Entering Crescent City, multiple chain stores assaulted my vision. Progress had come to the quiet, unique seaside town, gobbled it up and spit out a bland ghost of what had been. The loss tugged at me until I reached the southern edge of the city and swung into The Apple Peddler Restaurant for breakfast.
The Denver omelette came with homemade fluffy biscuits and what Grandmother Pearl used to call ‘milk gravy’. The strawberry waffle topped with luscious red strawberries and homemade whipped cream topped off the huge breakfast. A pot of fresh coffee washed it all down and drowned any lingering sadness over Crescent City’s march to ‘ordinariness’.
Chatting with the young waitress moved her to recommend a visit to Ocean World right next door to the restaurant. Normally, I avoid wildlife shows on ethical grounds–objecting to their normal methods of obtaining and keeping wildlife–but replete with a wonderful breakfast, I decided to take a peek.
The show is housed in an old ship brought to land. I followed the young tour guide through the double doors and onto a concrete path through lush green growth. At the end of the room was a large pond. While the guide told us about the starfish whose stomachs “pop out” from their underside and engulf their prey, I picked one up and marveled at the rough exoskeleton. The sea anemones felt soft and slick. The guide demonstrated a great deal of respect for the living creatures she talked about.
Eventually, we left the pond room and moved downstairs to the aquarium exhibits. Each aquarium appeared to be spacious and to mimic a natural environment. The information about the various fish, eels, sharks and stingrays was entertaining and had me considering no more fish and chips, at least for a while. Two of the stingrays were housed at Ocean World due to the lack of a tail which would doom them in the wild. I was shocked that several of the aquatic creatures had lived for over a hundred years! A few of their resident fish could live to be 200 years old.
We climbed the stairs and followed the guide to go pet the sharks. It was my first encounter with a shark, and an eye-opener. Their rough skins and willingness to swim close to the pool edges so we could feel them brush up against our hands, went a long way to helping me appreciate them as sentient creatures that are due respect and protection.
After our shark petting time, we followed the guide to a covered area to watch the sea lions and harbor seals perform. The three sea lions slithered up on the concrete deck to slide to a stop in front of their trainer. She started by having them “wave” to the people. They took turns picking up a flipper and “waving” at us and were immediately rewarded for their friendliness with a fish. The trainer took them through several physical and verbal acts, but my favorite was the rendition of “zombie sea lions”. I’d never suspected sea lions could make such a wide variety of sounds!
After the sea lions slid back into the pool, the harbor seals skidded into the limelight. Harbor seals resembled young kids on sugar highs next to the more sedate sea lions. The harbor seals performed a number of tricks, one being retrieval of a basketball from the pool then bringing it up on the concrete skirt and making a basket with it.
The trainer talked about the positive training methods used in teaching each animal, how each small increment of desired behavior was rewarded while each mistake was simply ignored. She said one of the seals could perform over a hundred tricks while another one could only do a small number. Each had their own specialties. When asked how they acquired the animals, we learned that two of her “crew” had been rescued, including one sea lion that underwent surgery to remove an eye. Other animals were obtained from facilities that had too many animals.
I felt pretty good when I walked out of Ocean World, leaving Cora and her performing kin behind, to head south on Highway 101. Nothing looked familiar, not even the windy road. Made it to my campsite at Hidden Springs on the Avenue of the Giants right before true darkness settled beneath the redwoods.
To see more photos of Cora and her friends at Sea World go to http://www.pinterest.com/ayawalksfar
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