Jane Gilbertson visited California last month and wrote this account of her day at Piedras Blancas:
Awaiting gardening season, I escaped the February gloom by jetting down to California to visit family. I had contacted Christine Heinrichs, the famous chicken author and elephant seal docent for a personal tour of the Piedras Blancas elephant seal colony.
Piedras Blancas, now part of a National Marine Sanctuary, is one of the few major colonies accessible to the public. (People and seals are separated by only a small beachhead and a nice guardrail.) Almost all other major colonies are offshore islands. It is the southernmost edge of their territory and has been re-inhabited since the 1990's as the entire population grew from a genetic bottleneck of less than 1,000 to about 180,000 individuals. Recovery has run about 6% per year. Happily, the whole area has enjoyed recent additional protection as the surrounding Hearst Castle estate became 13 more miles of ocean beach state park and 80,000 acres of ranch uplands became part of a land trust.
The rest -- with photos -- is posted at Methow Grist.
Thanks for reaching out to make contact, Jane! You are welcome back any time.