Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ocean Scenes, Redwood Hikes and Disc Golf with Friends in Santa Cruz

We spent five nights at New Brighton State Beach, in Capitola, CA (just South of Santa Cruz). The park sits on a bluff overlooking a long curved beach on Soquel Bay. The view from the bluff over this giant bay is to the South, towards Monterey...it seemed odd to be at the beach and have the sun go down to your right!

During our stay the water in the bay was quite calm and each day there were numerous stand-up paddlers and kayaks and small fishing boats in the water enjoying the incredible variety and quantity of animal life. We watched birds by the thousands spend time in the bay as well as seals and otters and dolphins and even whales in the distance.

View SW from the bluff at New Brighton State Beach.

View SE from the beach at New Brighton

The ship wreck sitting off a pier in Aptos, CA is the SS Palo Alto, a concrete tanker built in 1919 that is now a marine sanctuary. As we walked closer to it the stench from the hundreds of birds on it was overpowering!

Marine sanctuary SS Palo Alto.

Soquel Bay seemed to be a major hang out spot for thousands of sea birds. Often, we would see a patch of water roiling with fish and hundreds of birds would descend upon the spot.

One of many clusters of sea birds in Soquel Bay in the evening.

We walked the coast immediately North of Santa Cruz and were treated to gorgeous views, otters up close and butterflies.

Monterey Cypress stands watch over the coast line.

Far out in the water we could see otters anchored in kelp beds.

Long lines of pelicans dazzled us overhead and off shore.

We were excited to spy this otter within 100 feet of the shore.


Lighthouse Field State Beach, at the North end of Santa Cruz, has clusters of Monterey Cypress and Blue Gum Eucalyptus which draw thousands of Monarch butterflies each winter. Though we were a bit early for the full migratory phenomenon, we did find a few clusters in the eucalyptus grove.

The Monarchs can be difficult to see at first, hanging in bunches on the eucalyptus.

Every minute or two they would flutter their wings at the same time,
making bright clusters of color in the trees.

We took a short but beautiful hike to the lime kilns in the Fall Creek unit of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Built in 1870, these lime kilns produced nearly a third of the states lime supply.

Limekilns in the middle of second growth redwood forest.

We also hiked a bit in the Southern section of Henry Cowell State Park, and encountered this impressive fallen redwood bridge.

Our friends Rick and Lori and Bill live in Boulder Creek, a small community deep in the redwoods North of Santa Cruz. We got together with them for disc golf and craft beer a couple of times during our stay, plus an excellent dinner and over night stay at their home one night. Both the Aptos High School and the De laVeaga disc golf courses had some seriously challenging hills!

"On Top of the World" at De laVeaga disc golf course, with Lori, Bill and Rick.
You've got ocean views at this 29 hole course.

Doggie Blaze joined us for disc golf at the Aptos High School course.

Imbibing excellent IPA's and Marzen at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery.

Even Rosie has enjoyed our time at New Brighton:

Rosie likes the ocean view too!

Tomorrow we move on to Oceano, CA for more beach time among the dunes!


  1. I will definitely need to check out this park as we do like the Santa Cruz area. Looks like you are having some good times at the beach.

  2. Great photos of the monarchs! Looks like Rosie has recovered from her surgery.

  3. lucky you to spot the sea otters we missed them our last trip out west...

  4. How fun! We spent some time at New Brighton State Park last year around this same time of year and loved it. We were not lucky enough to see any Otters though!

  5. Wow, I have never seen so many monarchs in one place much less hanging on the branches.
    Its quite interesting we are enjoying the Pacific ocean and beaches through you and at the same time we are having a great time at the ocean and beaches of the Atlantic coast.

  6. The water is beautiful. I love crashing waves with lone tree:)

    The otter is my favorite. Great zoomed photo!

    Sounds like fun times with friends.

    How is Rosie doing?

    1. Rosie is doing well and seems to be back to her old self. Still have two more weeks of antibiotic drops to go!

  7. We love disc golf too. Beautiful pics!

  8. ) and shot my greatest nine holes ever... 42!