And not a drop to drink…unless you’re a Pinniped

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I wasn’t really ready to come home from the Central Coast. Last weekend we headed north to the serenity and beauty of Cambria, mesmerized by the rugged coastline nestled within a forest of coastal pines and spectacular ocean views–and quiet.

In the Los Angeles/Pasadena area where I live–the San Gabriel Valley–early fall often brings temperatures higher than we experience in summer’s July. Accordingly, October is “fire season” and it’s not uncommon to hear locals comment about the “feel” of earthquake weather. There is no such thing, but there is something in barometric pressure or terrarium-like cloud covers or perhaps the squeeze that comes with unrelenting heat that brings a certain jumpiness.

Cambria was calling me. Notice the beautiful sunshine of the day and the fog rolling in with the evening.

I have said quite enough about our drought conditions, I’m sure, but while in Cambria we experienced a few new shifts in awareness and convenience that seem worth conveying.

This was the first time we visited the area and continually thought of Coleridge.

“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”

The Central Coast is experiencing severe drought. Residents are saddled with extreme personal water usage restrictions and struggle against the rationing with an economy dependent upon tourism, naturally leading to greater water usage. The future is uncertain. It makes me jumpier than the heat, quite frankly.

We were encouraged to re-use towels and not expect a routine change in sheets.  The coffee cups and water glasses were replaced by disposable paper. After years of being cautious about what we add to the landfills, depleting water sources makes that a very secondary concern. And in a fine dining establishment we were offered water bottles (think landfill again) and charged a nominal fee. It costs too much to wash the glassware and is too expensive in other ways to offer drinking water to thousands of tourists. It is risky business.

The coastal beauty of Hwy 1, San Diego in the lower south through Mendocino County all the way at the top of the state, is what I call my “happy space” and I never travel without thanking the State of California and the Coastal Commission for its many protections. California is highly protective of preserving the beauty of the coast and guards against development. It remains as pristine as possible.

So when we talk about desalination plants, I have to wonder. All this ocean….water…is it a resource? If we don’t learn how to live within the confines of water restriction even in times of sufficient seasonal rainfall, what course will we be forced to take? What is advancement?

“Will California — like Israel, Saudi Arabia and other arid coastal regions of the world — finally turn to the ocean to quench its thirst? Or will the project finally prove that drinking Pacific seawater is too pricey, too environmentally harmful and too impractical for the Golden State?” 

At this point all we can do is observe. I also pray for rain. And I totally, completely, unreservedly appreciate the beauty that we have and I enjoy sharing some of the little surprises you might not anticipate.

These elephant seals aren’t sitting around waiting for rain, are they? Do they seem worried?

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The Northern Elephant Seal Rookery at Piedras Blancas, just north of Cambria, is a wonderful stop along Highway 1. There are approximately 20,000 elephant seals at Piedras Blancas, but they aren’t all there at any given time.

Once nearly extinct because of hunting for blubber and oil during the 18th and 19th centuries, some saying the population was down to a mere 50 elephant seals, there are now breeding colonies from Baja to British Columbia. There are four major California mainland sites, and this is one of the best for close viewing.

From December through February numbers will increase during mating season, and I’d love to return in mid-February as the females wean their pups.

Turkey Vultures are vigilant sentinels along this stretch of beach. I don’t think I want to know.


Next post I’ll take you with me to “The Enchanted Hill.”


Hearst Castle is a wonderful way to escape the concerns of reality. What a place for fantasy–an excellent way to breathe lighter.

Enjoy your “weekend exhale,” my friends. It’s a beautiful, warm and sunny day here today–big surprise. Sun! But it is cooler and should be a lovely weekend. And I do love weekends!

77 thoughts on “And not a drop to drink…unless you’re a Pinniped

    1. Oh boy! You lived in my favorite part of the state. I love both Monterey and Santa Cruz. I always feel so glad that I can at least frequently visit. The coast is really special and I am so pleased you enjoyed the photos. They must have looked familiar to you. 🙂

  1. Debra your photography as usual is brilliant… I hope for your sake the rain is forthcoming…as I just wonder how good desalinate processes are good for the environment or for that matter the local areas sea… don’t know enough about it, just wonder if its the right thing to do….

    1. Thank you for your kind words about the photography, Rob. Coming from you it means a lot. I am not at all enthusiastic about desalination plants, but wonder if we will be more or less coerced into accepting them as a coastal reality. I really hope not. We have had years and years of debate about offshore drilling for oil and how those platforms should be disguised and therefore accepted. If Californians don’t learn how to conserve our precious resource and cutback on personal use/waste, then technology is going to become the accepted measure to remedy the problems, and that just seems a very bad second place. I’m quite good at noting problems—not so sure I have any answers, however. LOL! Thanks for letting me go on and on…and I hope you’re already enjoying your weekend, Rob. 🙂

    1. I’m so glad you already know Hearst Castle, Ann. I hope you’ll enjoy the photos when I next share. I really think it’s a California treasure, and can be quite a surprise to those who visit it for the first time. I hope you have a good weekend! 🙂

  2. Hi Debra,
    When I drove through Cambria last March I was surprised to see port-o-let toilets at the gas station. Notice on the door apologized for the temp toilets and explained how much water they saved by not using flushing toilets.

    1. I think the tourist towns must face even greater concerns, Rosie. I was surprised to be told we’d have to buy our water at dinner. Of course, the servers were tremendously apologetic, and they sold it so reasonably that it wasn’t the charge that concerned me, just the juxtaposition of all those plastic containers in land fills rather than water from the tap. But if the wells are running dry, there isn’t a question! we talked about driving up through Big Sur, but our time ran short. The time you spent there was so amazing and some day I’m going to follow suit with the Esalen Institute. It’s on my bucket list! 🙂

  3. Good GRIEF, Debra ! – I don’t think that even Downunder we’ve had water restrictions as severe as yours ! But I feel ’em coming on again … and still our MORON of a political leader gads about thinking he’s an International Man and pretend that climate change doesn’t exist.
    In spite of that, however, this is a truly marvellous post. Looking at the elephant seals, with their ability to lie on VERY uncomfortable-looking rocks, I am reminded of nothing so much as me … except that I can’t lie on anything except my adjustable bed. 😉

    1. Aren’t those elephant seals the oddest looking animals, M-R? I just love the big ones and enjoy watching them lumbering along! I don’t know how it is that everyone in California isn’t completely devoted to water conservation methods, but we are slow to catch on to the fact that we can’t just “will” rain to fall from the sky. I just love hearing you speak of your MORON…we all have them. LOL! Sadly…they don’t even care about how they are perceived. As for those who deny climate change, I don’t even know how to handle them. They are certainly out there, and many leaders are among them. I hope you’re enjoying your weekend, M-R. I don’t have any particular plans, and right now that sounds very good to me. 🙂

        1. Ah! I have followed Steve…I think I found him through you! I just heard a news report about the pipe bursting…now I know where he lives. Not all that far from me. That’s kind of a nice association. But yes, all those gallons to nowhere. Very, very frustrating!

  4. I’ve never heard of Hearst Castle–thank you for introducing me to it. What an utterly enchanting, beautiful and interesting place it looks to be. How I would love to visit this part of the coast. And I do hope the rain comes your way soon. I once heard of a woman who said she had the ability to make it rain. She said she did it by simply focusing on the refreshing feeling of rain. So I am holding a vision of a beautiful refreshing rain falling soon where you are. Great post, Debra. Have a great weekend. ~ Jeannie

    1. Oh I like the way the woman you referenced thinks, Jeannie, and thank you for your own envisioning. My version of keeping those same good intentions is we’re buying a rain barrel. I’ve never had one…guess it didn’t occur to me! But when it does rain again, and it will eventually, I want to be prepared to capture every little drop! And I think you will just be amazed tat the photos from Hearst Castle. The story that accompanies its development is so large that I’m just trying to figure out how to distill it down to blog size. LOL! I hope you, too, have a wonderful weekend. Thank you for such a friendly visit. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Ronnie. There are parts of California that are really gorgeous and I do think of as “paradise”–to me anyway. But we’d sure better not take for granted that it will always be so. We’d best learn how to conserve our resources. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂

    1. I think you’ll enjoy my story of Hearst Castle, Cathy. The gardens and grounds are so beautiful, too. The docent told us that they’re not planting as many annuals this year because of the water shortage, but they gardens were still lush. The lack of water is significant, but I think the fog really helps. The garden didn’t look stressed to me. 🙂

  5. We’ve been hearing about your drought, it’s so scary. I hope conditions improve soon. Your exhale week sounds ideal, and I’ve always wanted to visit Hearst Castle, so I’m looking forward to those pictures!

    1. I’m really eager to share about Hearst Castle. I’m so glad you have interest! I took so many photos and Hearst story is so big I’m trying to think of the best way to share without writing a short novel. LOL! I’ll figure it out soon. 🙂 I hope you have a good weekend!

  6. They’re only doing their job – the Turkey Vultures I mean… Just dial 911 if you see them playing with a pair of trunks 😉 Your description of the measures you now find in hotels in the area Debra tells the tale of strained resources. It may surprise you to know that not changing sheets during a guest’s stay and reusing the towels for several days have been the norm in European hotels and resorts for a long time, especially in the southern countries like Spain and Italy and it’s now the norm in England too. We all have to do our bit to preserve precious resources.

    1. Martin, it is interesting and a bit surprising to me to think that European and English hotels have been exercising restraint in hotel water usage. I would assume that water is almost limitless, and yet I don’t know anything about how water is contained and whether systems of delivery are limited. It is frustrating and a bit amazing to me that in California, with lengthy drought cycles, in the good years we simply revert to the old patterns of water consumption and then don’t apply conservation methods until the dry years return. It would appear we have a lot to learn, and it would be good to learn from our European and British friends. 🙂

      1. In southern Europe the summers are long and very dry Patti and water is in short supply. In northern Europe and the UK the pressure on the water supply comes from the overpopulation of areas and, using the UK as an example, the issue of how you get an abundance of water from Manchester down to a drier London and the southeast. There is another reason for the towels/sheets restraint in hotels (apart from saving money) – it reduces the amount of detergent being fed into the water system too which is another environmental issue that has to be tackled.

        1. Thanks for such a good explanation, Martin. I think reducing the amount of detergent in the water system is a brilliant approach. We aren’t generally doing nearly enough “over here” to address ecological concerns. Much is done, of course, but there is always so much more we can do!

    1. Thanks, Lori. I am hopeful, but also concerned that if we do get win we’ll become complacent. We need conservation methods permanently in place. I’m an optimist and planning to buy a rain barrel. It’s got to rain eventually, don’t you think? 🙂

    1. I wouldn’t probably comment as frequently about the lack of rain if the behaviors accompanying the drought didn’t fascinate me as they do. There are some cities with severe restrictions and others completely unphased. Yet it occurs to me that those of us who still have “enough” ought to be learning and preparing from those who don’t. We’ll see what this next season brings (or doesn’t) and then we’ll figure out how we are doing. Californians may be moving up your way if this continues. LOL!

  7. The switch to disposable items irritates me beyond belief — there must be a way to get things clean while using less water. Plastic bottles and paper cups take a lot of water to manufacture and plastic that cannot be recycled blights our oceans and kills wildlife — using these things is short-sighted. I know that you can scrub plates with sand, although you would not want to do that to glassware. I suppose no one thinks there is time to come up with better solutions.

  8. And while I’m on my soapbox, I’ll just point out that industry, agriculture, businesses and cities need to conserve — too often the burden falls on individuals (We siphon bath water to keep plants alive, flush toilets with more bath water in buckets, flush less often than is aesthetically pleasing, have never had a lawn, only run full loads of laundry and dishes, etc., etc., etc.), while other entities have few restrictions.

    1. I completely understand your outrage, Sharyn. I agree with you. It shocked me to see how much plasticware and paper was used as a supposed pro-measure to off-set water usage. It didn’t make sense to me, and I kept thinking of all the ways I go out of my way at home to NOT use plastic and to be tuned in to avoiding the strain on the landfills. I think for many of us who are trying to conserve our natural resources it really feels a bit like losing the battle. It’s hard for me to believe that there isn’t technology that could clean with microwaves or some sort of ultra-violet processes. I’m sure it exists in some form, but is probably still too expensive for everyday use, but I predict new technologies will come about as a result of the on-going water crisis. In the meantime we really do need to keep our heads and not make rash decisions that don’t add up to solving the problem. There is so much more at stake then just this immediate drought–but then, I’m preaching to the choir. 🙂 Thank you for such a thoughtful comment/response, Sharyn. I know how dedicated to conservation and ecological sensitivity. I appreciate the discussion.

  9. Just the name, Cambria, brings golden thoughts to mind, Debra. Beautiful photos and a revealing post on the many aspects of climate, especially on the west coast. This really brings to mind the complicated cycle that our long abuse of nature has caused; recycling and using glass and cloth to help sustain our natural balance, until that balance is so out of whack that we return to disposables. It is a vicious cycle we have collectively bred over the years, isn’t it? Re-using bathroom towels and not having the bedsheets changed every day of one’s visit seem small prices to pay in comfort.
    I love the photos of the elephant seals. It is good to know that their population has increased.
    Breathing lighter here on the Cutoff – and will be meeting family at White Fence Farm for dinner. It is a famous spot on old Route 66! 🙂

    1. I completely agree with you, Penny, that we are simply paying the price for ignoring even small changes in our lifestyle that would create a better balance to our poor strained environment. I have never understood the need to change towels and sheets every day in hotels, but even though we were strongly encouraged NOT to opt for the daily change, it was still offered if we requested. So that tells me that even under such dire water restrictions there aren’t strict prohibitions–just friendly reminders. I hope your White Fence Farm dinner was wonderful, Penny. We had a weekend of plumbing problems. LOL! Glad we had such a good weekend LAST weekend. hahaha! oh yes…and it did rain just a little! It wasn’t much, but it was a complete surprise. I took it as a good sign.

  10. Gorgeous photos, Debra. Imagine feeling GOOD about choosing disposable products over those that have to be washed?

    We are finally enjoying afternoon rains again after a dry summer. Hope you receive a good soaking soon.

  11. Beautifully written blog. I always think of California as an ideal place to live, but it seems wherever we live, there are some kind of constraints that require creative solutions. We have enough water here in Illinois, most of the time, though that could change with climate changing. I often have the feeling that nature is asking us to slow down and reconsider how we are living. I hope California will get the rainfall it needs very soon, but have the feeling, technology solutions may be required in the long run, or restrictions on the number of people who can live and visit there. There may be brilliant ways of restoring water that we can’t envision now.

    1. I really appreciate your comment about nature “asking us to slow down and reconsider how we are living.” That is really astute, Karen. I feel that way, too. We had about an hour of light rain this morning, very unexpected, and it was just delightful! I think if we go into another year of drought conditions there will have to be some major changes that may indeed bring about some new measures or innovations. It will be interesting to see what comes next! 🙂

  12. Jeff Fetterly

    thank you Deborah that was very informative and interesting one day maybe I’ll go do Hearst Castle with you always wanted to check that place out

  13. BTW … on OITS 232 (Sept 18) I linked an article about your state’s drought from USA Today for others as I was thinking of you … Meanwhile, you love for the Center Coast is evident through your words. Well done.

    1. The drought is statewide, but some regions are affected more than others,Smidge. I don’t think the drought is particularly newsworthy beyond our local concerns, primarily because droughts are cyclical. We are just in one of our drought cycles. The concern comes in when we don’t seem to learn how to conserve water during years with good rainfall. To our great surprise we had a little bit of rain this morning! It wasn’t much but I just loved it. 🙂

  14. Debra, we’ve had more than two weeks of non-stop rain and flooding. I wish I could pack it up and send it to you. It seems we live in a world of extremes.

    I’ve always wanted to visit this part of the CA coast, though it’s hard to consider given the added burden visitors put on parched places. Thanks for sharing these enchanting photos. I hope you and Jay got some much needed relaxation.

    1. Really? Flooding? Oh my goodness…it’s early for that, isn’t it, Andra? Or is the heavy rainfall seasonal at this time? We need a 2,000 mile pipeline built, don’t you think? LOL! You know, Cambria is all part of the same beautiful section of central coast I keep sharing. It is worth a trip all to itself, Andra. Cambria is the halfway point on the coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco…so that gives you a point of reference. Someday, for sure. 🙂

      1. We’ve had this weird two weeks of rain. It is hurricane season, but we keep getting these tropical downpours with no tropical storm. Today dawned sunny, so that’s something. It would be great if we could figure out how to harness the weather and send things where they’re needed.

  15. Dear Debra, I read a news magazine called “The Week.” It contains excerpts from editorials and op. ed columns from around the world and so I often get a global perspective on issues. The issue that came today–Oct 3’s–has on its cover a temperature gauge for global warming. I’m eager to read it, but anxious also. When are the big nations of the world–USA, China, India–going to start paying attention? Peace.

    1. I know what you mean, Dee, about being interested in reading about climate change and our responsibility to be environmentally sensitive and responsible, and yet at the same time, dwelling on the topic can make me very anxious. I swing between reading for awareness and wanting to hide my head in the sand! 🙂 There are so many inconsistencies even here in California and the policies aren’t equally leveraged even between farmers struggling for irrigation, so I struggle to understand in the first place! If we go into a fifth year of drought we had better be prepared for a lot of changes in habits, so we’ll have to see what happens this year. I continue to hope for rain! That would simplify a few of my concerns, right? LOL! I hope you have a healthy and peaceful week, my friend. ox

      1. Dear Debra, I understand about not reading or watching television programs on issues fraught with potential for great change in our lives. When I first moved here to Independence, after 38 years in MInnesota, where I’d always kept myself well informed, I didn’t watch the news for nearly two years. Nor did I read the newspaper or any news magazine. The move had wearied me into physical ailments and I didn’t think I needed to stress myself out even more. So the thing is, I now listen to my body and when I’m feeling vulnerable to fear, I simply tune out and listen to music or read or take a walk. It gets to the point that we know too much. We have information overload. Peace.

  16. I’m glad you had a good time in Cambria. I’m so sorry to hear about the drought. We have a lot of droughts in Australia and it’s not good. We had a lot of water restrictions imposed on us a few years ago and you could only water your garden on certain days and you weren’t allowed to wash your car etc. It makes you wonder why, if we don’t have enough water for those of us who are already here, why they keep allowing more and more migrants and tell us increasing the population is a good thing. It doesn’t make sense xx

    1. I think our climates and drought experiences are very similar, Charlie. We have regular drought cycles, too, and the only difference we’re experiencing this time is that we’re in our 4th consecutive year–not unprecedented, but it’s been awhile since I recall one lasting this long! I am in complete agreement with you regarding the “open door” policy without putting any restriction on population density! It makes no sense to me either, and it hasn’t for a very long time! I’ll add that question to my very long list of policies I don’t understand. 🙂

  17. Debra, your slideshows are superific. So many I liked but the bird prints and the winding pathway were a couple of my faces. Like you, I can’t recall ever visiting Cambria. Now I see iI do…drought and all.

    1. Uru, Many times our Public radio station will do in-depth reports on the drought and they almost always cite statistics from Australia and make many direct comparisons. It’s a good thing we like sun, wouldn’t you say? We have LOTS of that. LOL! 🙂

  18. Deborah the Closet Monster

    Here via Frank, who said I might enjoy another L.A. Debx he reads. I saw the clouds roll in last night and hoped they’d herald rain here and elsewhere, but no …

    1. No…no rain in sight! I’ve decided to buy a rain barrel on faith that this winter we’ll have something to put in it! It’s lovely to meet another one of Frank’s many friends. 🙂 I’m so glad you stopped by!

  19. You”re a beautiful writer and photographer Debra. As I read this, I felt I was touring along with you, both the beauty and sadness. Looking forward to following along with you!

  20. I remember you promised Hearst 🙂 Delicious scenery in Cambria, Debbie. Definitely soothing. Water solutions? I don’t know enough about using the ocean but there must be a way? Our planet is always in flux, isn’t it? We have to live with what there is, but that hotel situation sounds really extreme.

    1. I finally posted some photos from Hearst Castle, Jo. I sure do find it hard to find the time to post and I’m glad you hang in there with me. You may be quite amused at our “Castle” as it hardly compares to so many you’ve shared from around the world, but to think of it in modern-day history it definitely is a showpiece! 🙂

  21. There are so many, many beautiful places in California, especially the coastal area. Really enjoy these gorgeous photos, Debra! 🙂 Another dry year for CA? We are getting a little more rain than last year, but not nearly as we needed…

  22. As someone else wrote; the California coastline is gorgeous and Cambria looks like it’s right at the top of the best areas. Your photographs are equally beautiful. Makes me want to go back to this incredible coast. I will cross my fingers for some rain.

I always enjoy hearing from you!

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