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2021 August 15

Secret Walks: Woodrow-Swanton-Derby Park

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On Saturday August 14, my wife and I took another walk from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover. Because our last walk was hilly, we decided to do a flat one in the neighborhood this week.  The total walk was about 6.8 miles, with 1.7 miles to walk to the start at Woodrow and West Cliff and a somewhat longer route home.

We took King to Miramar, where we crossed Mission to the Safeway shopping center, then Rankin to Bethany Curve, and Bethany Curve to West Cliff. We crossed at West Cliff at Woodrow, and walked west along the West Cliff path.  The path has been eroded in a number of places and is really too narrow now for both pedestrians and bicyclists.  I think that it is time to close a lane of West Cliff Drive and move the bike path onto the closed lane.

We turned up Swanton and right on Modesto Avenue, as the book suggests, but we discovered that there is a parallel secret route, which I’m really surprised is not included in the book: Modesto Alley, parallel to Swanton.  We walked back down Modesto Alley, then a block back on West Cliff to go up Chico Avenue back to Modesto Avenue, where we rejoined the original route that went through Sergeant Derby Park.

We made another modification to the route when we got to Swift and Ingalls, walking through the courtyard and past West End Tap to the rail trail, rather than the route up Swift suggested in the book.  We continued the route in the book back to West Cliff, but did not feel like repeating any section of West Cliff, so we went east of De La Costa, north on Almar, east on Plateau, north on Woodrow, and counterclockwise on Walk Circle.  We stopped at Santa Cruz Market for an It’s It sandwich each, then took California to Palm to Mason to Bay to King to Van Ness to get home.

Here are some pictures from the walk:


This is the pedestrian cut-through connecting the two parts of Bethany Curve. It is one of the wider “secret” connections, but is surprisingly hard to see from even half a block away.


I showed this frame in a post for an earlier walk, but I thought it might be useful to give little more context.


The “naked ladies” (Amaryllis belladonna) are surprisingly hardy and can be found at this time of year all over Santa Cruz. These are near the ocean end of Bethany Curve. We like the bare stalks, but don’t care as much for the pinkness of the flowers. There are other naked-stalk lilies with bolder colors (various Lycoris species), but I’ve not seen them in Santa Cruz.


The walk along West Cliff Drive has several impressive views of waves breaking on the rocks.


Views of beaches, cliffs, and trees are also plentiful.


These conifers (I think a pine and two cypress) are particularly fine.


My wife and I are both partial to the growth patterns of cypress trees.


The waves sometimes get quite high, as evidenced by this strand of kelp dangling from the edge of the cliff, obviously washed up by a high wave and tangled in the ice plant at the top of the cliff.


We’ve known about the existence of the wavemotor for a long time, but never looked for it before. It is easily seen from the point just east of Chico Ave.


The waves were not cooperating while I was photographing, but I did get one shot of the jets of water coming up through the wavemotor. When the waves are bigger, it is probably more impressive.


This map (basemap from Google Maps) shows the location of Modesto Alley and the approximate location of the wavemotor, which is just visible in the satellite view on Google Maps.


Here is the entrance to Modesto Alley from Modesto Ave. The road only extends to the Modesto Alley sewage-lift station.


Past the sewage-lift station is a pleasant walkway that the neighbors have planted as a garden.


I’ve never used this entrance to Sergeant Derby Park before—it used to be easy to cross the Natural Bridges School property (now rented out to Gateway School), but all the Santa Cruz City School properties have now been fenced in to keep the public out, making schools much more prison-like.


The skatebowl in Derby Park is not as modern a skatepark as the others in the city, but it was one of the first public skate parks in the country and is still popular.


Graffiti in the skate bowl is accepted as part of the skateboard culture, but I’m not sure what the building owners think of the graffiti facing the park.


On all our walks, we stop at little free libraries, which Santa Cruz has by the dozens. I was going to check, to see how many were mapped (only a small fraction, I suspect), but the website was not responding.


The obelisk at the “Court of Mysteries” has been nicely restored, but chopping the site up into two lots does somewhat damage the integrity of the art.


The gate and the main building have been restored also, but the big house added on the lot does intrude a bit—unfortunately, building the house was probably the only way to provide the funds for restoring the site and making sure that it was properly cared for.


The second obelisk is really quite close to the new house.


My wife likes this cactus garden, though she thinks that the few non-succulent plants around the edges should be removed and a full desert look maintained.


This fountain decorated with large abalone shells has clearly been here for a while—large abalone shells are now extremely difficult to obtain.

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