A twenty-five minute drive west from San Juan Bautista is the entrance to the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. Operated by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the 1,700 acre reserve has five miles of hiking trails within one mile of the Pacific Ocean at Moss Landing, CA.
On a good day, visitors on the hiking trails might see a harbor seal or a sea otter, a heron or a pelican, a turkey or a bobcat, any number of ducks or gulls, and perhaps an a occasional deer. Today on a four-mile afternoon walk, I saw everything but the seals, otters, and deer. See the turkey?
The bobcat did not let me get close enough fast enough to take its picture. It calmly stood up from its trail side sunbathing position and slipped away into the bushes. That bobcat sighting was much more of a thrill than the turkey sighting was.
Heading past the barns toward the Main Channel, I just made it across the bridge on the South Marsh Loop before high tide covered it up.
From there I walked toward Whistlestop, over the tracks to Hummingbird Island.
Hummingbird Island is right on the Main Channel of the slough. The island is my favorite spot on the Reserve because it is the most removed from the busy, civilized visitor center. It has lots of trees and cool places to sit and watch the rising tide make ripples on the water's surface.
An energetic team of high school kids was busy collecting samples and taking pictures for their school research project on the South March Loop. I didn't disturb them other than to ask briefly a few questions about what they were doing. They acted like they had been conditioned not to talk to strangers and their teachers were so young I could barely tell them apart from the kids.They did not talk much either. I must have been a genuine fossil to them - it is sort of surprising they didn't try to collect me and stick me in a vial. They were more than a little shocked, though, when I passed them on the way back. They walk slow - like really old people walk.
I wish I had a picture of the bobcat. That guy was really cool.
Peace, Love, and Sloughs,