Morro Rock itself is one of nine volcanic plugs that formed along this part of the California coast 23 million years ago. An informational sign (oh, there will be a lot of these. I love ’em!) explained that the rock formed from lava that hardened inside of a long extinct volcano, which eventually eroded away to expose the plug. There are signs all over the rock cautioning one against any attempts to climb it. Apparently a friend of mine has a friend who climbed it once and had to be helicopter-lifted off.
Tim and I took our time winding down 101 through the central coast, stopping at the waterfront city of Morro Bay. Approaching Morro Bay, I had these exact thoughts in this exact order:
“This is so cute.”
“That rock is huge.”
“What the hell are those?”
Morro Bay is visually defined by its quaint seaside town architecture, a 581-foot high rock sitting offshore, and three obscenely tall, visually jarring smokestacks that tower over the harbor. The latter belong to a natural gas power plant, which I later learned about from an oddly friendly informational sign out front.
Circumventing this natural behemoth against powerful gusts threatening to blow us away, I concluded,
“Yup. That’s a big damn rock.”
Lazily continuing down 101-S we stopped in the town of Summerland to have an early picnic dinner. I had wanted to find a beachside picnic area for a while, and we stopped here out of the rising need for a restroom (and, by the way, you should never go to the gas station just off the Summerland exit, as the last thing you’d want to see when crossing your legs together and holding them tightly out of need-to-pee agony, is a 25-cent lock on the restroom door).
Restroom crisis aside, the little dog-friendly park we found not only had a terrific view of the late afternoon surfers, but also came with a delightful surprise. Watching the surfers do their thing, I noticed some movement and a little flash of something out of the periphery of my left eye. “Is that…is that?…Yes! A dolphin!” Not just one dolphin, but a whole pod of them, leaping their way up the coastline. I was blissfully entranced by a trail of arching bottle noses and dorsal fins until they finally passed out of sight.