Last year from January 10-13, the girls and I decided to take a trip north to Cambria, CA to see Hearst Castle and the elephant seals. We took the Pacific Surfliner from Irvine, CA to Santa Barbara, CA. In Santa Barbara we rented a car and drove the rest of the way to Cambria. The drive takes about two hours and by the time we got to Cambria it was dark. The day before we left, there had been a rain storm with strong wind and right before Carpinteria we stopped for about an hour, as a tree had fallen on the tracks and the railroad wanted to make sure it was safe to take the train over the tracks. The view we had from where the train stopped was beautiful.
I had made reservations for the next day to take an Upstairs Suites tour of Hearst Castle, as we had taken the overview tour before. The tour costs about $25.00 and took under an hour. There is a bus ride up the hill to the castle. The California State Parks are in charge of the Castle. The history of the Castle began in 1865, when George Hearst purchased 40,000 acres of of ranch land and William Randolph Hearst inherited in 1919 more than 250,000 acres. By 1947, Hearst and architect, Julia Morgan had created Hearst Castle with 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways. The Castle was built to Hearst's specifications to showcase his art collection. Hearst called the hill, La Cuesta Encantada; which in Spanish means Enchanted Hill.
It was close to lunch time, by the time we finished the tour and we decided to go across the highway and explore San Simeon and have lunch. The oldest native of San Sebastian, passed away several years ago and left behind Sebastian's store, which was established in 1852. J.C. "Pete"Sebastian took over the store in 1948 from his father, but he worked as a child with his father in the store, when the Hearsts were setting up the castle and later worked as a landscaper on Hearst's castle grounds. He remembered how the castle grew in concept from a few bungalows to replace the tents to the awesome private residence in the country. Sebastian's Store is across from San Simeon Bay and saw customers such as Winston Churchill and Cary Grant and witnessed the unloading of ranch cattle from ships, which involved the cows "swimming" ashore to waiting cowhands. Sebastian's store was kept open during the Depression by purchases inspired by Hearst's generosity, which was to supply all the needy families in the area with groceries and to bill Hearst for the costs.
After having lunch and doing some exploring, we drove up to find the elephant seals. The elephants seals spend eight to ten months a year in the open ocean and dive 1000 to 5000 feet deep for fifteen minutes to two hours and migrate thousands of miles, twice a year to its land based rookery for birthing, breeding molting and the rest. The Piedras Blancas rookery is 7 miles north of San Simeon and 14 miles north of Cambria and 89 miles south of Monterey. The rookery is home to about 17,000 animals. If you have never seen the elephant seals, this is the perfect time and seeing them does not cost any money and does not require reservations and is available to wheel chairs.
On the way back from seeing the elephant seals, we stopped in Cambria to see a house that was built from recycled materials and located on Nit Wit Ridge.
The last day of our trip, we drove back to Santa Barbara and took the train back to Irvine. It was a wonderful trip and we saw some beautiful country along the California coast.