The history of this land is quite complex. With several Native American sites and evidence of an early settlement of Chinese fishermen and their families. The Chinese built residences there, including the Whalers Cabin, which still stands on the grounds.
In 1769 Europeans arrived and used the land as pasture for livestock. Between 1862 and 1879 Portuguese whalers used it as a whaling station, attracted by the gray whale migration. They used the now stunning Whaler’s Cove to slaughter and process the whales. To quote the museum’s docent: it must have been a disgusting sight.
After Point Lobos began to be subdivided into residential building lots, Mr. A.M. Allan purchased the remaining land as a residence and business investment which stopped plans for further subdivision. He and his family bought back the lots that had been sold.
The Cypress Grove was gifted as a memorial to Mr. Allan and his wife, and the State of California purchased the rest of Point Lobos from his heirs in 1933.
Today the reserve has been expanded to 554 acres, plus an additional 5.36 square miles of underwater reserves, one of the first underwater reserves in the U.S.
Part of the reserve has rolling meadows, wildflowers, land that was used as pasture, and the original gifted Cypress Grove: one of two naturally growing stands of Monterey Cypress trees remaining on Earth. Lots of little birds inhabit the trees.
Rock formations dot the land and extend out into the sea. These rocks were uplifted millions of years ago and have been shaped by the waves.
Beautiful sand and gravel beaches and coves, eroded from different types of rocks, surround the landscape. Seals use some of these as resting places and to care for their pups.
Where the land juts out into the sea, sea otters feed and various types of whales surface and dive offshore in different seasons. Gray whales are spotted often during their migration. Occasionally, elephant seals stop here.
We combined several short trails for a four-mile walk one afternoon with dramatic views of the ocean.
A high overlook over the “seal beach” provided an intimate look. Pups were nursing, some were swimming with their moms, and others sleeping. Once again, we found ourselves hypnotized. A volunteer was watching over the seals and answering visitors’ questions.
Just across from this point was the Whalers Cabin, the oldest wood-frame building in Monterey County. It was built using pine and redwood lumber for siding. Originally the floor was packed earth, but later a foundation was built using six whale vertebrae to support the floor joists.
The Whalers Cabin is now a museum, the Whaling Station Museum. It contains artifacts from all the groups that once inhabited this land. Kit, a knowledgeable volunteer, was a wealth of information about the contents of the museum and the reserve.
Artifacts include harpoons and other tools used at the whaling station plus lots of information about the operation, as well as some very cool whale bones.
The North Shore trail followed the high cliffs with great overlooks and then connected to the Cypress Grove trail. Many of the gorgeous Monterey Cypress trees were covered in bright orange, a green algae that contains the pigment carotene.
The last part of our hike was on the Bird Island trail where we found China Cove beach, a beautiful secret beach. We had a perfect view of the cove but couldn’t get down to it as it was closed off for seal pupping season (through June). We could see the seals and their pups swimming around.
Our day ended with a beautiful sunset over the crashing surf at Sand Hill Cove, another stunning overlook.
The one down side of the reserve is, they don’t allow dogs at all due to potential impacts on all the wildlife (party poopers!). But anyone planning a visit to Monterey should plan to spend a day there.