Laguna Creek (Wilder Ranch State Park) to Downtown Santa Cruz

July 25, Santa Cruz County
Laguna Creek (Wilder Ranch State Park) to Downtown Santa Cruz. 14.2 miles

Our night at Wilder was punctuated by the sounds of owls, coyotes, and Highway One. We awoke early and were soon greeted by Julie Hitchcock, our hiking friend from Sonoma County, and also by Jim Townsend, Acquisitions Manager for the East Bay Regional Park system where he works on trails.
We rode back to Laguna Creek and began again on the railroad tracks, and soon were up onto a farm road paralleling the tracks. It was not long before we were completely immersed in corporate agriculture. A contraption right out of Star Wars was slowly moving through a lettuce field, all booms and conveyor belts. Attending it were perhaps thirty farm workers. Lettuce was being picked and packaged. Moreover, lettuce in great quantities was being left in the fields. Such waste. The workers were from a labor contractor; their bus said “Yuma, Arizona” on its side. The machine was contracted from another company. People in front of the machine cut the lettuce and passed it on to a conveyor belt; the belt transferred it to a hopper, which eventually disgorged the lettuce into large cardboard boxes on trailers behind a tractor. It was a great advertisement for home gardening.
We soon met up with Willie Wool and her adult education class, “Willie’s Wanderers”, who had hiked north from Wilder. They joined us and headed back south to Wilder and lunch. Along the way as we walked along the bluffs we saw our first otter of the journey and visited a fern grotto in a cave at one of the pocket beaches.
South of Wilder we walked along a multi-use pathway into Santa Cruz and Natural Bridges State Park where we learned of its history and its place in the migratory route of the Monarch butterfly. At this time of the year no butterflies are about but in the winter the eucalyptus trees are covered with resting Monarchs.
We then walked into downtown Santa Cruz along the bluff trail, stopping at Steamers to watch the surfers tackle the bigger waves. Swimming side by side here were surfers and otters. While an otter lying on its back calmly crunched on a clam, surfers were catching their waves and sailing past.
Our destination for the night was the Santa Cruz Youth Hostel where we said goodbye by to Pat and Paul Schoch who completed their portion of the walk. The Melmobile was in the shop all day getting its brakes repaired, and as soon as it showed up at the hostel, we were off to Manresa State Beach where the Santa Cruz Coastwalk was camped. We arrived in time for dinner and to say hello to old and new friends and to answer questions about our trip. In attendance, among others, was our State Parks volunteer, Cyndy Spita.
Then it was back to Santa Cruz where several of us took off to the boardwalk and the free concert by Peter Noone and the sixties rock group “Herman’s Hermits”. You may remember their hits – “There’s a Kind of Hush”, “Henry the Eighth”, “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter”. So there we were on the boardwalk, where the carnival meets the sea, reliving our past. The stage is set up on the beach itself and as the spotlight plays on Noone as he prances from one side of the stage to the other, it also plays on the sand and surf beyond. There is a place for Lost Coasts and wilderness but there also has to be a place for this: thousands of people enjoying the coast, sitting in beach chairs listening to music. It’s all so terribly commercial and tacky, but it is so much fun. (Jon Breyfogle; photos by Linda Hanes)

Left: A pocket beach on the north Santa Cruz coast. Right: Lettuce farming on the cool coastal bluff.