Waddell Creek to Laguna Creek

July 24: Santa Cruz County
Waddell Creek to Laguna Creek. 13 miles

During the night some of us awoke to an unfamiliar sound on our tents – rain; our first for the trip. From inside the tent, it sounded like a deluge but it was really just a small shower. In the morning the ground was all but dry, the weather was warm, and still and we had a buttermilk sky above. But by 7 AM the fog had rolled in, the wind was kicking up and there was a definite chill in the air.

We began our day at 7:15, driving to the Whale City Bakery, Bar and Grill in Davenport where the owner, Stephanie Rogust gave us complimentary rolls and coffee. Then it was back to Waddell Creek for the start of the real business of the day. The local Coastwalk group has not arranged day leaders for us, so today we are on our own. “J”, who lives nearby, is appointed hike leader. As we were being watched by sitting flocks of Heerman’s and California Gulls, we forded Waddell Creek and walked the beach to the Greyhound Rock Public Fishing Access. After climbing back to Highway One, we have a decision to make: should we take the highway or should we travel along Swanton Road. Even though Swanton Road adds a mile or two to the day and a considerable climb up and over the first range of hills, it is our choice. The highway will always come in second; we’ve already had enough of it.

Swanton Road proves to be an excellent choice. It runs in the valley of Scott’s Creek and is warmer than the highway and provides vistas of redwood covered hills. “J” lives off Swanton, and we are met by his friends Ann, Matt and Rowan Rowley who give us cold drinks at their exquisite house. It is impossible here to describe the house’s custom wood and stone work.

At the turn of the century (1900), the southern portion of the Ocean Shore Rail Road ended along Scott’s Creek. Carl May in San Mateo County had previously shown us at Tunitas Creek where the northern portion ended. Between the two termini, ran a jitney service. The San Francisco earthquake and fire in 1906 put an end to this enterprise, and it went bankrupt in 1909. Now Swanton Road is the home of the Swanton Pacific Rail Road.

Al Smith, from Santa Cruz, came from a hardware-store-owning family. After studies at Cal Poly, he took over the family business and expanded it to what is now the Orchard Supply chain of stores. He never married, had no immediate heirs, and being extremely fond of his college, he gave his ranch on Swanton Road to the school. Today it is home of his railroad, a ¼-scale model train with several miles of track, bridges over the creek, a station and a round house. In addition much of the bottom land is used by Cal Poly students for practical agricultural studies.

Swanton Road rejoins the highway near Davenport, and we crossed the highway to walk a bit on Davenport Landing Road, and then re-crossed the highway to take up our hike on Cement Plant Road. After lunch in Davenport, we continued on along the existing railroad track and also along farm roads on the Coast Dairies property.The railroad often went through cuts where it was very warm, and the smell of the creosote-soaked ties was strong. There was more breeze along the farm roads, but we were often slowed down by mud created by the irrigation sprinklers.

After ending the day, we were carried in the Melmobile to Wilder State Park, where special arrangements have been made to allow us to camp in what is normally a day-use-only park. Our camp is on a green lawn surrounded by new apple trees and old farm buildings. In 1969 the ranch was sold to the Moroto Investment Company; their plans were to create a development that would double the then size of Santa Cruz. Local opposition to this idea was organized and was successful. The land was sold to the State in 1974. Its 3,800 acres includes miles of beach and bluff as well as extending into the hills to the east.

In scouting for an outdoor electrical plug so that this could be written without draining our computer’s battery, Linda and I came upon a combination goat and goose pen. While we were speaking to the goats, a coyote appeared at the far end of the pen! The goats reacted swiftly to its presence, snorting at it and then advancing upon it as a group. It left. We asked the ranger about it, and she said she had not seen a coyote there before, but that bobcats habitually frequented the farmstead hunting for gophers. (Jon Breyfogle; photos by Linda Hanes)

Left: Walking the Coastal Trail Tracks; Right, The Swanton Pacific Rail Road