A long walk on the coast

1 Apr

I think it could be argued that I live in the most beautiful place on earth. (I do recognize, however, that lots and lots and lots of other place could share that argument!). We live in the mountains, in a redwood forest and I love it. But, one of the things I love most about it is our close proximity to the coast. We live near the amazing and wonderful city of Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is a beach town, a college town, an historic mission city, a hotbed of liberalism, and one of the weirdest and most wonderful cities in California. It is also beautiful. Good friends of ours are moving back here from LA. They still own a house here and were up this weekend to see what needs doing before they move back. They are hiring Greg to do some architecture for them. While they were discussing the project, I took advantage of their location on the Westside of Santa Cruz to take the kids on my favorite walk. We went out to West Cliff Drive — a two block walk from our friends’ house. Spring in coastal Santa Cruz is gorgeous!

Spring Garden

Santa Cruz has a mix of architecture. There are historic homes: Victorians, Mission Style, Craftsman. There are modern beach houses of all white stucco, steel, and glass. There are little student/surfer beach houses. It’s a mix so walking in the neighborhoods is fun — even if the only birds you see are House Sparrows and European Starlings.

The Spider Hedge

We walked by the “Spider Hedge.” It’s a HUGE hedge — like 25′ tall and 8′ thick. Cars can drive through it. Spiders love it. The kids were enthralled by watching the spiders in their tunnels.

Surf Scoter

In a perfect world, we would have driven further down West Cliff and walked to the Wharf where there are two rare birds showing up — a Brown Booby and a Horned Puffin. But, that wasn’t practical. So, we walked from our friend’s house out to West Cliff and started walking. The first bird I saw was a Lifer — a Surf Scoter. This particular bird followed us up the coast going at approximately the same speed we were going. He’s an odd duck (ha!). Funny looking bills.

Dog Beach, Santa Cruz

This is the view looking down West Cliff Drive — see what I mean . . . GORGEOUS! This is near our starting point and you can’t see our halfway point yet. This road hugs the coast and has a wide walking path. There are always lots of runners, bikers, surfers, dog walkers, and crazy people. Santa Cruz has good and bad sides — the bad side is that our mild climate and tolerant community gives us a higher than normal amount of homeless people. In that mix, there are some that are quite disturbing. We saw a man riding a bike who was clearly in an altered state — alcohol? drugs? hard to say. Somehow the kids missed him but did see the man standing on a railing making dog noises. Ruth quietly said to me, “I think he’s crazy.” I told her he might be crazy but he might also have just been letting his weird side out. (I actually think that’s what it was as his friends were in the car laughing at him!)

Kids on the Rocks

The cliffs aren’t particularly safe as they are deteriorating but in places they are and the kids enjoyed going out on them to get closer to the water. I, found great comfort in knowing that should any crazy bad guys show up, I was protected by a Ninja warrior!

Rare Sea Labrador

Look at that!  One of those rare coastal Sea Labradors!

Black Oystercatcher

Another Lifer . . . Black Oystercatcher!  How cool is this bird?  Love that bill.  I showed him to the kids but I didn’t have my field guide with me.  A nice man sitting on the rocks watching him too told us he was an Oystercatcher!  Totally cool bird!


These Willets and several more were dancing around near the Oystercatcher.  I love the way they are ALMOST synchronized!

Cormorants off Santa Cruz's West Cliff Drive

I love Cormorants.  There are Brandts here and I think there are Pelagic ones too but I can’t be sure.  Very cool birds.

Sea Lions on rock

As we got closer to the Lighthouse, we could see these Sea Lions relaxing on the rocks.  I love the Cormorants hanging out with them.  They were so loud that when the wind/waves were right, you could hear them barking from about a half mile away.

Natural Bridge with Lighthouse in the background

The islands that the above critters are hanging out on used to be attached to the mainland.  This Natural Bridge shows the intermediary step before they become islands.  Pretty cool, huh?

Sea Otter

I know it’s hard to see but this is a Sea Otter.  She’s lying on her back in the kelp and is eating something yummy — a crab?  an oyster?  a clam?  Hard to say.  Pretty cool though.  So far out that I couldn’t get a good shot of it.


Ruthie took this shot at the Lighthouse.  I started to suffer from Lens Envy here. There were three people with BIG lenses at the Lighthouse.  My camera looked inadequate and the lens went limp and couldn’t perform correctly.  It was sad.  So, I let the kids take pictures!  🙂

Sailboat off Lighthouse Point

Gage took this one of a sailboat off the coast.

European Starling

I know, I know.  It’s a Starling.  But look how gorgeous!  He was singing a moment before and then fluffed himself up and looked dignified.  He’s sitting right on the peak of the Lighthouse roof.

Pelican Yard Art

On our way back, we wandered through the neighborhood and saw some cute yard art and some more gorgeous gardens.  Again though, most of the birds were HOSP and EUST.  Not exciting.

Spring Garden

Back at our friend’s house, I caught this shot.  Lovely.

Moon over Santa Cruz

As we went to the car to go to dinner at 7pm, I caught this shot of the moon.  Lovely, isn’t it?  A gorgeous California day.   See why I can argue that I live in the most beautiful place on earth?


13 Responses to “A long walk on the coast”

  1. Mary 2 April, 2007 at 3:48 am #

    Liza, you know what? I think you DO live in the most beautiful place on earth. I’m almost speechless after your photo display. I think I’m most impressed with the Sea Lions out there. The Starling is very pretty in that shot. Oh, I could go on… BUT I don’t want to see any SPIDERS! LOL!

  2. jayne 2 April, 2007 at 4:34 am #

    Wow, what a lovely place to live… just beautiful images. SO glad you were always protected by your very own ninja! ;c)

  3. robin andrea 2 April, 2007 at 7:08 am #

    Thanks for taking us on a walk along West Cliff. We used to walk there often. It definitely provides a slice of Santa Cruz life. Quite beautiful there in spring. Love that oystercatcher. We saw our first last year.

  4. Marcia (MeeAugraphie) 2 April, 2007 at 10:21 am #

    What a perfect day in nature. Awesome views.

  5. Sandy 2 April, 2007 at 1:59 pm #

    Wow, did you get some great photos. I saw that town on the travel channel, and fell in love with the architecture.
    Is that pink plant up top, ice plant??
    Wonderful photography, Liza.

  6. lizalee 2 April, 2007 at 3:37 pm #

    Sandy, yes, that plant is an ice plant — it’s called Hardy or Trailing Ice Plant ( Delosperma cooperi ). Here’s a link with some good information. {click} I have been seriously thinking about planting it in my garden. I keep toying with doing more and more native plants and then I see something I love like that and think of to heck with it. Not sure what I’ll end up doing! 🙂

  7. Laura 3 April, 2007 at 5:19 pm #

    Gorgeous series of photos – lucky you!

    When can I come visit?


  8. susangetsnative 3 April, 2007 at 8:25 pm #

    You live in a Paradise, Liza.
    And your kids are adorable.
    And you appreciate birds.
    And you have a cute dog.
    That’s pretty close to perfect.

  9. lizalee 3 April, 2007 at 10:34 pm #

    Laura — book a flight! It’s the best time of year now or in the Fall! 🙂

    Susan — can’t really argue. You forgot a job that I love and a great husband who somehow appreciates me! Not too shabby!

    I try not to complain too much!

  10. Mike 5 April, 2007 at 10:53 am #

    Great photos and narrative! The Pacific coast is so amazing. I think you might be right about Pelagic Cormorants in that photo. Is the rightmost bird a Pelagic?

  11. lizalee 5 April, 2007 at 11:00 am #

    Thanks,Mike! I think that one and possibly — looking at the trio dead center, the one under the other two might be as well. It was a spectacular day and walk. The cool thing for me is that my kids love doing stuff like this and enjoying looking at birds and animals. They thought the Oystercatcher was amazing.

  12. sarala 5 April, 2007 at 8:43 pm #

    Great stuff. I envy your outing.


  1. Nature Blog Network » Featured Blog: It’s Just Me - 27 April, 2009

    […] It’s Just Me, Liza can be found at Twitter and Flickr as lizalee. A look at two of her posts, A long walk on the coast and Trip Report: Elkhorn Slough, will introduce you to her writing and photography, and give a […]

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