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2022 January 23

Secret Walks: East Harbor–Arana Gulch

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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.

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.

2022 January 3

Secret Walks: West Cliff

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On Saturday 1 January 2022, my wife and I  did a modified version of the West Cliff to the End and Back walk from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover. We started out taking King to Bay, then all the way down Bay to West Cliff, then followed the route in the book, which is just walking the length of the West Cliff path.  Because it was nice weather, a Saturday, and a holiday, the path was packed with people.  When we got to Natural Bridges State Beach, we decided not to walk back along West Cliff, with the crowds and traffic noise, and made our way back through the neighborhood instead.  Our route took us halfway up Modesto Alley, which we exited through the vacant lot between 235 and 243 Chico, up Chico to Modesto, then along Modesto to a right-of-way between Auburn and Sacramento, that leads to an entrance to Sargent Derby Park, through the park and out the driveway to Swift, up to Delaware, east on Delaware to Bethany Curve, up Bethany Curve to Pendegast, around the top of Errett Circle to California Avenue, stopping at the Santa Cruz Market for It’s It ice-cream sandwiches, along California to Van Ness, up to the parking lots to get over to Laurel, crossing Mission at Laurel, then back along Mission to look at the murals on the back of Sabieng Thai, then up Van Ness to home.  The walk out was 4 miles, and the walk back 2.9 miles, for a total of 6.9 miles.  It took us about 3:15, so our walking speed was a very slow 2.1 mph (probably because we stopped often to look out to sea or take pictures).


There were king tides last weekend, and the water level was as low as I’ve seen it, even though it was still a few hours to low tide. This rock was much more exposed than usual.


I’ve no idea what this concrete and wood construction is for, but I get the impression that it is usually submerged.


The rocks that the cormorants like to rest on were much more prominent than usual.


Here are the same rocks from above—you can see that the rocks are wet on top still from the earlier high tide (though that may be from wave splash, not full submersion). Looking into the sun for much of the walk made picture-taking difficult (as well as giving me a bit of a headache).


We have decided that any walk that involves water (streams or ocean) is only well-formed if we see an egret. Here are the obligatory egrets wading on a beach that is usually submerged. There is a small stream from a culvert coming in from the bottom right of this photo.


The base of these stairs is usually wet—and the rocks submerged.


More rocks on a beach that are usually submerged.


The ocean was very calm, so we saw only one surfer, but we did see a paddleboarder and a kayaker. These 6 paddlers in the outrigger canoe were making very good time.  (Apologies for the low quality—digital zoom is terrible.)


Another seasonal stream from a culvert.


The vacant lot on Chico has clearly been lovingly maintained by neighbors, as has most of the length of Modesto Alley.


I believe that this Little Free Library is at 247 Chico.


If I remember right, this cat on the fence overlooks the walkway that leads from Modesto Ave to Woodland Way aligned with the entrance to Sargeant Derby Park.


The exit from the Park goes out the drive way by Natural Bridges High School, where this mural can be seen.


This palm tree is unusual in having ivy growing up the bottom third of it—a rather mixed-up combination of climates.


This dragon windvane seems to be a new addition to Bethany Curve.

Most of the pictures I attempted on this walk did not come out well—either because of digital zoom or because I was shooting into the sun.  I have finally ordered a new camera (a Panasonic LUMIX ZS80), which I expect will arrive just after we finish doing all the walks in the book.

2021 December 23

Secret Walks: Wilder Ranch

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On Saturday 18 December, my wife and I  walked the Wilder Ranch walk from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover. The walk is 3.2 miles, but we added 1.6 miles to get to the start and 2.0 miles to get home, for a total of 6.8 miles.  The walk back was longer, because we stopped to get groceries at New Leaf on the way.


I showed this industrial building in an earlier post—the graffiti has been added to since then.


Across Highway 1 a herd of cows were grazing on the newly green grass—this one stood on the top of the cliff and looked like it was contemplating jumping. I apologize for the low quality of the image—digital zoom is useless.


The horse ranch and surrounding fields are for sale (214 acres for $30 million).


This tall plant (an agave?) has a nice silhouette.


The pasture at Wilder Ranch is unusually green, thanks to the early rainfall this year.


Some of the old farm equipment at Wilder Ranch is just left outside to rust.


But some is carefully displayed under a roof—still subject to rust, but not quite as quickly.


The driveshaft and pulleys in the machine shop make a pleasant abstract image—I think I’ll add a higher-resolution version of this to my Zoom backgrounds. The power is coming diagonally up from a Pelton wheel off the bottom right of the image. The Pelton wheel is no longer connected to plumbing, so the entire machine shop is a static display.


The drill press is a particularly elegant piece of machinery. There is also a wood lathe and a number of grinding wheels.


The blooming aloe was quite attractive to birds, but I was unable to get a clear picture of any of the birds, despite several attempts. Later in the walk, I failed to get a usable picture of soaring turkey vultures.


The aloe plants have tunnels through them large enough for kids to crawl through.


This multi-trunk tree is one of my wife’s favorite things at Wilder Ranch.


The multi-trunk tree clearly had some beetles that a woodpecker was trying to get.


The fields that used to be all brussels sprouts were planted with pumpkins this year. Most of the brussels sprouts in the US come from San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties—it seems a shame to plant the much more common pumpkins instead.


On the way back, I photographed this sewage spill from the leachate line from the city dump, just a little west of Shaffer Road. I’ll be sending this photo to the City.

I tried taking a number of pictures of birds on this walk, but none of them came out well. I really have to get a new camera soon, as the cell phone doesn’t really do the job (despite being easy to carry).

We had a good lunch (panini) at 11th Hour Cafe, which replaces Kelly’s Bakery, then went to New Leaf for grocery shopping.

Secret Walks: Metro Center-Ocean View

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On Saturday 11 December, my wife and I  walked the Metro Center-Ocean View walk from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover. The walk is 3.7 miles, but we added 2.4 miles getting to and from the official walk, plus 0.1 mile for a side trip to the Buttery, for a total of 6.2 miles.


The gingko leaves seem to have a more synchronized fall than many of the trees here, covering the pavement with a colorful carpet.


The water level in the river was extremely low—a very stark contrast to a few days later, when water rose to flood the homeless encampment visible in the background. (Allowing the homeless encampment between the levees during rainy season never made any sense.)


The mallards enjoy the duck pond in San Lorenzo Park.


Cork oaks are not native to California, but they seem to do well here, and they have beautiful bark.


The mural on the Starbucks is new (but the whole building here is fairly new).


The mosaic on the Chase bank building is pointed out in the book, but it seems rather awkwardly composed to me.


The stained glass inside the bank is a little more interesting.


I was rather amused by this sign that seems to have replaced “CHILDREN AT PLAY” with “LIMITED SIGHT”. I guess they figured that car drivers no longer care if they run over children.


This flowering shrub (probably some species of leucadendron) makes a colorful splash.


This Little Free Library (on Branciforte Ave, if I remember right) was the first of three we saw.


Another fairly recent mural on Soquel.


Branciforte Plaza is now office, retail, and restaurant space, but it was originally built as a hospital. I’ve never been inside it.


The second Little Free Library is unusually placed on a driveway off of Ocean View.


This photo shows only a tiny portion of the model railroad on Ocean View, which fills the front yard (and presumably the back yard) of the house.


The third Little Free Library is by Ocean View Park, where we stopped to eat pastries from the Buttery. The bear claw was a little disappointing, but the marionberry puff was quite good. While in the park, I had to try out the long slides, which I remembered from 20 years ago. They have put ripples in the slide so that they are now quite slow—not the way I remember them.


We’d never previously visited the little park called Riverside Gardens. We did not see anyone else there either, despite the fine weather, so I guess it is not a very popular park. (The skate park about a block away was very busy, though.)


I did like this bicycle parking sculpture in Riverside Gardens, though it is not obviously a bike parking rack and needed a sign to let people know!


I’ve often seen these mosaic-covered stairs (the Barson Street stairs) from the top , but this is the first time I’ve walked up them.


We stopped downtown for a slice of pizza and visiting Bookshop Santa Cruz, so the sun was setting as we walked home.

I tried taking a number of pictures of birds on this walk, but none of them came out well.  I really have to get a new camera soon, as the cell phone doesn’t really do the job (despite being easy to carry).

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