Family Nature Summits – Pacific Grove, CA

Hannah at Asilomar

We’re at Family Nature Summits.

We arrived at Pacific Grove, California yesterday and checked in at Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds. What a place. Pacific Grove is on the northern tip of the Monterey Peninsula. The Conference Grounds, in a California state park, is right on the beach.

Today, we explored the beach a couple of miles from the conference center. We checked out the tidal pools. Among the sea weeds and barnacles attached to rocks, we found snails, crabs, sea anemones and even an octopus – the picture of the octopus taken by Hannah. Snails and crabs climbed up and down the rocks. Cormorants, gulls, and pelicans patrolled the skies.

The seals were the highlights. We saw them sunning themselves on rocks, swimming with just their half their heads above water and jumping in at random.

A couple walked in the water and prepared to scuba dive. Maybe one was a teacher giving private scuba lessons. They approached the seal, closer and closer. I kept staring at it. Still it stayed on the rock. When I looked away for a second, the seal chose that time to jump in. I don’t think the divers even noticed the seal.

The grounds are extensive, with sleeping rooms, a couple of dining rooms and lots of meeting rooms. It’s run by the state park so the rooms are modest. We have a huge room with three single beds and a double bed. The bathroom is really three separate rooms, one for two sinks, one for the shower, and one for the sink. So we can plan our ablutions with efficiency.

We’re going to eat in the same dining room for six days. But this is California and the food is fresh and varied. Of course, they offer a vegetarian option. The dessert tonight was strawberry shortcake. But I skipped the cake and just had deep red California strawberries with a little whipped cream.

Aramark manages the rooms and food service. So why is the food so good here and so lousy in so many of their other places? The park stresses that the Conference grounds breaks even; no tax money subsidizes the operation.

Obviously good, healthy food is important to the state park system. They charge the full cost to its customers and feel that their clientele will be willing to pay. Their breakfast is $14.95 – one price, which includes tax and gratuities.

We then drove into Monterey and walked up and down Cannery Row. This is John Steinbeck country; he’s the author of the book Cannery Row; his most famous might be Grapes of Wrath. Do high school students even read him anymore? Until the 1950s, the area was famous for its sardine canning business and its flophouses and whore houses. Now the buildings have been restored and rented to T-shirt and souvenir shops. Tourists flock here to eat, shop, and walk around. I guess that was the only way to save the historic area.

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