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2021 November 27

Secret Walks: Neary Lagoon

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On Saturday 27 November, my wife and I  walked the Neary Lagoon loop from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover.  The walk in the book is 1.3 miles, but we rotated and reversed the walk to start at the California Ave entrance to Neary Lagoon and do the floating dock first, added a side trip to Laurel Creek by the Cypress Point Apartments (where lived when I first moved to Santa Cruz, 35 years ago),adding about 0.8 miles, and had 2.3 miles for getting to and from the start, making a total of 4.4 miles—one of our shortest walks so far.  The floating docks were open this time, even though the some of the signs saying they were closed have still not been taken down.


Before leaving on the walk, I saw this marvelous cobweb behind the piano—I’ll have to do a little cleaning!


The settling tank at the sewage-treatment plant is always popular with the mallard ducks.


Here are a male and female mallard in Neary Lagoon.


We saw this bird on a rock just past the end of the Neary Lagoon Pier. We did not get too close, to avoid scaring it away. It appears to be a juvenile double-crested cormorant.


The tule removal this Fall in the lagoon has revealed a few trees that were previously completely hidden by the tule reeds.


There is still enough tule left for the mallards to have comfortable resting places.


There are quite a few American coots in Neary Lagoon, though not nearly as many as the mallard ducks.


I’m not sure what species this bird house is intended for (maybe marsh wrens?). We saw two of the bird houses, but this one has a decided problem with tilt—perhaps it is copying San Francisco’s Millenium Tower?


A landscape of tule and open water—it is rather surprising how well the city is hidden from Neary Lagoon.


Much of the path is boardwalk—even when it is not floating on the Lagoon. I liked the way the trees grew over the path here.

When we got back to dry land, we did not immediately finish the loop, but took a side trip (recommended in the book) to walk along the lagoon on the sanctuary access path by Cypress Point Apartments. We also spent a little time looking for the apartment building I lived in 35 years ago (133 Felix Street). The paint job on the building has changed since then and looks a little more cheerful (though Shelter Lagoon Condominiums seem to have kept the same paint scheme for the 35 years).


I took another picture of the lychee on Neary Street. Most of the fruit seems to have fallen now, but there are still a few high up in the tree.


The mallards like Laurel Creek where it is still narrow and fast flowing (when it has water, that is).


Laurel Creek widens out and slows way down as it enters Neary Lagoon.


We saw a black phoebe on a branch by Cypress Point Apartments and the Shelter Lagoon Condominiums. I could not get close enough to get a really clear shot.

When we got to the end of the path, we did not retrace the path through along the lagoon, but exited through the Shelter Lagoon parking lot, returning to Neary Lagoon Park and continuing the loop around the lagoon.


Here is the path across a field, along the northeast edge of the park.


As we approach the sewage-treatment plant again at the end of the loop, we can look back and see the Dream Inn sticking up above the park.


The path between sewage-treatment plant and the lagoon on the southwest side of the park has nice views of the tule marsh.


I managed to catch another black phoebe flying, showing off its white belly.


We walked past Spring Hill School on the way home, to see the new signage. My wife and I agree that the “SCHOOL” lettering is much too light and won’t be visible from cars driving by. The California poppy is replacing the previous dolphin as the school’s symbol, and the school is being repainted in green and orange to match the colors.


We saw this succulent in flower on Van Ness near California Avenue, but we had no idea what it is. Using Google image search, we have tentatively identified it as Calandrinia spectabilis (rock purslane), a common garden plant originally from Chile.


This Little Free Library on Van Ness Ave often has books my wife finds interesting.


This Little Free Library (on a different block of Van Ness Ave) matches the house nicely, but my wife does not find the book selection as useful.


We often have crows on Van Ness, so I thought I’d round out the bird pictures with ones from outside the park.

We did not stop for lunch on this walk, though I suggested trying the sushi place at Mission and Van Ness (one of the few places along this stretch that has outdoor seating), but my wife had had a late breakfast and the walk was not really long enough to make us very hungry, so we just went home.

2021 November 23

Secret Walks: Riverwalk

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On Saturday 20 November, I  walked the Riverwalk loop from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover.  The walk in the book is 3.8 miles, but I walked another 1.4 miles on each end, totalling 6.6 miles.My wife did not accompany me for this walk—her hip was bothering her, she had been exposed to Covid at work and had not had a second negative test yet, and she does not like walking by the homeless encampment on the river.


Pacific Avenue downtown was block by this large crane, which was replacing the HVAC equipment on the top of Cooper House.


Here is a view of the crane with one of the old pieces of duct work.


An unidentified bird under Water Street bridge.


The levee on the west side of the San Lorenzo river, looking north. There are a lot of young trees in the flood plain.


Large old logs between the levees have been cut up—probably so that they don’t jam against the bridges and cause flooding if we ever get enough rain to float them again.


There are a number of public exercise machines on the Riverwalk by Gateway Plaza, just a little downstream of Highway 1.


The pedestrian bridge across the river just below Highway is fairly heavily used, both by homeless people and by people living in houses on the east side of the river.


Here is the view upstream from the pedestrian bridge, showing how little water there is in the river and how much traffic there is on Highway 1.


The view looking south (downstream) along the levee on the east side of the river.


In San Lorenzo Park, which is just across the river from where the loop started, there is a bowling green. This used to have lawn bowling, but the lawn has been replaced by an artificial surface, so now it is more like indoor-outdoor carpet bowling.


There are hundreds of tents for homeless people on the benchlands of San Lorenzo Park, making a rather stark contrast to the bowling green, duck pond, and play structures of the rest of the park. This picture shows only a small fraction of the homeless encampment, which fills the benchlands next to the river below the levee. The encampment is at serious risk of flooding if we get a heavy rain.


The duck pond in San Lorenzo Park has a small stage in the middle (which used to be used a lot for free concerts). Ducks can be seen resting in the shade under the stage.


The mallard on the left is the most commonly seen duck in Santa Cruz—I think that this is the first time I’ve seen a merganser (the duck on the right) in Santa Cruz, though they are also supposed to be fairly common.


Here is the merganser again, surrounded by mallards (there were another 20–50 mallards not in the frame here).


This concrete play structure has been in San Lorenzo Park for at least 20 years, but all the other play structures that were there when my son was of an age to visit playgrounds have since been replaced.


I have always liked speaking tubes in playgrounds—here are the two ends of the one in San Lorenzo Park.


Ground squirrels are very common in open fields throughout Santa Cruz—including in the river bed.


Coots on the river.


There were a lot of gulls on the river, but they suddenly took off, wheeled around a few times, and settled back on the river. It was hard photographing them, because of where the sun was.


Crossing back to the west side of the river on the pedestrian path on the railway trestle gives a nice view of the log ride at Santa Cruz Boardwalk. As seems to be the standard every time I cross this bridge, there was a Chinese tour group crossing the other way.


Here is part of the flock of gulls I showed earlier, now from the west side of the river, with the light behind me.


I’m not 100% sure, but I think that this is a female goldeneye. Even at max zoom, I could not get a clear view of the bird. (I’m seriously thinking of getting a camera with much more zoom.)


There is another set of public exercise equipment just below the Laurel Street bridge.

After finishing the Rivierwalk loop, I had lunch downtown: a grilled-cheese sandwich at Central Coast Creamery in Abbot Square, followed by an ice-cream cone at The Penny Ice Creamery (pecan pie and crême fraiche with dates). I had to wait in line for 15 minutes at the Penny, because the weather was so nice that everyone was getting ice cream, and they only had one person working the counter (staffing retail and restaurants has been difficult lately).

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