Seventeen Mile Drive is a loop of eponymous length that can be picked up a various entry points, or gates, on the Monterey Penninsula. There is an $8.00 toll fee. Part of the drive is shoreline and golf courses, and part of it is forest, interspersed with impressive residential housing. There are resorts on Seventeen Mile Drive, but many tourists, including my husband and me, stay elsewhere and then take the drive as a separate attraction. Some people go for the golf, some people for the architecture. My husband and I went to look for animals.
The first animals we saw were deer on the Spanish Bay golf course, where there are also accommodations. We pulled the car over and both steadily regarded and were regarded by the deer. The deer did not approach us, probably because they are wild animals and also probably because they associate human beings with the wild swinging of metal rods.
We next saw ground squirrels at Seal Rock Picnic Area along with gulls and what--being largely bird-ignorant--I supposed was some kind of sparrow. Tourists are not supposed to feed the animals, the posted signs explain, because it leads to malnutrition in the wildlife populations. Be warned, it is very difficult to not feed these squirrels. They are very cute and extremely aggressive. They know we have snacks in our cars. After one tried to climb my leg while I was standing, we decided to feed them a few plain almonds, thinking (and believing still) that while it reinforced naughty behavior, the nuts themselves would be nutritious. If you have nuts, these grounds squirrels take great liberties.
At this picnic area, we looked across the water to Bird Rock, which is covered with seals and sea lions. It takes good eyesight to make out their features, but it is a thrilling sight.
The rest of our drive was spent taking in the impressive forest. We pulled over at Lone Cypress, Ghost Tree and Pescadero Point, but did not see any more mammals. We did see ants, which was entertaining. My husband likes trees as much as he does animals; this was a very relaxing tourist activity. We know that our excursion--filled with golf courses and luxury homes--is laughably far from "ecotourism" but the coast line is beautiful, the air is bracing, and this is as near to wild as some city-slickers want.
Note: please observe the speed limit. We saw two dead porcupines that we would have much preferred to see alive.