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.


Written by sbrobert

What do you think?


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  1. Practice Social Distancing! Gatherings like this are promoting the spread of the coronavirus. Not reducing it. You are doing residents a disservice by organizing and attending large gatherings. Please educate yourself and others and stop this practice now for the sake of the community.

  2. 4 oppose this failure to implement social distancing. 2 merely praise the scenery. Make that 5-2. But it is not just Robert everyone else there crowded into the shot. Not just that the virus is highly contagious. It sets a bad example. I am sure it was an oversight.

  3. Getting in nature is safe, with a group of people? Thats opposite of social distancing. Social distancing is no joke, its not a fad. If we dont do it we will have a huge issue. This is concerning, as its displaying disregard for what we are trying to do. The virus Isnt in or “out” of nature. Its in people, and I see quite a few people close together in these pictures

  4. Being outdoors is OK. Being close like many people here is not OK. You really need to be further apart when outdoors, it is no joke. If people keep doing this, I worry that the government will step in and start closing beaches, as someone worried about on a different thread. Go outside, say hi from a distance, but do not group together like this, unless you’re from the same households.

  5. Hi, Robert, I hope you and Jig are well. You’re a super smart guy, but it’s not smart to disallow carpooling and then gather closely for a group photo … which obviously does not follow the rule in effect at the time for social distancing.

  6. Everyone knew what “the rules” were on Sunday, which are exactly the same as what they are today. Perverted logic to think one can get away with cramping people together for photo ops. To me, the group photos are all photo “bombs.” I sure hope none of them had this bug, but what the heck were they thinking?

  7. I don’t care one bit about the SC. Some years ago Time Magazine put out an article which literally made me sick to my stomach: “TIME has learned that between 2007 and 2010 the Sierra Club accepted over $25 million in donations from the gas industry, mostly from Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy—one of the biggest gas drilling companies in the U.S. and a firm heavily involved in fracking—to help fund the Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.”……they’ve done some good things, but they remind me a bit of Al Sharpton (“Give us the money OR ELSE!!”). I’m sure that some of the local chapters are all Cupcakes & Lollipops, but the greater picture is quite dark.

  8. It would be so much classier to just admit you were wrong bro. The rules at the time were six foot MINIMUM social distancing. Not only did you violate that, you compounded the error by photographing and posting the screwup, which could lead others down the same primrose path. It was a mistake, we all make mistakes, you are a helpful dude I have a lot of respect for. Not apologizing, or even admitting you made a mistake, is, to my mind, worse than the underlying offense. We are all human and make mistakes. A wee bit of contrition here would settle the matter. This is important because others are also sneaking little exceptions for themselves, and when the situation quickens it will be too late for regrets. Walk in peace.

  9. Do nothing and you are guaranteed to do nothing wrong. The Sierra Club works hard to support a sustainable future for all of us. Part of that work is getting people out in nature to appreciate what needs to be preserved. Instead of criticizing those who are doing their best, how about doing your part to make the world a better place. How about if you start by thanking others who are trying to help?

  10. No…you literally and completely didn’t follow all rules in place, and there’s (your own!) photographic evidence to prove it!!!! Don’t double down by telling people not to believe their eyes…you obviously aren’t 6 feet away from each other in the picture. What is the Sierra Club going full Orwell…???
    “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
    —George Orwell

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