It’s so hot in the U.S. that all the weather maps are red; TV meteorologists are beside themselves, reporting on thousands of heat records being shattered every day; and everyone is arguing (again) about whether this proves climate change is real.
Anyone remember the entire country being above 100F at once?
Except one place — the Pacific coast.
Check those weather maps for that long, slender patch of blue; this is the only place to really chill.
San Francisco was 66˚ this week, while the rest of the country broiled.
California has its hot spots, but there are places along its coast that are cool when everywhere else is warm.
One of our favorites is Elkhorn Slough, a place of magic in any month.
We’ve traveled, and lived on the West Coast a long time, and we have never seen so much marine wildlife in one spot. Or seabirds.
You can get so close to pelicans in the slough — with a telephoto lens — that you can see the veins in their pouches while they’re snacking.
This is why National Geographic photographers can’t stay away from the place; it’s why photographers and scientists come here from all over the world, from Europe and the Middle East, to Asia.
You’ll see so many seabirds at Elkhorn Slough, that you’ll begin to log them — in writing or mentally — even if you’ve never wanted to be a birder.
We were introduced to elegant terns by Captain Yohn Gideon, a certified captain chartering the pontoon boat that enabled us to get these photos. There’s a reason he calls his business Elkhorn Slough Safari.
We saw so many California sea otters, seals, sea lions, herons and other birds we stopped logging them after awhile, and just settled back to enjoy.
Although it’s close to human traffic — scientific marine research station, surrounding artichoke farms, big power plant — Elkhorn Slough is so protected, marine mammals aren’t bothered by humans who keep their distance.
You can see hundreds of sea lions, for example, just by walking paths alongside nearby Moss Landing Harbor.
This allows for some sweet moments of mother-pup intimacy (also with telephoto), without bothering families at rest.
Because the slough is protected by federal and state law, California sea otters — almost wiped out along this coast — gather here by the hundreds. This is called “rafting.”
We watched them dive for lunch; crack open shells on their chest, and dine while lounging on their backs.
We figured this is nature’s way of showing us how to chill in the U.S. when the temps hit 100.
In praise of small places is a regular tripsfor2 series.