SURFING SEA LIONS & THE 7 CAVES OF LA JOLLA – September 2016 Art Journal


I love the sea lions in La Jolla.  Trying to get away from people, the sea lions have moved over to the rocks in front of the Women’s Bridge Club building now.  This area of natural rocks is called “The Point” and is like a natural jetty that juts out between Boomer’s Beach & The La Jolla Cove.  Now that it is September I know that I can arrive early in the morning and be able to observe the sea lions living their lives peacefully until people arrive.  Where the rocks jut up against the seawall beds of green succulents with thick leaves seem to make a perfect mattress for the sea lions to sleep on.  I smile at the sight of a huge male sea lion sleeping spread-eagled with his flippers flopped open like angel wings.  An adorable beige colored juvenile sea lions is nestled into the succulent plants as he sleeps away into pleasant sea lion dreams.  The succulents have been rather trampled by the sea lions who weigh hundreds of pounds, but right now they sleep like they are on down-filled mattresses!  This is prime sleeping space!  I think there are about 100 sea lions here this morning.  The sea lions sleeping on bare rocks snuggle together using each other as a plump cushion to sleep on.  Sleep my little sea lions, sleep in as long as you can.  Soon enough the tide will change and big, wet, cold waves will splash onto them rudely waking them up, but right now they enjoy sleeping & I enjoy seeing them. 

Because the sea lions were there undisturbed by people, I return early the next morning with my camera to take more photos of them.  This morning I am delighted by the sight of surfing sea lions!  The waves breaking on Boomer’s Beach are popular with body boarders, but this morning the waves are filled with sea lions.  Six or seven sea lions ride the waves at one time.  They look like inshore dolphins that we see surfing the waves quite a lot up at Torrey Pines state beach, but these are surfing sea lions!  I laugh and laugh.  After they ride the wave, they somersault like sea lion gymnists over the back of the breaking wave.  They are having so much fun.  I watch them surf the wave with their front flippers held tightly up against their sides & they do it over & over again.  A few sea gulls are floating on the ocean behind the waves & I spot a gull scarfing up part of a fish dropping out of a sea lion’s mouth.  These sea lions might look like they are having fun, but I think they are also fishing for breakfast.  My camera clicks & clicks to capture these moments to share, but I know that these moments have already been captured into my heart forever.  If only people really saw sea lions living in nature, they might never want to watch a sea lion in a costume perform in a SeaWorld show again. 

For decades I thought that La Jolla meant “The Jewel”, but people have researched the origin of the word La Jolla & have speculated that it is a Spanish geographical term, hoya or joya or jolla, which means hollows on the coast worn by waves.  The Kumeyaay Indians word is matku-laahuuy, which means a place that has holes or caves.  This makes perfect sense to me because there are many caves here on the coast between La Jolla Shores & the La Jolla Cove. 

When I was 19 years old, a girlfriend & I giggled our way down 145 slippery stairs of the Sunny Jim cave to the bottom of the cave.  Sometimes sea lions sit on the rocks at the mouth of the cave & when they bark the echos are very loud!  Kayakers like to enter the entrance on the north & exit through the other entrance known as The Clam.  It can be a dicey enterprise for kayakers who have no experience navigating the tidal surge in & out of the cave.  The Clam entrance is easily seen from the walkway above & is a much photographed spot. 

An interesting bit of history about the Sunny Jim cave is that the entrance was dug out in 1902 by Chinese laborers and visitors had to climb down a rope before stairs were added in 1912.  A legend about Sunny Jim cave is that during Prohibition in the 1920s it was used to smuggle alcohol into La Jolla.  In 1920 the Wizard of Oz author, L. Frank Baum, visited the cave & thought the mouth of the cave looked like a popular cartoon character from back then & the name stuck.

Walking down the stairs to Goldfish Point & standing on the wooden viewing deck I can can look north & get a glimpse of the other 6 caves in this area.  These caves were eroded by the sea about 200,000 years ago & are known as White Lady, Little Sister, Shopping Cart, Sea Surprise and Arch Cave.  I love this area of La Jolla because it is only accessible by boat, there are no beaches here & the bluffs over the caves are used for nesting by Cormorants. 

A few years ago I went to the Bower’s Museum & was fascinated to find something called “Cog Wheels” in the southern California American Indian exhibit.  These “cog wheels” are stones which have been discovered buried along different sites of rivers & the ocean from Malibu to just south of La Jolla.  The stones are sometimes carved into the shapes of starfish, sea urchins, bones of fish & “cog wheels”.  There is no known purpose for these stones & it is suspected that they are a sign of respect for the sea by Southern California Indians living on the coast.  These stones are thousands of years old and cog stones are found nowhere else in the world!  I have always thought that La Jolla is a sacred area & I have experienced moments here where it seems that the energy of nature just shimmers into my soul.  I am grateful to know that it was a sacred place to the American Indians here in Southern California.  Coincidentally, this area is now a protected marine park so people continue to realize the importance of protecting this sacred space.

I walk down to Casa Beach to view the Harbor seal colony and the weather is still a bit warm for them to lie on the hot sand all day, but there are 82 Harbor seals on beach now in the early morning and more than 30 seals on the reef rocks behind the sea wall.  I can see that some of them are molting their fur, which causes a splotchy sort of coat, but they are still beautiful.  It is very early morning and when I walk quietly out onto the sea wall, the Harbor seals are startled and immediately lift up their heads to see if they need to flee into the sea.  I stop walking & stand still willing them to know that I mean no harm.  The Harbor seals are much shyer than the barking sea lions.  Soon as September weather cools & even the beaches in La Jolla empty out at summer’s end, the colony of 250 Harbor seals will return to their hang out.  It is a good thing.

Often I drive over Mt. Soledad from Pacific Beach to get into the village of La Jolla.  I like to drive this way because there is less traffic and at the top of Mt. Soledad the views of the ocean landscape are stunning.  Driving down one side of Mt. Soledad brings a breathtaking view of La Jolla Shores with their lined streets of palm trees & Scripps Pier.  Driving down another road into the village brings the horizon view of the ocean, which always makes my heart skip a beat.  Returning to the sea even when I’ve only been away for a day brings enormous joy.  September’s coastal fog has returned now so sunsets can be muted due to thick clouds.  This particular evening rays of light stream down from the clouds into the sea & where the sun rays enter the ocean there are pools of light.  The thing about beauty is that it never ends.  It is always there waiting for me to stop & see it.  There is never a good reason not to be at the beach.

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