Do you ever need a quick trip out of Santa Cruz County either to get away away from tourists or just to simply get a different view. If you are wanting to switch it up a bit and travel North instead of South Pigeon Point Lighthouse is a great destination point. Located about 30 miles North of Santa Cruz, Pigeon Point Lighthouse is an iconic landmark that was built in 1871 and stands at an amazing 115ft tall. The lighthouse is still an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation using a 24 inch Aero Beacon.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse is a well known destination for many visiting the California Coast and a popular spot for professional photographers. If you decide to spend part of your day traveling to this lighthouse be sure to come equipped with a camera or at the very least a phone that has photo capability. You will definitely want to come home with a few photos to show off to your family and friends or maybe just to post on your Facebook or Instagram.
Don’t forget to pack some warm clothes, even on a sunny day Pigeon Point can get quite windy. While out there keep an eye out for marine mammals, such as seals and whales while visiting Pigeon Point, they can be seen regularly from shore as they pass by beyond the surf.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse is open publicly for day use 8am-Sunset. Guided half-hour history walks of the lighthouse grounds are available 10:00a.m. – 4:00p.m. Fridays through Mondays, except on rainy days. Next time you are looking to get out of Santa Cruz, grab the family and head up North a bit. The drive is full of amazing scenic coastal views and there are several beach spots to stop at along the way if you are wanting to take a nice walk on the beach.]]>
In the Santa Cruz mountains where the sun beams on big trees and mushrooms grow is a state park I would like to introduce as my favorite state park in California! Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park has been my getaway where I allow nature to fill me up and teach me a lesson or two, usually through bird watching.
The Redwood Grove is not just a pleasant loop walk amongst ancient redwoods, it could also be a magnificent classroom. At the beginning of the loop, pick up a pamphlet which will walk you through every major sight and give you the scientific or historical significance of what you are looking at. Key locations are marked numerically and you read each number off on the pamphlet when you reach that marker, for example you will learn about the big bulges on the sides of redwoods called “Burrs” and why redwoods like to grow in circles amongst each other.The trail along the San Lorenzo river which parallels the Roaring Camp Railroad steam train route, takes you down the hill along the river where there are various small beaches where you could get your feet wet. I watched acorn woodpeckers fly back and fourth across the river and spotted a belted kingfisher hunting for its next meal of small fish. I did photograph a yellow-jacket nest on the underside of a fallen redwood, however they were busy with their daily work and definitely not interested in me.
The wildlife I have spotted there include a young bobcat, deer, crawdads in the river and a red fox on the redwood loop trail. On my evening visits, I hear the hoot of small owls calling back and fourth coming from holes high above the trail. A family of wild turkey is usually seen in the mornings working the redwood grove floors. During the summer there are California quail chicks which are easy to spot because quail during this season gather and feed together in groups referred to as “coveys.” Its hard to get a glimpse of the chicks sometimes because they are great flyers and will disperse before adults do. My favorite redwood forest bird is the Pacific Wren, it is a small brown bird the size of a mouse which is seldom seen even by experienced birders. Its bird song is high pitched and patterned in a way that lights up a whole mountain side. For easier spotting remember this little bird will usually be on the forest floor.
Aromatic California Bay trees line the trails with their sweet scent emanating from their leaves. Some trails are horse friendly so be ready to see horses of all shapes and sizes and their friendly riders, passing you up on your visit. The nature center has a stuffed coyote, fox, garter snake and enough information on the walls to keep you busy for the afternoon. On display outside is a slab of an ancient redwood tree over 2,000 years old, with notes describing its historical existence. I learned about the Zayante Indians that originally inhabited the Santa Cruz mountains and was astonished by their natural local resources such as the river which rises in the winter and of course, plentiful hunting grounds.
Remember this state park is only 6 miles away from downtown Santa Cruz! The river that flows through the middle of it, is the same river (San Lorenzo) that empties out next to the Boardwalk! This state park is as Santa Cruz as it gets! Lets go to the Redwoods!]]>
Santa Cruz locals will love the Monterey Bay Aquarium because it is an excellent introduction to our local Santa Cruz sea life!
Nature enthusiasts and Santa Cruz local’s, Melissa and David Cruz went down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and we are excited about sharing our experience.
While gazing through the circular aquarium window, a sea turtle swam up and surprised us! The crowd around us had a good laugh as we yelped with a happy startle. To keep from being surprised from the sea turtles in the aquarium on your visit, keep an eye out for bubbles!
Our favorite part of the Aquarium was getting to interact with the live ocean life on display in water tanks. Creatures such as red sea cucumbers, green crabs, yellow, purple and blue star fish gave visitors plenty to play with. The guides allow you to touch and get up close and personal with sea creatures usually only seen in ocean movies. Neatest of all was the variety of exotic sea horses. Look for the dragon sea horses, their majestic long bodies gently swim by, as a flying dragon would float through the clouds.
The jelly fish will also not let you down, the most memorable where the glow in the dark ones that blink up and flash like slot machine L.E.D.s. Also, don’t forget to spend some time in the art exhibit display. Ocean wildlife was created completely from recycled sea trash for an excellent presentation. It is a juxtaposition to have beautiful sea otters made of sea trash however it is a good reminder that we are the care takers of our vast blue seas.
If money is tight or if you cant make it out to the Monterey Bay Aquarium soon enough, don’t forget that the same bay that is internationally known for its jellyfish and whales is the same coast that we have right here in Santa Cruz! Small tide pools along our Santa Cruz coast are a great introduction to our local starfish, anemones and hermit crabs which will only motivate you more to arrange your visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium!]]>
Your chance to spot hundreds of seals off the Santa Cruz Coast.
Every weekend could be a nature weekend here in Santa Cruz. Wilder Ranch State Park offers a diverse selection of wild life, both marine and land based. The park has a main loop trail which takes you from the parking lot and around the coastal cliffs. Brown pelicans fly over giving you a hypnotic air show. Seabirds nesting along the sandy cliffs enjoy our Santa Cruz sunset on the ocean horizon. If your lucky you’ll notice dolphins or migrating grey whales beyond the waves, dolphins you’ll recognize as they swim in pods of less than a dozen with their dorsal fins poking just above water. Whales such as migrating Grey Whales are easily recognized by their spout which mushroom sprinkles above the surface. There is also seaside farms with all sorts of vegetables and fruit growing in the adjacent plots for the farmer inside all of us.
Make sure to bring your sunblock because there is no shade on this hike. This is a easy nature loop that is a few miles long. There is benches to sit and rest at along the way. Wilder Ranch is a few miles north of downtown Santa Cruz on the Pacific Coastal Highway and ready for your visit!
This picture shows a Harbor Seal colony with over 100 harbor seals you’ll be able to watch when you arrive to the coastal cliff.
Article by Guest Author, David Cruz]]>