of the seals some of the group signed out to do their own thing. But most of us continued another mile and a half to the Carpinteria Salt Marsh. Thanks to Anthony for showing us the best route!
We passed a blufftop area with windswept trees:
Then we passed through Tarpits Park where the ground is black with natural tar seepages in places.
Here we posed for a group photo on an especially large blob of solidified tar:
We then walked through the Carpinteria State Beach Campground. A crew was preparing to pour concrete and left this colorful work of art in the process:
This family was enjoying their visit to the area, too!
We eventually made it over to the Carpinteria Salt Marsh. It is a unique ecosystem where the tidal salt water mixes with the fresh water. We did not see very many birds that day, but we got this nice view of the salt marsh:
On the way back a few in the group posed in this model of a Chumash tomol canoe:
And we stopped for a final view of the seals on our way out:
This is definitely a good time to visit the Carpinteria Seal Sanctuary to see the pups with their mothers.
As for future official Sierra Club hikes, things are on hold for going forward until the coronavirus is under control. But getting out in nature is still safe and some individual leaders may be leading their own hikes with extra precautions. That is still being worked out.