Hello Friends and Family,

Santa Cruz, Part 1

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

For this year's summer trip, I wanted to spend a week in Santa Cruz. My hope was to find an inexpensive place near Natural Bridges State Beach. Fortunately, Airbnb came through for me with a room plus private bath about four blocks from West Cliff Drive. Each morning, I went out for a walk, first down Swift Street then either right or left on West Cliff Drive. Turning right took me to Natural Bridges. The Beach is named for the rock formations in the ocean just offshore which formerly had a rock arch between the two base rocks. I remember the "bridge" but the Pacific Ocean took out the arch some years back, leaving us with the memory of what it used to look like. The two bases are now home to cormorants and seagulls.

The beach is still here, of course, and is a popular spot for swimmers (although the water is quite cold), sunbathers, Frisbee tossers, bird watchers, whale enthusiasts, tide pool observers and BBQ fans.

Behind the beach (and just barely visible) is a eucalyptus grove which also provides a winter home for Monarch Butterflies, who summer in areas west of the Rocky Mountains, and south from Oregon & Idaho where they can find their favorite milkweed plants from which they drink the nectar and where they lay eggs to produce the next generation. During the winter months, the Monarchs who migrate here huddle together with their wings closed which gives the appearance of brown, dead leaves covering the tree branches. However, once the marine layer lifts later in the day, the butterflies warm-up, begin to stretch their wings and, all of a sudden, the eucalyptus trees are covered with bright orange leaves (or so it appears). Visitors can see the Monarchs up close, with the usual requests not to touch or bother them in any way. Quite cool.

As you can see, West Cliff Drive is aptly named — the road runs along the top of the cliffs that form the shoreline here. Houses line the road parallel to walking, biking, and skating paths. Although the road (and houses) appear to be high and dry, Mother Nature throws some vicious storms against this defensive barrier. The city of Santa Cruz fights a constant battle to preserve the coastline against that onslaught.

Many of the houses that line West Cliff Drive are older and thus smaller. In recent years, people with sufficient means have been able to purchase adjoining lots, tore down the original houses and built impressive new oceanside villas. Here is one of them.

As I mentioned earlier, the Pacific Ocean is battling to take back some of the land. Here is an example of a spot where the wave action from big storms has pulled down a section of the cliff with the ground cover plus the underlying soil. Barriers are in place to prevent accidental falls and, at some point, the city will replace them with a more permanent fence. Of course, Mother Nature will continue the battle either here or at a nearby location.

These slippery slopes need something to help keep them from sliding into the ocean and ice plant is perfect for that task. We all know that this is an ongoing battle but it will tend to maintain the status quo for a bit longer than a bare slope could manage. Besides, it is quite pretty.

As one walks along the path next to West Cliff Drive, a large wave may come in from exactly the right direction and hit exactly the right spot then fill the air with a huge THUMP plus saltwater spray. If you're not paying attention, the sound alone may surprise you. Please stay alert.

Peering across a small inlet, one is so impressed with the beauty of the sky, birds, ocean, cliffs, ground cover, and lovely houses. It was such a pleasure to see this each morning during my stay. How lucky are those folks who live in Santa Cruz or close enough to come to visit for the day.

Here we see another wider inlet where the ocean has carved away enough of the cliff and deposited enough sand to make a lovely beach. It looks beautiful but the waves are rough and the water cold. Be careful.

Next is a wonderfully photogenic home, complete with a live seagull sitting on top of the chimney. This home has an older, rustic look — hard to tell if that is actual age or just a great architect.

In amongst the ice plant, a nice stand of nasturtium has established itself — with a beautiful contrast between the green foliage and the bright orange flowers.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com