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2023 April 8

Secret Walks: Surplus Store and Arboretum

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On Thursday 6 April 2023, my wife and I walked up Bay to the UCSC Surplus Store (which is only open 12–3 Tuesdays and Thursdays), to see whether they had any bookcases that she could buy for her library at work.  The answer was not clear—all the bookcases were 36″ wide, and that may be an inch or two too wide for the space she has (she’ll measure on Monday to double-check). She was hoping for a 30″ one, but that does not seem to be a common size at UCSC (at least, not for surplussed ones).

After the surplus store, we went to the Arboretum by going up Ranch View Road to the back gate of the Arboretum. Unfortunately, the back gates were locked, and we had to go around the Arboretum to the north gate, which was still open  We walked through the banksia fields, but all the banksia seem to have been over for the year—there are some nice seed pods, but no flowers.  In the African gardens there were some nice protea, though nowhere near as many as there used to be, and all on rather small plants.  I suspect that a lot of the protea died a few years ago, and their replacements are slow in growing back.  The protea were the showiest flowers in the gardens, though there were a few other nice ones—I’m thinking that I might want to get a “Winter Red” conebush for my yard, as they had quite impressive foliage (which, unfortunately, my photo did not capture well, so I won’t include it here).

On the way to the surplus store, we saw a great blue heron behind the Granary. We believe that is was probably hunting gophers or ground squirrels.

Another view of the heron.

I believe that this is an “Empress” protea.

I forget what protea variety this is, and I didn’t make notes.

Another empress protea.

And another view of the same flower. I find the protea very photogenic.

The weirdest flower we saw was this turquoise puya, which has enormous flower spikes.

The turquoise blossoms of the puya are a very unusual color.

The whole walk was about 4.6 miles and took us a little under 3 hours, including the time spent browsing the surplus store, taking pictures of flowers, and browsing Norrie’s Gift Shop at the Arboretum.

2022 July 10

Secret Walks: UCSC Farm

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On 2022 July 3, my wife and I took a guided tour of the UCSC Farm, something we have not done for at least a decade—maybe closer to two decades.  The tour was moderately interesting, though more for the changes since we’d last been there than for the content of the talks.  We had 3 docents (1 scheduled, two others there to learn from her), but none of them knew much about what had been planted this year.  The farm discontinued the apprenticeship program during the pandemic and is relying more on UCSC students for farm labor, with the result that some of the more labor-intensive activities (like the long row of compost heaps) are no longer there.  I also did not see the pond with the solar fountain—I think it has been filled in.

On the way up Bay Drive, we saw a yellow monkeyflower in bloom.

The view across the field of Monterey Bay was fine, as the air was unusually clear.

In the opposite direction we could look across the fields to the tent cabins.

The tent cabins are new since the last time we visited (the apprentices used to sleep in much smaller, less permanent tents. I don’t know what the tent cabins are used for without the apprentices.

The row crops are a very mixed lot—the Farm tries to avoid any monocultures, to reduce problems with pests, as they use no herbicides or pesticides.

They have a few covered rows—I think these covers are to keep the birds off, more than they are for light or temperature control.

The Farm grows a lot of flowers and herbs—some in rows and some in more decorative beds.

I don’t know whether the row of amaranth is grown for the grain or for the flower, but given how little there is I suspect it is just for cut flowers.

Here are some beds labeled with loose categories of herbs.

The lavender was really attracting the bees, but I had a hard time getting them in focus—the autofocus of the camera was too easily captured by the flowers.

This orange flower appears to be some sort of globemallow, but I’ve no idea which species.

I don’t know whether the Farm harvests anything from the aloe plant, or if it is just decorative.

This flower was very popular with the hummingbirds (who are even harder to photograph than bees). It seems to be some sort of cape fuchsia (genus Phygelius).

The Life Lab at the Farm has some pet chickens—fancy breeds rather than ones raised for eggs or meat.

These cedar cones made a bold display on the tree.

I still have one walk that I took a lot of photos on that I have not posted to the blog—a visit to the UCSC Arboretum on June 5 with my wife and my sister. The hard part there is selecting just a few photos.

2022 June 25

Secret Walks: Campus walk

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On 2022 June 4, my sister and I went for a short walk on the UCSC campus. She drove us up, and we parked in the parking structure.  I showed her my office, then we walked down past the physics carousel and Kerr Hall to the Performing Arts area.


I was distressed to see that the Festival Glen stage has been damaged by a tree falling over, and that UCSC has done nothing to fix it yet.


Here is a closer view of the damage. I was always a bit bothered that UCSC denied Santa Cruz Shakespeare the use of the Festival Glen, claiming that they needed it for their own programs, and then did nothing with the stage—they seem to have been leaving it to rot.


We went past the music building to enjoy the from the balcony.


And we did see deer. I’ve always thought that the herd on campus were California mule deer, but the solid dark tail suggests that they are Columbian black-tailed deer instead. (The two are subspecies of the same species Odocoileus hemionus californicus and Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, and can interbreed for intermediate forms.)


We also got a nice view from the top of the hill overlooking the bike path.


We went past the Rachel Carson apartments, where my sister tried to get a photo of the flowering tree.


The sculpture at Porter (variously known as the Squiggle, the Dragon’s Rest, and the Flying IUD) was in heavy use by students taking graduation photos.


I did get one photo of my sister with the Flying IUD and no one in graduation robes (between two groups of students taking photos).


We visited the koi pond at Porter.


And we took some photos of outdoor artwork (my sister took many more than me, as I had several from previous walks).


Another very Porter mural.

This walk was a very short one—I was just showing her a few highlights of campus in a very restricted time frame. After visiting Porter, we walked up past the Redwood Grove Apartments to the car and headed home for dinner.

2022 March 30

Secret Walks: Koi-to-koi

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On Saturday 27 March 2022, my wife and I took a long walk that visited two koi ponds: one on campus and one just off campus in the Pogonip.  The originally planned walk was 4.59 miles, but we had a few mistakes that increased it to 7.27 miles.  A koi-to-koi walk that started at the Rachel Carson bus stop, went without detours from the Porter koi pond to the Pogonip koi pond, then back to the Cowell/Stevenson bus stop would be about 2.6 miles.  Most of this walk was in the detours and walking home from the Pogonip.


(Click map for high-resolution version) We started by taking the 19 bus to the Rachel Carson College stop, then went to Porter College to view the koi pond there. Then we walked across campus to Quarry Plaza, where we had lunch from a food truck, then over to Stevenson college (the red route on the map). We had planned to go across the parking lot to McLaughlin and to the trailhead to the Pogonip (yellow route), but my wife had left her hiking pole at Quarry Plaza, so we went back there (pink path), then over to the Chadwick Garden, with the intention of going through the garden and out the lower gate. Unfortunately the lower gate was padlocked, so we had to retrace our steps out of the garden (brown route). We walked on McLaughlin to get to the Pogonip, but I misjudged the distance on the map and went past the turnoff to the koi pond. Instead we continued all the way to Fern Trail, where I realized we’d made a mistake and got out my phone (cheating!) and went down Spring Trail (purple path) to the other end of the route to the koi pond (olive path). We walked up that path, while the original plan had been to walk down it. My wife did not like the idea of walking back down it, preferring the extra ⅔ mile of redoing the purple route. We then headed down Spring Trail to Kalkar Quarry (green route) and took an alternative route back from the quarry (blue route).


This lamp post at Porter College has a rather creepy Big-Brother vibe.


The koi pond at Porter can be identified by this fountain, which circulates the water and keeps it aerated.


Here is one of the large koi in the pond.


Two more of the koi.


This one has particularly fancy fins.


Although people are not supposed to feed the koi, the koi do come to investigate any visitors, and swim away again when no food is forthcoming.


Porter has a long tradition of student -painted murals. The current crop seem to be advertisements for Porter—less witty than some of the ones from decades ago. Perhaps the approval process for them has gotten more bureaucratic or committee-based?


A door mural, again with the advertising theme.


A mural that seems a little more artist-directed and less “Porter ad”.


Forget-me-nots were blooming in the woods.


This covered bike parking at Kerr Halls has almost never been used—it does not help that you would have to manage a flight of stairs to get to it, and almost no one knows the parking is there.


When the path was redone, these bike parking posts at Kerr Hall were rendered unusable.


I think that this nettle-like flower is a California hedge nettle (Stachys bullata).


This wild turkey was unusual in being alone, rather than in a large flock.


Violets were also blooming.


There is a fine flannel bush (Fremontodendron californicum) next to the parking lot by the Bay Tree Bookstore (which has been officially renamed the Bay Tree Campus Store, as they no longer sell books). We ate our lunch under the flannel bush.


At Cowell College the dogwood trees were blooming. I liked the shape of this particular blossom, though it is not the characteristic shape for dogwood blossoms.


The entrance to Stevenson College has this rhododendron in a ceramic pot—I think that it has outgrown the pot and needs to be repotted.


The Chadwick Garden is looking a bit weedy, though some beds have clearly been cleared and planted for spring crops.


There is a nice arbor covered with Lady Banks’ roses at the east end of the Chadwick Garden.


This berry seems out of season—I would not expect the flowers for another month yet.


The jasmine was blooming next to the road below the Chadwick Garden.


In the Pogonip, past where we had planned to turn, there is a very Romanic ruin of a limekiln. It is not a folly, though it is is maintained like one.


An adjacent limekiln.


I was a little surprised to see a red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) in the woods, as it is native to the northeast US and Canada, not to California.


These are the steps that we took from Spring Trail up (and up) to the koi pond—our original plan had been to come down that path from the pond.


The koi in the Pogonip were hard to photograph, because there was a lot of sunlight on the surface and the water was not very clear. This impressionistic painterly shot was the best I could do.


This tree seems to have a bit of a cave under its roots (too small for anything bigger than an opossum).


This wire fence along Spring Trail has an unusual mesh, but seems to be in good shape, so I doubt that it is very old.


This flower at the end of a tall, smooth stem seems to be “blue dicks” (Dipterostemon capitatus). I don’t remember ever seeing it before.


I thought these were morning glory, but (based on the leaf shape), I think my wife is right that these are the invasive bindweed.


This appears to be some sort of lupine.


There were fields of California poppies in bloom also.


I always have trouble getting closeups of California poppies, as my camera wants to overexpose the petals. This is the best I’ve managed so far (and it took some exposure correction in Photoshop Elements).

The alternative route back from Kalkar Quarry involved going through the opening in the fence off Limestone Lane into the UCSC faculty housing, then along that fence down to the Peace United Church of Christ property, and down a concrete drainage swale.  When we were there, there was a concert r rehearsal going on in the church, with what sounded like a brass ensemble—it made for a very dramatic soundtrack to our walking down the drainage swale.

2022 March 4

Secret Walks: Seven Bridges

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On Saturday 19 Feb 2022, my wife and I took another campus walk, walking up from our house past Westlake through Westlake Elementary School and faculty housing, up the Great Meadow, and then doing a loop walk created by the Baskin Engineering Walking Group that crosses seven pedestrian bridges. We had to modify the walk somewhat, as one of the bridges is closed for construction, but we added a roadway bridge, so we still ended up with seven bridges. We ended the walk at a bus stop, so that we did not have to walk down the hill, but we did have to wait 20 minutes for a bus, as the number 19 bus only runs once an hour on weekends. (Bus service to our neighborhood used to be good, but they moved a lot of the buses from Bay Drive to Western Drive.) This was a fairly short walk at 4.88 miles, though much of that was uphill.


Here is the map of our route, starting with the red, then the blue, then the yellow, and ending with the pink (after a bus ride down the hill). Click the image to get a higher-resolution image.

We saw a lot of birds on Westlake, the tiny pond that gives the neighborhood its name. I did not include all the different birds here (no pictures of coots, for example), but I tried to get the more rarely seen ones.


The bees were very busy on the rosemary.


This appears to be a male common merganser.


We haven’t often seen buffleheads in the past, but we’ve now seen them on a couple of our walks. The white quadrant on the back of the head is rather distinctive.


These are the first ring-necked ducks we’ve seen. We had to look them up when we got home, but we’re pretty sure of the identification, as the beaks are quite distinctive.


Canada geese are common at the right time of year. I think that the birds behind them are hooded mergansers, but this is the best photo of them that I got, and it is not detailed enough to be sure of the identification.


The mallards are the most common ducks around here, but I’ve never before seen a Pomeranian duck—a domestic breed that probably escaped from someone’s home.


Just below Westlake Elementary School, someone has set up a little free library of just children’s books at a height convenient for elementary-school students. Unfortunately, the selection was not very impressive (perhaps the good books go fast).


This monarch mural on an electrical box is right next to the entrance to Westlake School.


The gate was open, so we had no hesitation about going into the school grounds on a Saturday—one might need permission of the school office if school were in session.


There is a lot of artwork on the Westlake campus, both murals and mosaics.


The exit from school is these stairs at the northeast corner of the school grounds, behind their small amphitheater.


After passing through faculty housing, we can see one of the old fences that has not yet completely decayed away.


The powderhouse (which was used for storing gunpowder kegs when the limestone quarries were functional) marks the beginning of the bike path across the Great Meadow. Pedestrians should stick to the gravel road here, as the bike path is too narrow in places for both pedestrians and bicyclists (and the downhill bicyclists coast at about 35mph).


The fruit of the prickly pear made a great contrast with the blue sky.


I have had a difficult time photographing raptors—I can zoom in on them, but the autofocus doesn’t seem able to capture them. I think the problem is the focus, and not motion blur, as the exposure time was quite short (1/200 s at f/5.6). The picture is clear enough to identify this as a red-tailed hawk, but the photo leaves a lot to be desired aesthetically.


This “granary” tree has been used for decades now by acorn woodpeckers storing acorns in it. There does not seem to be much wood left around the holes they’ve drilled in it.


The bike path was improved during the pandemic to provide a separated pedestrian path alongside the uphill bike path. All the warning signs about “no motor vehicles” are needed—I’ve seen clueless drivers try to treat the bike path as a road.


The campus has made quite a mess of dumpsters and dirt piles just above the Farm.


The uphill bike path overlooks the Village, a collection of manufactured homes that were originally used as temporary offices on other parts of campus 35 years ago. These stairs up from the Village were not part of the walk, but we should incorporate them into a “Village Loop” walk sometime.


California poppies are blooming at this time of year.


The ground squirrels often pose for their pictures, if you don’t get too close.


After we passed through McHenry Library, we saw this azalea in bloom at the front of the library.


This viburnum was right next to the azalea.


The first bridge on our route heads east from the front of McHenry Library.


The second bridge is right after the first one and in line with it, headed east to Hahn Student Services.


The sun was positioned well for a nice shadow from the second bridge.


We saw redwood sorrel on this walk, as we have on other walks on campus.


We also saw this strawberry, which may be a wild strawberry or may have been naturalized from someone’s garden.


The third bridge heads west from behind the Classroom Unit (between the Classroom Unit and the Quarry Amphitheater) over to the Earth and Planetary Sciences building (which used to be Earth and Marine Sciences, but I think all the marine scientists moved to the coastal campus).


I can’t help wondering what is really behind this door on Earth and Planetary Sciences—it does not look all that well sealed.


The fourth bridge heads northeast from the Interdisciplinary Sciences Building to the Cowell Health Center.


In the woods here we saw a flower we did not recognize. Google Lens identifies it as Fremont’s deathcamas, which seems like a pretty good guess from the pictures I was able to find.


We took this bridge on McLaughlin Drive as bridge number 5.


Off the side of the bridge, you can see an old lime kiln with a redwood tree growing up through it.


Because the Kresge north bridge was closed for construction at Kresge, we walked through the grad student housing (Redwood Grove Apartments), where we saw this cyclamen peeking out from between some rocks.


The bridge shared by Porter and Kresge was our bridge number 6.


But we just returned back over the same bridge from Porter College, without visiting the art galleries or the koi pond. (I’ll have to plan another walk to take in the two koi ponds at Porter College and in the Pogonip.)


The 7th and last bridge takes us over to Kerr Hall.


Above Kerr Hall, just below Thimann Labs, is the physics carousel—a landmark on campus and still supposedly used by physics instructors.


The path from Thimann Lecture Hall to McHenry Library is quite pleasantly shaded.


Along that path, I noticed for the first time that the lampposts have hinged bases—presumably for replacing the light bulbs without needing a ladder or cherrypicker.


A branch that was blocking the path was removed many years ago, and this interesting scar has grown in its place.


This appears to be a native wild blackberry, unlike many of the blackberries we see, which are naturalized descendants of commercial strains.


We ended the campus walk at the bookstore bus stop, part of which is a deck over the edge of a steep dropoff. Bus service is infrequent on weekends—the 19 running down Bay only runs once an hour and the 15 doesn’t run at all. We could have taken an 18 from a bus stop on the other side of the street, but it runs down Western Drive and along Mission, which is much less convenient for us. The new bus routes are good for students shopping on Mission, but have really reduced our bus service substantially.

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