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July 11, 1861: Pebble Beach

July 11, 2011


Pebble Beach, aerial view; by dsearls, on Flickr

Camp 34

[This] morning we went on to Pescadero Ranch, found no one at home, so climbed in by the window, opened the back door, and “took possession.” This was the place where we had encamped so long, you recollect. I had found the geology too much for me, and I wanted Professor Whitney to see it; hence our visit to Monterey, for it was a matter of some importance to settle. Mr. Tompkins, the owner of the ranch, had tendered us its hospitalities, but his buccaro, Charley, was gone—all the dishes dirty on the table, and no provisions to be found, no candles, no wood cut. We spent the day looking up the objects we had come to see. Averill went into town, four miles, and got supplies, we washed up the dishes, got our dinner and supper, and made ourselves comfortable. Professor Whitney was as much interested as I had been, both in the geology and in the abundant life in the sea.

I wish I could describe the coast there, the rocks jutting into the sea, teeming with life to an extent you, who have only seen other coasts, cannot appreciate. Shellfish of innumerable forms, from the great and brilliant abalone to the smallest limpet—every rock matted with them, stuck into crevices, clinging to stones—millions of them. Crustaceans (crabs, etc.) of strange forms and brilliant colors, scampered into every nook at our approach. Zoöphytes of brilliant hue, whole rocks covered closely with sea anemones so closely that the rock could not be seen—each with its hundred arms extended to catch the passing prey. Some forms of these “sea flowers,” as they are called because of their shape, were as large as a dinner plate, or from six to twelve inches in diameter! Every pool of water left in the rugged rocks by the receding tide was the most populous aquarium to be imagined. More species could be collected in one mile of that coast than in a hundred miles of the Atlantic coast.

Birds scream in the air—gulls, pelicans, birds large and birds small, in flocks like clouds. Seals and sea lions bask on the rocky islands close to the shore; their voices can be heard night and day. Buzzards strive for offal on the beach, crows and ravens “caw” from the trees, while hawks, eagles, owls, vultures, etc., abound. These last are enormous birds, like a condor, and nearly as large. We have seen some that would probably weigh fifty or sixty pounds, and I have frequently picked up their quills over two feet long—one thirty inches—and I have seen them thirty-two inches long. They are called condors by the Americans. A whale was stranded on the beach, and tracks of grizzlies were thick about it.

The air was cool, and at times fog rolled in from the Pacific, as it often does there. We found beds and blankets….

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