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2022 January 11

Secret Walks: North Riverwalk

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Last weekend my wife did not feel like doing one of our long walks, so on Sunday 9 January 2022, I did the North Riverwalk walk from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover.  The whole round trip from home to the Chinatown pedestrian bridge plus the loop itself was only 4.1 miles. The book cheats a bit in the Riverwalk chapter, listing three walks, when there are really only two (North Riverwalk and South Riverwalk) and their concatenation.  The next edition of the book should replace the concatenation with a real different walk (it should also fix the mention of the lawn bowling green, which is no longer turf but indoor-outdoor carpeting).

My wife does not like walking on the Riverwalk, because of the number of homeless people camping on the benchlands and on the levees.  I sympathize with her discomfort—the Riverwalk could be a very attractive park if not for the homeless encampments.  The City keeps promising to do something better for the homeless, but nothing ever seems to happen (despite spending a fair amount of City money).


I noticed this plaque in the sidewalk in front of the Cooper House downtown—I think that it is a claim that some of the sidewalk is privately owned and not city right of way.


The river was very low on Sunday, and there were islands with driftwood on them.


More driftwood caught by the willows further upstream.


Looking downstream from the pedestrian bridge just below Highway 1, you can see that the river is only filling a small part of the channel.


Upstream from the pedestrian bridge the sandbar and debris from when the river was much higher a couple of weeks ago are clearly visible.


Coming back along the east levee gives another good view of driftwood caught by the willows.


Looking upstream from the Chinatown pedestrian bridge shows the islands and sandbars left by the high water of Dec 13, 4 weeks earlier.


On the way home, I snapped a picture of one of my favorite tree-fence interactions (on Cleveland Avenue). The tree seems to be winning now.


Also crossing Cleveland is a little streamlet that has been channelized into a very narrow concrete channel. It nearly always has a little water flowing in it, even in the summer.

These pictures were taken with my moto g(7) cellphone, because my new ultrazoom camera did not arrive until Monday. Next weekend will be the last of the walks from the Secret Walks book, and the first using the new camera.

2021 November 23

Secret Walks: Riverwalk

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:34
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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).

2021 July 30

Secret Walks: Lower Riverwalk

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:06
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On Tuesday this week, my wife and I took a short walk from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover. We’ve been doing one walk per section before repeating a section, and the only section we had not done yet was the Riverwalk, so we did the lower Riverwalk loop.  For once, we did not need to rotate the walk, but could start it at the official start.


Quite recently, the pedestrian bridge over the San Lorenzo River was given decorative “gate” (which you can’t actually walk under) to commemorate what used to be a Chinatown in Santa Cruz. This is where the walk officially starts.


The uprights of the gate have two bronze plaques—one gives a little history of the Chinatown.


The other plaque explains the symbolism of the gate and its construction.


This is the back side of the dragon gate.


The water in the river was about as low as I have seen it—we were probably at low tide, and there is not much fresh-water flow with the drought this year.


One reason my wife does not like walking on the Riverwalk is the enormous number of homeless encampments. The biggest one is on the benchlands below the the government center and does not really encroach on the walk, but there are smaller ones like this one.


The Soquel Avenue bridge is not very decorative from above (despite some nice mosaics by the local middle school), but the sculpting of the piers is rather nice.


The backs of the buildings on Pacific Avenue are more attractive from across the river than they are up close.


This house on East Cliff has a rather impressive retaining wall holding up the cliff.


The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park is somewhat attractive from across the river.


Here is another view of the Boardwalk, showing also the railway trestle that has a pedestrian path across the river.


There were many egrets along the edges of the river, probably enjoying the wading at low tide. I took a lot of pictures, but mostly they birds were too far away for me to get good shots with only a 5× zoom.

One small error in the book (on p. 129) is that the authors put the intersection of Third and Leibrandt streets on the wrong side of the Riverside Avenue bridge. We were also unable to find the marker they mentioned showing the height of the 1955 flood, though there were a few places where plaques had obviously been removed.


On the city side of the river, coming back to the dragon gate, there are a lot of mosaics of different birds. I believe that these mosaics (like the ones on the bridges) were done by the local middle school.


There are also a number of mosaics of aquatic life.

My wife did not enjoy this walk as much as the others—mainly because of the homeless encampments. The loop itself is 1.6 miles, but we had a 1.5-mile walk to the start (detouring to deposit a check at an ATM) and a 1.6-mile walk home (detouring to get groceries and to pick up a New York Times as Bookshop Santa Cruz), so our total walk was 4.7 miles.

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