I started a free Substack newsletter! It’s called My California. I’m writing about California history, sharing personal anecdotes about growing up in California, and exploring other things I’m interested in—so far, this has meant ghosts and grizzly bears, earthquakes and elephant seals. I’ve got lots of little-known-facts coming up, too!
Please subscribe if these kinds of things are of interest to you. I’m posting twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Here’s a little-known-fact to get you started:
William Randolph had his own zoo at Hearst Castle. He had caged animals on “Animal Hill,” but he let field animals like zebras roam free on 40,000 acres of ranchland. The zoo was closed a long time ago, but the zebras were left to live their lives in the hills east of San Simeon. You can still see the descendents of Hearst’s original zebras roaming free on the property, sometimes right at the property’s border near Highway 1.
I’ve only seen the wild zebras once in the 25+ years I’ve lived in San Luis Obispo County. It’s like spotting unicorns! Or wild zebras. San Simeon is remote, on the way to Big Sur, so I don’t make the drive up as often as I should. On Valentine’s Day 2014, I was broken-hearted. I had just ended a relationship with a longtime boyfriend and moved out of our condo. I was getting ready to move into a studio apartment, but it wasn’t ready yet. I decided to make the best of it and drive up to San Simeon for a few days.
It was early evening and I was almost to my destination when I spotted several cars pulled off Highway 1. People were out of their cars, looking at something. Then I saw what they were looking at … wild zebras! I’d heard about them on my half dozen or so tours of Hearst Castle, but I’d never seen them. I pulled over and watched them for a while, took a few pictures, and felt a little less heartbroken.