Susan McDonald was formerly head of the docent program for the elephant seals along this section of the coast, which is part of the vast Hearst Ranch. Today, in her capacity as a consultant for the Hearst Corporation (which gave the Expedition permission to cross the property), she met us at the Ragged Point Inn to act as our day leader.
George Hearst originally purchased the Hearst property in 1865. The land was a Spanish rancho owned by Juan de Jesus Pico. Today, the ranch comprises some 82,000 acres with 18 miles of shoreline. The Hearst lands west (ocean side) of Highway One are signed ?Private Property ? Use subject to permission of the Hearst Corporation ? California Civil Code 813,? while on the east side of the highway the signs read ?Private Property ? No Trespassing,? Clearly there is a recognition here of the obvious, that the public will be walking out from the roadway to the sea and that it would be virtually impossible to monitor that activity. By signing in this manner, the Hearst Corporation avoids the possibility that continued unauthorized use would result in a prescriptive easement giving the public a right to enter.
We left the highway and achieved the bluff by unlocking a gate. Locked or unlocked it was impossible to open. We either climbed over it or crawled under. Cattle have grazed the wide terrace here, so we followed cattle trails in the areas where there was any significant brush. Even with this, the bluffs were covered with flowering succulents; small butter colored California poppies, purple asters, and lupines. Also present, sadly, were numerous nuisance weeds and large areas of ice plant. Our socks were soon filled with itchy weed seeds and legs covered with sticky sap from tarweed. Below the low bluffs were rocky beaches and off shore, extensive kelp beds with the occasional otter.
It was interesting to wonder as we looked down from the bluff top into the little coves below whether William Randolph Hearst himself might have looked upon the scenes we were looking at.
By the late morning, a good wind had kicked up and we took our lunch sheltered on a nice sandy beach. We were then able to do a good bit of beach and rock walking, a welcome respite from the weed seeds found on the bluff. At the sand-bar-blocked-mouth of Arroyo de la Cruz, we found a wonderful mixed flock of brown pelicans and seagulls. As we walked along the beach they flew to sea, only to return to the sand once we had walked on.
The remainder of our day was a combination of bluff and road walking that ended on the overlook of the elephant-seal haul- out beach. We had heard about these animals when we visited Año Nuevo State Park in southern San Mateo County. Here we walked along the bluff and watched the seals on the beach below without the presence of any docents. (Jon Breyfogle; photos by Linda Hanes)
Right: Ragged Point and the mouth of San Carporforo Creek, the north end of the Hearst Ranch. Right: Jon, Ginny and Richard rock scrambling.