Choking on oxygen, we have come down from the thin air of mountainous Mammoth Lakes to spend the month of September in the seaside town of Monterey, California. After performing the Heimlich maneuver on each other, we are ready to inhale the attractive antiquity and enchanting ecology of this segment of the California coast.
Our base of operation for the month is an over-the-garage rental apartment with a partial view of the Monterey Bay. From here, it is a short walk down the hill to Monterey State Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Cannery Row.
Ever since I neglected to read The Grapes of Wrath in high school, I have questioned all the fuss about John Steinbeck. In the past year, after finally reading Grapes and a couple of other Steinbeck novels, I have joined his legion of devotees. This month, I am excited to learn more about this great American author, who was born and raised in Salinas, 25 miles inland from Monterey.
Cannery Row, another Steinbeck classic, is set in early-20th century Monterey, and memorializes the author’s best friend and marine biologist hero Ed “Doc” Ricketts. Following in the footsteps of Doc’s rubber boots, we are eager to wade into the area’s natural aquaria, teaming with the remarkable organisms that subsist between the Pacific tides.
Just offshore from the thriving tide pools of Monterey lies the Grand Canyon of the continental shelf. Known as the “Serengeti of the Sea”, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a frenzied feeding ground for seals and sea lions, and blue, humpback, and orca whales. In the days ahead, we wish to learn more at the celebrated Monterey Bay Aquarium, and go whale watching above the largest and deepest submarine canyon in North America.
Back on dry land, a month on the Monterey Peninsula would not be complete for me without a pilgrimage to the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Links. Later this month, other pilgrims from the Senior PGA Tour will gather here to play in the Nature Valley First Tee Open. I have volunteered to serve as a walking scorer at the tournament, for an intimate inside-the-ropes view of one of the world’s greatest golf courses.
From its fabled golf links to its profuse marine life, Monterey, California has inspired artists, athletes, scientists, and even a Nobel Prize winning author. With our lungs full of oxygen-rich air, we intend to breathe it all in, during the fresh new month of September, by the sea.