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2022 April 30

Secret Walks: Climate Action Fair

On Saturday, 23 April 2022, my wife and I walked to the Seymour Center to see what the Climate Action Fair was like.  We decided to take a different route there than returning, taking advantage of what we had learned from the Long-Antonelli Loop.


Click for high-resolution map. We went down King to the end (red), then over to Swift down to the rail-trail, down Natural Bridges to Delaware, Delaware to the trailer park, and around the pond to the bridge (yellow), then over to UCSC’s coastal campus and to the Seymour Center parking lot (green) where the Fair was held. Our return route went on the paths through the coastal campus, crossing the tracks at Shaffer Road, Mission to Western Drive, then Grandview to Escalona to Anthony to Bay to King and home (blue). The whole walk was about 5.6 miles.

I got a few decent bird and flower photos on the walk:


These blossoms on a tree on King Street were unfamiliar to us. After searching with Google Lens (using this and another photo of the tree), I think is is either an ash or a pistachio tree.


There are plenty of lupines blooming around town, but I can’t tell the different species and cultivars apart.


I was trying to take a picture of the fortnight lily—the hoverfly was an unexpected bonus.


Now that the trees and shrubs have leafed out, we only get peeks at Antonelli Pond from Delaware Ave.


In the park by the pond in the trailer park, California poppies are blooming.


So are the water lilies in the pond.


We did not recognize this yellow flower, but Google Lens identified it as silverweed.


In the overflow from the pond down to the beach, we saw a dark-eyed junco bathing. I had a hard time photographing it, because it moved around a lot, dunking itself and shaking the water off.


Here is a view of the pocket beach from the Peter Sunzeri Memorial Bridge over the pond.


One of the mobile homes has these cheerful porpoises decorating the end wall.


From Horizon Drive, there is a very good view of Natural Bridges State Beach and the tidepools. The tide seemed unusually low to us.


I can’t resist taking pictures of these agave whenever I pass them.


The mast of the wrecked ship La Feliz is still on display on the edge of the cliff, but I don’t know much longer it will be there—it looks like a good storm could either break the mast or erode the cliff beneath it.


We saw this song sparrow, but could not identify what sort of sparrow it was until I got the zoomed-in pictures off my camera.


Here is another view of the song sparrow.


At the Climate Action Fair, the best table was for the Marine Mammal Center, who had some lovely casts of skulls of marine mammals (and a few real skulls, though not in this photo).


More of the cast skulls, plus a couple of real skulls in front—the white one with a crest is the skull of a male sea lion .

There looked like there were other interesting tables and activities at the Climate Action Fair, but the awful music was way too loud and unrelenting. I’m going deaf and I found the music uncomfortably loud—my wife could not stand to be closer than about a quarter mile from it. Going into the Seymour Center only made the noise worse. Talking to people at the tables was nearly impossible, so we just got arepas from the Pana food truck and went home. If I knew who was responsible for organizing the fair, and if I knew they were planning to do such a fair again, I would tell them to throw away the amplifiers—have acoustic music or no music, so that the other activities had a chance.


We were unable to identify this yellow flower—we think it is probably a California native planted as part of the restoration of the wetlands, but my photo was not distinctive enough to identify it.


This yellow flower seems to be a gumweed, though I’m not sure which one.


We consider our walks well-formed if we see an egret—and here was a great egret hunting in the grasslands that (in a normal rain year) would be wetlands.


The great egret was successful in its hunt—we think it caught a gopher, but at max zoom I could not hold the camera steady enough (even with the monopod) to get a clear photo of the prey.


We saw a Little Free Library in the middle of the Homeless Garden, but I only took a photo of it from the road—we did not wish to take books away from the homeless people that the library was clearly intended for.


This grand pink flower stalk is from a Bechorneria. (The leaves are green—those red leaves in front are a different plant.)


The bees really love the echium flowers. I think that this was a different echium than Pride of Madeira, but I could be wrong.


As we crossed Highway 1 at Western Drive, we saw a shaved-ice truck parked in the shade, but we did not stop to get anything, as we had the walk light to cross the other way.


The leucospermums are still blooming all over town.


We had not seen this Little Free Library before, but there was nothing in it that we fancied.


This weird blue and purple flower seems to be a Cerinthe major (also known as honey wort).

2022 March 18

Secret Walks: Harvey West-Quarry loop

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 14:57
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On Saturday 4 March 2022, my wife and I took a short (3.97 miles) but slightly hilly walk to the quarry owned by the Springtree Homeowners Association, which is where the spring is that gives Spring Street its name.


We started on the red route to get to Harvey West Park and go up the Wagner Grove trail, then the orange route to get to the quarry. In retrospect, we should have taken the yellow route, which would have given us another pedestrian-only path on the route and eliminated the one duplicated block that we walked. We then took the green route: the stairs up to Limestone Lane, down to the pedestrian cut-through to Quarry Court, and down to Westlake. From there we took the blue route home.(Click image for higher-resolution map.)


This mixture of snapdragons on King Street was a colorful display.


I’m partial to weird flowers, like this grevillea.


The fig trees were just beginning to open their leaf buds.


This is the first time I’ve noticed seedpods on a redbud.


This huge yucca plant is an impressive front-yard tree.


I’m no good at telling the various fruit-tree blossoms apart, but I like them all for the short time that they are around.


This walk has a lot of Little Free Libraries—and we picked up a few books that my wife wanted on this walk.


Most of the calla lilies around here are large white ones, but a few people have planted smaller colored ones—they don’t seem to naturalize as much (which is probably a good thing).


Neither my wife nor I recognized this plant as baby sage (Salvia microphylla), but Google Lens identified it for us.


Both my wife and I like the architecture of the Piedmont Court, which is now senior condos. I was playing with the zoom on the camera to get this view of the medallion in the center.


On the path above Highway 1, we saw wild cucumber.


We also saw a dead tree with these weird seed clusters—we believe it is (was) some sort of eucalyptus.


The buckeye trees have fresh young leaves and catkin-like flowers—very different from their late summer appearance.


Our route took us past the Evergreen Cemetery—one of our walks will have to go through the cemetery, looking at all the gravestones, but that was not part of this walk.


We walked up the path through the Wagner Grove, which I had done before, but my wife had not.


The only part of the walk that made my wife uncomfortable was scrambling under this fallen tree, as the path underneath has mostly crumbled away and has quite a cross-slope. A little path repair here would be welcome. (There is an alternative route going back a little ways and climbing up to a slightly higher trail that we have taken before.)


This plant was identified by Google Lens as black nightshade. I can usually only identify nightshade when it has berries.


Looking back from the stairs need the top of the park shows the redwoods lining the (mostly dry) creek.


Our second Little Free Library of the walk.


This old machinery in the quarry may have been part of pumps used to drain the quarry, back when it was used as a quarry.


The quarry itself is mostly a tule marsh now, with the tule reeds covering at least 80% of the pond.


I was amused by this palm tree crossing (and almost blocking) the outflow from the pond. I also wonder how often the wooden retaining walls for the outflow need to be replaced.


The Springtree Homeowners Association maintains a nice picnic area tucked back behind the pond.


I was playing with my zoom again, to get a picture of the fence at the top of the quarry taken from the picnic area.


These steps up to Limestone Lane are referred to as the “dragon stairs” by one of my wife’s former colleagues, who lives near the base of them. (We ran into him and chatted for a while on this walk.)


This pedestrian path runs from Limestone Lane to Quarry Court.


Here is our third Little Free Library.


And our fourth.




And sixth.


In Westlake, we saw a cormorant sunning itself in the middle of the lake. It looks like a turtle has joined it.


There are almost always mallards.


But the ring-necked ducks are more unusual sight.


Coots are very common.


But buffleheads are a rarer sighting.


Canada geese and mallards are the most commonly seen birds, though the canada geese may be seasonal.


Frosty the Lamppost is a rather light-hearted yard ornament.


Coming down the steep part of Laurent, there are some fine blooms of pride-of-madeira. The bees were delighted with them, and I managed to get a couple of shots of the bees. I find bees and hummingbirds difficult to get pictures of—by the time I have found them and gotten the picture framed, they have usually flown away.

We probably won’t be doing a walk this weekend—not only is it supposed to rain on Saturday, but I’ll be judging at the Santa Cruz County Science and Engineering Fair all day.

2022 March 7

Secret Walks: Circles

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 13:54
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On Saturday 7 March 2022, my wife and I decided to do a flat, local walk that we could end early if we got tired or bored.  We chose to walk around in circles—the Circles, to be precise.  We wanted to take all the pedestrian cut-throughs in the Circles, as well as walking each of the circular streets. The route was complicated enough that I traced it out on a map ahead of time, and consulted the map several times along the way.


Click the map to get a higher-resolution printable image. Our route started with the red segment along Seaside to Garfield Park; then the orange to get Bethany Curve with its cut-through and part of Walk Circle; then the yellow around Wilkes Circle; then the green to get the two cut-throughs to Errett Circle; then the blue to get part of Dufour, finish Walk Circle, more of Dufour, Crow Street, Gharkey, and Continental; and finally back up Dufour and Palm to go home.

The route was about 5.78 miles for us, but a more compact route could be made by starting at the parking lot at Palm Drive, across Mission from the CVS, or from the bike path along the railroad tracks.


This house on our street has been empty for the 35 years we’ve lived here—the owners inherited it, I think, and pay almost no tax on it. They have recently done minimal maintenance (like adding a board to the front window to keep the glass from falling out after the building was red-tagged), but it would really be a service to the community if they would sell the house to someone who would fix it and live in it.


The bougainvillea on the unoccupied house is probably its best feature.


I spotted this wind vane on King Street—I’d never noticed it before. The zoom on the camera let me get a decent look at it.


The bees were very busy again this weekend—I managed to get a picture of one hovering at this flower. Google Lens thinks that the flower is Escallonia, which seems plausible to me.


The redbud trees are now in bloom.


This dragon sculpture has a comfortable perch in the tree, but it may be a little hard to spot with the green camoflage.


It has been years since we visited Garfield Park—the concrete tables with the permanent ping-pong nets are new.


This mosaic bench by the children’s playground is also new (to us), and (of course) all the playground equipment has been replaced since we used to bring our son here about 24 years ago.


We were not familiar with this purple flowering shrub and had to look it up (using Google Lens) when we got home. It seems to be Psoralea pinnata, a South African native.


We both admired the texture of the bark on this tree.


The leucospermum plants are in bloom all over town. I’m not sure, but I think that this may be the “Flame Giant” cultivar of Leucospermum cordifolium.


This house had unusual supports for the overhang—I’ve not seen slanting supports like this before. I suspect it was done to leave room for a car on the driveway.


Santa Cruz has art cars all over town—this one was parked on Errett Circle next to the church in the center of the circles.


This house is one of the older ones in the circles—it used to be a store, many years ago. My wife is particularly fond of the false front, which is common for commercial buildings, but rare on houses.


This potato vine (Solanum jasminoides) had exuberant blooms and looked like there were more to come.


Here is another store-to-house conversion (on Errett Circle next to the Circle Market). I can remember when this was still a commercial building (I think that there was a hair stylist there). The whole block between Pendegast and Woodrow is still zoned for neighborhood commercial.


I think that this leucospermum is the “Tango” cultivar, based on photos found by Google Lens.


This house has a really weird shape, as if someone had sliced the end off a much larger house. More likely, it was an attempt to get as much house onto the narrow lot as possible at the lowest cost.


Every time we walk in the Circles, we make a point of stopping at Santa Cruz Market and buying It’s It ice-cream sandwiches. Many of the small independent groceries and convenience stores in Santa Cruz have closed over the past 35 years, so we do what we can to keep the remaining ones in business.


I like rain chains (we have some fairly simple ones on our house), but this pineapple rain chain is one of the more unusual ones I’ve seen.


We did not recognize this tree, so I used Google Lens to try to identify the combination of flower, bud, and seed pod. It seems to be a Paulownia tomentosa, native to China.


As always, we stopped at each of the Little Free Libraries that we saw. This one is next to the “Crow Street” walkway.


Here is Crow Street, with the Little Free Library visible to the left.


This is one of the narrowest Little Free Libraries we’ve seen.


The California poppies brighten up the new drainage by the bike path at Palm Street.


This Little Free Library on Mason was the third one on this walk.


We were a little confused by the white flag on the library, but when we turned it around we realized that there was a Ukranian flag on what should have been the front.


The owner of the pedicabs on King Street has wrapped one of his pedicabs with a political poster, expressing his opposition to the NIMBY-inspired “Greenway” that is trying to prevent trains from ever returning to Santa Cruz.


Here is a side view of the pedicab. The Greenway petitioners did get enough signatures to get their issue on the ballot—now I just hope that they lose on the ballot, so that the rail-with-trail design and repair can continue.

This walk was probably our most complicated one so far, but a very easy one to cut short if we needed to, as Garfield Park was as far as we ever got from home.

2022 March 6

Secret Walks: Moore Creek

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On Saturday 26 Feb 2022, my wife and I walked in Moore Creek Preserve, which we had not done before, though it was purchased by the city in 1998. Our route started up Bayona Drive and taking Nobel Drive around to cut through University Terrace Park to Meder Street.  The entrance to the Preserve is at the end of Meder Street.  We walked most of the trails on the City’s map, though the Coast Vista trail pretty much disappeared after the first 100 feet or so, and so we just wandered a bit through the cow pasture before returning to the Prairie View Trail.  We returned home along Bay, as Bayona is too steep for my wife to be comfortable going downhill.  The whole walk was only 7.2 miles, but there was a fair amount of elevation change, and it was quite sunny on the meadows, so we were a bit tired and dehydrated by the time we got home.


We started on the route marked in red, then down Moore Creek Trail (orange), up Terrace Loop Trail (yellow), around Vernal Ridge Trail (green), down Prairie View Trail (light blue), back up Prairie View Trail (dark blue), back Moore Creek Trail (orange), and home again (purple). Click on image for high-resolution copy.


The matilija poppy, known as the fried-egg plant, or Texas fried egg, is a popular garden plant. The blooms are everywhere at this time of year.


This treehouse on Escalona (near Bayona) was the subject of some controversy, because they did not get a permit for it and some neighbors complained.


My wife and I disagreed about what sort of fruit tree this was—and I now think we were both wrong. I now think it is a plum.


This little free library is a little cruder construction than most, but it seems to work ok (a latch to hold it closed would help).


This little free library is located in University Terrace Park, rather than on private property as most are.


I took a lot of pictures of branches on this walk—I think that these are near University Terrace Park.


The entrance to the Moore Creek Preserve has a warning about mountain lions—we did not see any (nor did we expect to).


There is a lot of epiphytic moss growing on trees in Moore Creek Preserve.


This flower is probably a field forget-me-not (Myosotis arvensis).


The trail is narrow, but very quiet—we only saw five other people the whole time we were in the preserve.


Blackberries have started blooming, though it is somewhat early for them.


The branches here were mostly grey, so I thought the photo would look better treated as a high-contrast black-and-white image.


The roots growing up the side of the ravine seem to be contributing to the cracking of the limestone.


Another shot of branches that I thought worth putting in black-and-white.


The rock here has an overhang that is big enough to sit under.


I’ve no idea what sort of spider spun this funnel-shaped web.


These reddish plants were fairly common—I think that they are sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella).


Yet more branches. The trees along Moore Creek are good subjects—they hold still while I try to photograph them (unlike birds).


Coming out of valley that the creek is in opens up to hill going up to the sky (though it is really neither long nor steep).


The trees are clustered in the valleys, with meadows around them.


I can’t identify this raptor from its silhouette, and I barely managed to get a photo of it at high zoom.


More trees!


More moss!


Coming out of the trees to a sunny meadow.


This tree looks like it is struggling in a high wind, but I think it is faking it for the visual effect.


I was not familiar with these little yellow flowers, but I’ve tentatively identified them as goldfields (Lasthenia glabrata).


There were cattle in the meadow, so the preserve (at this time of year) is not a place to take bovinophobes, nor small children who might run up to the cattle to hug them.


The crows wheeling in the sky were the noisiest thing on the walk.


I got this somewhat blurry picture at full zoom of a raptor on a fence post. I believe that it is an American kestrel.


This flower was growing everywhere. I believe that it is Taraxia ovata, also known as sun cup or goldeneggs.


In a cow pasture it is not surprising to find Scathophaga stercoraria, the yellow dung fly.


The cattle themselves were quite placed and showed no interest in us (though we never went close to any of them). I believe that all the animals were steers being raised for beef, but I’m not certain of that.


There was one distinctive animal with long horns.


I believe that these sparrows are non-breeding golden-crowned sparrows.


This picture shows the limestone rock formations that line the Moore Creek trail (hiker shown for scale).


Back in domestic gardens, here is a sticky monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus), which is a popular native plant for gardens.

I’m almost caught up in blogging about the walks—I just have yesterday’s walk to write up!

2022 January 23

Secret Walks: East Harbor–Arana Gulch

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 15:16
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On Saturday 22 January 2022, my wife and I did the last of our walks from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover: the East Harbor–Arana Gulch loop.  We rotated the loop to start and end in Arana Gulch (the closest point for us).  Walking to Arana Gulch, we took Laurel and Broadway to Ocean View then moved over a block to Windsor to Harbor (2.9 miles).  The loop itself was 2.6 miles, and we walked back along Windham to Ocean View, took Soquel to downtown, and took our usual route home up Lincoln (3.2 miles).  So the total walk was 8.7 miles.

This walk was the first one using my new Panasonic Lumix ZS80 ultrazoom camera.  I carried it on a cross-body sling (OP/TECH USA 1601512), and I had the monopod that my son gave me, to steady the camera on telephoto shots. Eventually I put the monopod on the camera even when carrying it, because holding the camera with the stick was steadier than the usual grip.  I only extended the monopod to take telephoto pictures.

I played a lot with taking long telephoto shots, because that was something I could not do with the old camera or the phone. Most of them are not worth showing, but I’ll include a few anyway. The longest distance shot I took was of the Chaminade at 1.6 miles, but I also tried telephoto shots of water birds, sail boats, stand-up paddleboarders, … .  Framing the extreme telephoto shots was often difficult, as even the smallest hand tremor made me lose the subject.  The camera does have a button on the back for temporarily dezooming and rezooming, but using it was a bit tricky, as it required (for me) changing hand positions.

This sea otter painting on electric box (corner of Ocean and Broadway) is one I’ve always liked. My wife and I couldn’t help noticing that the electric box in front of the Art League had not been painted yet—this seems like a missed opportunity for the Art League.

This garden ornament was much easier to photograph with the telephoto lens.

As was this one facing it.

I rather like the unusual slightly domed top to the tower on this house.

In Arana Gulch the cows graze at this time of year, to keep the grass down and allow the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant to grow. The cows have ear tags with their names—these two are Megan and Lili.

I took a picture of the Chaminade resort from Arana Gulch, a distance of about 1.6 miles. Haze and perhaps a little motion blur from the camera limited the quality of the picture.

Here is where we joined the “official” walk. The instructions are a bit unclear about which path to take, but it is the lower, wider one that is relevant.

We saw some miner’s lettuce planted beside the harbor—my wife thinks that it might be a good thing for us to grow.

The colors of the kayaks made for a cheerful image.

This pipe seems to be part of the dredging infrastructure.

Live crabs were for sale directly from boats in several places in the harbor. The crab season is fairly short.

This duck appears to be a female common goldeneye. I had some difficulty keeping the duck in frame at the high zoom I was using—a focal length, equivalent to 944mm for a 35mm camera. There is a little blurring here, but I’m not sure if that is from the autofocus or motion blur.

This grebe was even further away—I used a focal length equivalent to 1319mm on 35mm. Its foot at the back is raised—a maneuver unique to grebes called “foot-shipping”. Supposedly they shake the water off and either leave the foot in the sun or tuck in under their wing to conserve heat.

The ripples and the grebe made a nice abstract image (the 35mm equivalent here was 1720mm).

Another crab sale—this one with a little more visible advertising.

We did not get very close to the Walton lighthouse, but the telephoto lens does a fair job of capturing it.

The sailboat was far enough away, and there was enough haze over the water, that this zoom that combines optical and digital zoom (2010mm equivalent) resulted in a rather impressionistic rendering of the sailboat. The optical zoom runs out at 720mm equivalent.

The standup paddleboard picture was also an attempt to see how much zoom I could use.

The recent Tongan volcano did cause a tsunami to flood the parking lot at the harbor.

Notices for entering and leaving the low-lying region immediately around the harbor are fairly clear.

The harbormaster has a nice lookout over the lower harbor.

These pigeons on the wires were there pretty much the whole time. Here I’ve used moderate zoom (equivalent of 160mm) to frame the picture.

Again, playing with the zoom let me see the birds much closer than my old camera (the equivalent of 1293mm here).

Looking back down the Mello steps gives a fair idea how steep they are.

This is a full wide-angle shot (the equivalent of 24mm) of Arana Creek from the bridge spanning it.

Here I’ve zoomed into just a little part of the previous image (883 mm equivalent, so a little bit of digital zoom past the 720mm optical zoom).

The shadows on the bridge show off the cut-metal panels.

This darkling beetle (family Tenebrionidae) was photographed in Arana Gulch, but I have no idea which of the 20,000 species it is.

On Windham we cam across a new Little Free Library—so new it did not have any books yet. (If we’d known we’d find an empty library, we would have brought some books with us to add.)

I like this photo of a painted electric box because of the juxtaposition of a real palm leaf with the painted palm on the box.

Although we have finished all the walks in the book, we don’t plan to stop walking—we’ll just have to start making up our own routes. If locals have suggestions for us (preferably no more than 9 miles, including walking to and from our house), please let me know.

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