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2021 July 24

Secret Walks: Schwann Lake

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Yesterday, my wife and I took our longest walk so far in this series, which ironically happens to be the second shortest walk in Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover. The part of the walk that is in the book is only 1.1 miles, but we had to get there and back, and Schwann Lake is on the opposite side of Santa Cruz.  We decided to take the #66 bus there, so we initially had a walk to the Metro Center (plus a little extra as we went back after a few block to pick up a forgotten face mask).


On our walk down Laurel Street to the bus station, I took a picture of these fine mosaic stairs.

We also got off the bus a stop or two early, so we had about a 0.4 mile walk to the start of the Schwann Lake trail, which starts at the very back of the Simpkins Family Swim Center parking lot, so there were two miles walked before getting to the trail.


This bare tree made a very stark silhouette against the sky—the photo does not really do it justice.


The book mentions that Schwann Lake is excellent for bird watching. We mainly saw cormorants—here is one view of a small portion of the total flock. I took several pictures of the cormorants from several places on the trail, but they were all at high zoom, so the individual birds are not very clear.


You need to stay on the trail, as off trail, the ground is covered in poison oak.


The poison oak even grows up into the trees.


The trees themselves are impressively menacing.


Another section of trail overhung by twisty branches.

Afterwards we ate lunch at the Windmill Cafe and took a scenic route home, walking past Twin Lakes State Beach, around the yacht harbor, and along the cliffs overlooking Seabright State Beach.


The lighthouse at the harbor, seen from Twin Lakes beach.


A bronze porpoise in the yacht harbor—people like to touch its nose for luck.


The lighthouse seen from the Murray Street bridge across the harbor—I had to zoom in a lot, as the distance is about 800m (½ mile).


View of the Walton lighthouse from the cliffs over Seabright Beach. Note the concrete “caltrops” intended to keep the ground under the lighthouse from being washed away.


The walkway along the cliffs is fairly narrow now—in places you can see where the walkway used to be, before the cliffs collapsed.


The overlook over the San Lorenzo River where East Cliff Drive bends gives a nice view of the main beach, which was far more crowded than Seabright Beach or Twin Lakes Beach.

We crossed the river on the pedestrian/bike bridge to Beach Street, which is now much wider and more pleasant than the old narrow bridge, and headed home through Neary Lagoon—about 5.6 miles.


We saw this shrub or tree in Neary Lagoon that we did not know. Using Google image search, I believe I’ve identified it as a Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum). They are supposed to have quite pretty flowers in the spring—we’ll have to remember to visit the tree next spring.

Update 2021 July 25: Debbie Bulger thinks that this is a native Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis). That seems quite likely, and I’m not sure how you tell the two species apart.


We took pictures of this duck also, which we thought might be a female or juvenile wood duck. Again, Google image search confirmed that this is a wood duck hen


We had more trouble guessing what this duck was, but finally found a picture (from Encyclopedia Brittanica) which identifies it as a male wood duck before it gets all its glorious plumage. Because this duck was quite close the wood duck hen, we believe that they are related.


Another photo of the wood duck hen.

With the walk to the bus, from the bus to the trail, and the scenic walk home, our total walking was about 8.7 miles.

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