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2022 May 30

Secret Walks: Wilder Ranch Coastal Loop yet again

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:54
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I posted before about doing the Wilder Ranch Coastal Loop on March 25 and on April 10.  On Sunday 22 May I went again, this time with my wife and my sister, neither of whom had done the loop before.  We drove to the park, but parked on Highway 1, rather than driving in to the parking lot.


I usually have difficulty photographing butterflies, but this western tiger swallowtail posed nicely for me on the wild radish. I got a few photos, but this one shows the markings best.


The wild radishes themselves have nice blooms at this time of year—I like the purplish ones best.


The wood rose had just a single bloom—I don’t know whether it has more in a different season.


This is one of my better bee photo, on some sort of mustard flower.


Here is a bee on seaside wooly sunflower (it was a good day for bee photos).


The yellow bush lupine was blooming but also showing seed pods.


I zoomed way in to get this western gull on the ridge across the beach, but the quality was not all I hoped for.


The harbor seal pups have gotten quite big—the one coming out of the water here is about half the size of the adults now. A lot of the seals were out on the rocks rather than on the sandy beach.


I could not identify these black guillemots until I got the photos home and could look at them on a bigger screen—again the quality at full zoom leaves a little to be desired.


I took my sister down to fern grotto beach, but my wife did not want to make the steep descent. That was probably just as well, as I slipped and fell, and I’m usually surer-footed than my wife.


Here is proof (if any of her friends need it), that my sister was indeed at Fern Grotto Beach.


Every time I go to Fern Grotto Beach, I’m fascinated by these holes in the cliffs. The all line up horizontally, but there is not a visible difference between the rock layer with the holes and that layers immediately above and below.


The view across Fern Grotto Beach looking north is a classic northern California coastline landscape. The finger of rock jutting out in the middle is where a lot of the harbor seal colony was sleeping.


The seaside daisies were putting on a fine display.


We saw a lot of pelicans on the beach at Wilder Creek. I’ve never seen pelicans on the ground before.


I’ve also never seen so many pelicans at once (this was not even all of them, as there were another 50–100 in the creek). Usually a dozen pelicans flying in line is the biggest cluster I see.


The California buckeyes were also blooming vigorously. Pretty soon the flowers will be over and the buckeyes will drop their leaves for the summer. I don’t know of any other deciduous tree that has leaves in winter and drops them for the summer.

2022 April 14

Secret Walks: Wilder Ranch Coastal Loop again

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:15
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I posted before about my first time doing the Wilder Ranch Coastal Loop on March 25. On April 10, I did the loop again (in the opposite direction) with a group from the Monterey Bay Stanford Club.  I biked there and back, parking my bicycle on the fence next to the parking kiosk, as there do not seem to be any more planned places to park bicycles. I picked up a map of the park from the parking kiosk. The walk was a very slow and leisurely stroll, with frequent stops to look at the scenery.  The average age of the attendees was probably a bit older than me.


This is either Sand Plant Beach (as the state-park map labels it) or Little Strawberry Beach (as Google Maps labels it). There is a trail down to the beach on each side, to connect up to the Ohlone Bluff Trail, but we did not go down to the beach.


The next beach east is off-limits to people, because of the harbor seals hanging out there.


The seals look very comfortable when they are sleeping.


Another pair of seals. Is the one in back molting?


This seal looked very happy to be playing in the waves.


The biggest change from my previous visit was the presence of pups—here is one surrounded by adults.


It looks like some of the pups did not survive.


Here is another pup, playing in the water.


We did not see many birds on this walk, but I did get one shot of a gull wading.


Unlike my previous walk, most of the group walked down the somewhat steep and wet trail to Fern Grotto Beach. Here is the eponymous fern grotto.


The ferns hanging down from the rocks are quite impressive.


Another view of the ferns.


Looking out from the grotto, you can see droplets of water dripping off the ferns.


The whole thing looks like a Victorian garden feature.


The ocean side of Fern Grotto Beach has some nice rocks for the waves to break on.


Here are the seals again, seen from the ocean side with my zoom lens.


Without the zoom, it is rather difficult to make out the seals—the group of them are just a few dots extending the lines of the cliff to their right.


This beetle on the trail appears to be a Chrysolina bankii, based on a Google Lens search and looking at many pictures of the species.


Here is the walking group seen from the back.


Wilder Beach is closed to the public, but with my zoom lens, I could just see the canada geese in Wilder Creek from the Wilder Beach Overlook.


California poppies are still in bloom.


But many of the poppies have lost their petals and are showing red skirts around their seed pods.

After the walk, we gathered at the picnic tables between the chicken coop and the goat pasture and ate the lunches we had brought. The group seems like a nice enough group of people, and I would be willing to go walking with them again, though the level of exercise was rather minimal (I got far more exercise bicycling there and back). The visitor center was open, so I picked up a free map of Henry Cowell Redwoods state park while I was there.

2022 March 25

Secret Walks: Wilder Ranch Coastal Loop

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 23:30
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On Friday March 25, I went for a walk with a friend.  She drove us to Wilder Ranch, where we did the short coastal loop (about 2.15 miles). The route could be extended by scrambling down to Little Strawberry Beach, or by going around Old Dairy Gulch along the railway tracks—there is quite a bit more coastal trail to the west (which Santa Cruz people will think of as “north”).


We did about the shortest coastal loop that is possible, as the fields are still being farmed.Click the image for a higher-resolution map.

There was a lot of scenery and wildlife along the route, so I took a lot of pictures. I think that the tide was low, so that the rocks and sea caves were unusually visible.


There are some nice views of sea caves.


The telephoto lens lets me get a good view of the sea cave in the previous picture without getting wet.


The little black oval about a third of the way up the cliff is a cormorant, I believe. The man on top of the cliff provides scale.


Another sea cave.


My wife and I regard a walk near water as well-formed if we see an egret. This one was a bit far away, and some of the zoom here is from Photoshop Elements, but it is clearly an egret.


These were also way too far away to get a good picture, but I believe that they are black guillemots.


I believe that this is Erigeron glaucus, known as seaside daisy or seaside fleabane.


I believe that this handsome gull is a western gull, but I have a hard time identifying gulls.


The cormorants here look like they are members of a gang.


Another western gull.


A convention of cormorants


Sea lions Seals on a beach and yet another sea cave


I believe that this is a galucous-winged gull hanging out with the cormorants.


This rabbit was a bit cautious and would not let us get close.


This rabbit with the notched ear was closer, but behind plants that made it hard for me to get a good photo.


I don’t know what mechanism makes all the holes in this cliff be at the same height.


The holes continue around the cliffs at the same level.


This sea lion seal was a loner, not sharing the beach with most of the others.


The canada goose was right at the edge of the cliff—probably for easy take-off and good views.


Some of the sea lions seals on the beach watched us, but most just napped on their sides.


One of the alert sea lions seals.


The patterns on the fur vary quite a bit.


This one seemed to be particularly relaxed.


A view of the beach with sea lions seals from the landward end.


A california quail.

2022 February 3

Secret Walks: Painted Barrels & Cave Gulch

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 17:56
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On Saturday 30 January 2022, my wife and I started doing our own walks, not from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover.  For this walk, we started by taking a 19 bus up to Science Hill, then walked up past the painted barrels to Marshall Field, down the Long Meadow Trail in Wilder Ranch State Park, then crossing Wilder Creek in Cave Gulch, across the UCSC-owned field, and finally down Empire Grade Road and Bay Drive to home. Despite having lived in Santa Cruz fo over 35 years, I had never been in Cave Gulch before.  The total walk was about 8.5 miles.


Here is a map of the route we took (click here to see it at reasonable resolution). I made a couple of mistakes—taking the wrong trail (not Red Hill Road) near the beginning and doing a short detour on the wrong path by the painted barrels. I’ve shown these errors on this map.

I took a lot of pictures on the walk, and I have tried to pick some of the more interesting ones for this blog post—I had to drop a lot of my favorites, though.


The entrance to upper campus leads to Red Hill Road—the entrance is hidden at the back of the parking lot, behind trailers.


We saw redwood sorrel (Oxalis oregana) blooming.


There are also a lot of ferns of different sorts growing under the redwoods.


These berries were at the top of a tall madrone tree—even with my zoom lens and my monopod, I could not get a very clear picture of them. I don’t know whether the problem is that the camera was not steady enough or that the autofocus was not good enough.


We saw these funny orange dots on the bark of a knobcone pine tree. After the walk, my wife identified them as orange dimple lichen (Coenogonium luteum). We identified the conifer by the shape of the cone.


A madrone tree showing both the colorful bark and the berries. The automatic exposure on camera sometimes seems to overexpose a little, washing out the colors. I’m going to have to learn how to prevent that, as I can’t seem to compensate for it afterwards very well.


Here are some of the painted barrels that the walk is named for. They get repainted often, and this version is clearly in honor of the new year—the start of the the year of the tiger and the ending of the year of the ox.


This twisted branch makes an interesting contrast to the straight vertical trees behind it.


On the wide gravel path from Painted Barrels, you eventually reach a meadow with a colorful mix of different trees bordering it.


The rather red “grass” here grows in the wet area of the meadow. I have no idea what it is—I don’t even know whether it is a grass or a moss.


These barrels are not as popular a meeting place as the ones further south, but they attract their own artwork.


I’ll skip over the pictures of seasonal wetland plants in Marshall Field (none of which came out all that well) and go directly to the remnants of this winter’s controlled burns in Wilder Ranch. There were several of these piles of charcoal beside the trail.


The Long Meadow Trail is used by horse riders, hikers, and mountain-bike riders (in decreasing order of priority if someone has to yield). The trail was dry and firm when we hiked it, but it clearly had been quite muddy not too long ago.


We rather liked the shape of this tree trunk.


The trail was eroded in several places—sometimes with small seasonal trickles of water still in the eroded parts. If we ever get more rain this year, the path will clearly get cut up even more. Maintaining the paths in Wilder Ranch probably requires at least annual work on each path.


This view shows why the trail is called Long Meadow Trail—there are several places where you can get a long view out to the ocean. (You can even see the hills above Monterey on the other side of Monterey Bay.)


We saw this butterfly, which I later identified as a common buckeye (Junonia coenia).


The branches made a nice abstract compostion.


This tree was a long way away when I took the picture—I was playing with the zoom again, to see what I could get. Taking the picture from so far away makes the tree look almost like a flat paper cutout.


The narrow left trail here, near the bottom end of Long Meadow Trail, is where we turned off to get to Cave Gulch.


This wall is apparently the remains of a dam that was once part of a gold-mining operation here.


These stone walls were also part of the gold-mining operation. They are actually fairly well separated—the zoom is flattening the image quite a bit.


A little way into Cave Gulch reveals the entrance to an old lime kiln—this entrance is big enough to walk through if you crouch down a bit.


Inside the lime kiln is a tree and a lot of graffiti.


There is another lime kiln next to the first, but this one has warning signs that it is unstable, so people don’t go in (and we certainly didn’t).


The trails in Cave Gulch have eroded rather badly—I suspect that this December’s storms washed away quite a bit.


Once you get deep into Cave Gulch, it gets rather dark—the redwoods block the light and it was about 15°F cooler than the earlier part of the walk.


This fallen tree looks like it has been in this position for a while (all the side branches are on the top side of the trunks).


The bridge over Wilder Creek is not for those with a fear of falling! We saw one mountain biker walk across log with the flat top with his mountain bike on the log with the groove. Later on we saw another mountain biker ride across the log with the flat top. I walked across (gingerly), but my wife went a little upstream to the ford (which a number of mountain bikers used also). She managed to cross the ford on rocks without getting her feet wet.


This plant was identified by my wife as Pacific hound’s tongue (Adelinia grande).


After we got out of Cave Gulch, the trail was roped off with a thin cord, with a lot of signs explaining that the bare ground was habitat for the endangered Ohlone tiger beetle. We did see one beetle squished by a mountain biker or hiker, but we had no way of identifying whether it was an Ohlone tiger beetle.


Even the field had some seasonal streams crossing it—a little surprising, because we only had ½” of rain in January, and that at the beginning of the month.


I took a photo of the entrance to the trail from Empire Grade Road, so that I could identify it if I ever wanted to do the walk in the reverse direction. There is a more direct entrance to Cave Gulch (following Wilder Creek) higher up on Empire Grade, immediately opposite Heller Drive.


On the median of Bay Drive, the city planted a bunch of young redwood trees far too close together. It would have been better for them to have taken out the eucalyptus trees (which are a major fire hazard) and replaced them with redwood saplings.


The walkway down the middle of Bay Drive has finally had the eroded spot repaired and the stream bed rebuilt—the path is once again fully open, though there is another spot that looks like it might collapse into the stream if we get another heavy rain.

Next weekend’s walk will probably be shorter, but we have not yet agreed on a destination.

2021 December 23

Secret Walks: Wilder Ranch

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 16:41
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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.

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