Asilomar, Refuge by the Sea

The Beach Entrance Credit: Diane Tatum

The Beach Entrance Credit: Diane Tatum

Asilomar Conference Center sits on the west coast of California where the Monterey Bay meets the Pacific Ocean. Asilomar is a great escape, a refuge, July 2010 the Rarefied Gas Dynamics (RGD) Conference was held at Asilomar Conference Center, a National Historic Landmark. Scientists from around the world came to this unusual coast of California to meet, greet, and inform one another about their work in the scientific community. Spouses came too to play and relax. Asilomar Conference Center is in the Asilomar State Park.

The Asilomar Conference Center is a Great Place to Congregate

The Asilomar Conference Center began life as a YWCA camp in 1913. Architect Julia Morgan’s designed Arts & Crafts style buildings were built beginning in 1918. The rustic Phoebe Hearst Social Hall Lodge boasts a roaring fire each morning (even in July!) and free Internet connection. The Park Store is also located there where lattes and cappuccinos may be found. Self-guided walking tour brochures are available at the Social Hall as well as the lone television in the park. Multiple buildings house guest rooms throughout the grounds. Each building has a social lounge and fireplace for guests to congregate. A phone is available in the common area because individual rooms do not have TVs or telephones in order to keep the refuge feel of the surroundings. Quiet hours are 10 PM to 7 AM by California state park law. This place is truly a quiet place to get away from it all, as much as you would like to do so.

The Crocker Dining Hall is located toward the beach from the Social Hall. In its earliest days, dining took place in a red and white striped circus tent on the beach. In 1918 the dining hall was built and remodeled in 1961, but the original floor is located 27 inches under the current dining hall floor. The staff can serve 760 diners at each meal. Breakfast is included in the cost of the room. All the food is fresh and flavorful and obtained from the fertile fields nearby. A vegetarian choice is also available at each meal.

The Natural Environment is of Prime Importance
The Beach Beckons Credit: Diane Tatum

The Beach Beckons Credit: Diane Tatum

The environment is being preserved at Asilomar. Dead plant life is not removed so it can decay and enrich the sandy soil. The natural habitat of birds and animals is maintained and visitors are reminded to stay on the paths and to not remove any natural elements on the park grounds. Signs warn of the possible presence of mountain lions because this is also their environment. Guests are encouraged to walk in pairs and to keep small children in sight at all times! Water is scarce on the Monterey Peninsula, so guests see frequent reminders about how they can help preserve this resource,

The Coastal Beach Beckons One and All

The sandy white beach calls the visitor to the sea. The waves break onto the white sand bringing in the native kelp that draws a varied wildlife population to these waters. Besides the seagull, cormorants, sea otters, sea lions, and whales call Monterey Bay home. Just off shore, not far from the Asilomar Conference Center grounds, and still within the State Park, the citizens of Bird Rock and Seal Rock congregate for a noisy spectacle. Cameras attempt to capture these conference attendees, but one wonders if the wildlife would take pictures of their audience, if possible!

While the sea beckons the tourist into its waters, the water temperature is around 52°F. The scenic tour guide, Doug, suggests a wet suit if one plans to take a dip. Unlike regular pictures of Sunny California, Asilomar spends much of its day overcast and in a cloudbank. The air temperature mimics the sea – 50°F to perhaps 65°F. The gift shop does a booming business in sweatshirts for the unprepared.

Attractions to Visit Are Nearby

The Monterey Bay Peninsula is marked by many historic and environmental attractions. The communities of Pacific Grove, Carmel by the Sea, Monterey, Salinas, and others dot the roads to Asilomar. John Steinbeck rivals Clint Eastwood as the most famous residents of the area. Steinbeck’s personal and literary histories are bound up together in his famous works that depict this area in Tortilla Flat, Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, and others. The Point Pinos Lighthouse is the oldest continuously operating light on the West Coast. Pacific Grove is also the site of the Monarch Butterfly Conservancy. California Highway 1 winds south down the Big Sur toward Hearst Castle, home of publisher magnate Randolph Hearst, and San Simeon. Whale watching tours, the Elkhorn Slough, and the Monterey Aquarium help engage visitors with nature. Pebble Beach golf courses engage golfers with a different way to experience the beauty of the Monterey Peninsula.

Although the RGD Conference is designed to keep the participants in paper presentations, the area beckons them to play hooky and experience the rich environment that is in and around the Asilomar Conference Center at Asilomar State Park.

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