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Sea Otters and Smoke Stacks

Cruising down the central Californian Coastline towards Morro Bay, there are two landmarks that loom over this fishing village. The huge volcanic rock that gives the Bay it's name, and the 450ft smoke stacks which are visible from ten miles away. The "three fingers" are what remain of an old power-plant, and are cause for contention between those that see them as an eye-sore vs a unique heritage site. To me the effect of these towering forms create an awesome dichotomy between the natural and manmade. There is often mist laying low along this route, and as the sun breaks through, the scene is cinematic.

Morro Bay from the Black Hill trail

The descriptive term morro is common to the Spanish and the word is part of many place names where there is a distinctive and prominent hill-shaped rock formation. It is one of a series of similar volcanic plugs formed along a line inland called the Nine Sisters. You can walk from the village and round the base of the rock, clambering over small boulders until you reach a point where the waves break. Although it is enticing to climb the rock itself as it stands 581 feet above the sea. However, it is a protected spot, home to wildlife including peregrine falcons.

Morro Bay is a great place to go to see wildlife, the highlights for me being sea-lions and sea otters. Sea otters were once hunted nearly to extinction, but at Morro Bay you can see them frolicking freely in the harbour - which is amazing. The first time we went to see them they had pups. They were on their backs in the water hugging the pups on their tummies. One was more energetic than the rest, diving around and splashing the others like a naughty teenager.

One of the other morros is Black hill, a great spot to see the Bay from above. This 661-foot volcanic peak and can be reached from a parking spot just beyond the Morro Bay golf course. There are a few switch backs on this round trip of about 0.6 miles up a dirt single track with 190 feet of elevation gain. From the summit there is an impressive 360 view, with the Irish Hills to the south and Morro Rock to the West.

Once a year at the end of April, Morro Bay hosts a kite festival on the neighbouring beach. This is a great time to visit if you don't mind the crowds. There are hundreds of kites in the air between the rock and the smoke stacks - every kind you can imagine, from $2 kites to giant flying squids.

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