Today was one of the best days yet in California. It was our last full day in the stunningly beautiful coastal town of Monterey. Known not only for its picturesque beaches and village, but also its historical significance, Monterey facilitated our learning about the west Coast landscape and culture. The city was founded in the late 18th century as a fishing port for European, Asian, and native settlers. Its famous Cannery Row is derived from the sardine canning companies that lined the wharf. Now a popular tourist destination, this street earned its recognition through John Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row. Moreover, this town is home to endangered sea otter and harbor seal populations, sweet animals not hard to find when gazing into the water.
I began this morning with a run along the coastline on a cliff overlooking the ocean. It was a rather spiritual experience during the sunrise, as the light peeked through the rocks over the rippling water. I also ran past some murals referencing the history of Cannery Row: they depicted men fishing in 19th-century attire. From there, I joined friends to get breakfast at a delicious local coffee shop on Cannery Row. The sun came out today the strongest of our whole trip thus far, and it warmed us perfectly as I enjoyed my breakfast outside on the tranquil streets.
We met as a large group at the Monterey aquarium and explored it for about an hour (some people stayed longer). Recognized for its local conservation efforts and unique kelp forest, the aquarium houses native sea otters, African penguins, Asian octopi, and other interesting species. My favorite part was getting to see the otters up close; we got to experience them in their natural habitat on our bay kayaking adventure yesterday, but only from a far distance. It was interesting to learn that they have dense fur to keep them warm — as much hair on a German shepherd packed into the size of your thumbnail!
I continued to a little sandwich shop for lunch over the bay, and explored some local gift stores and thrift shops. After our free time on Cannery Row expired, the group drove together to a hiking trail, which surprised me as being my favorite part of the trip yet. Our hike weaved us along the cliffside of the Monterey Bay for some spectacular views of nearby mountains in addition to the abundant marine life. I got to talk to some people that I was glad to get to know better while taking in nature’s gifts.
Finally, we were let free again for dinner near the hotel, and we went to a restaurant to watch the national college football championships over local food. I had some incredible street tacos, then took some friends to an ice cream shop I had found at the wharf. After walking around the area some more we reflected on how grateful we were for our time in Monterey and the sunshine that accompanied us. I look forward to learning about the California agriculture industry tomorrow, and spending more time as a group at camp Ocean Pine; hopefully it brings more seaside hikes!