Saturday, April 18, 2009

Someone Else's Backyard

Long time readers know that one of the reasons I enjoy geocaching is it gets me out on trails in my local area. Basically, it gets me to explore my own back yard, something that I probably wouldn't have done were it not for geocaching. Last weekend, I was in Santa Cruz and did some geocaching in between the tour of the campus and the boardwalk.

After the tour of campus, I could tell my son was tired. He let me know that he had a headache and so we went back to the motel room where he ended up taking a nap. I looked up on the laptop and discovered a small cache on the boardwalk, plus another couple of caches to the north of the motel, including a virtual. After getting the small cache under the boardwalk, I headed north.

The first cache was a bust. It looked interesting because there was supposed to be a benchmark there as well, but it was in an awkward spot, sort of in the middle of traffic. The cache page had warnings about little children and where they shouldn't be and I was uncomfortable looking for the cache because of the volume of traffic on the two streets that converged into one. I decided to pass on that one and headed over to find the virtual cache.

If you've ever been to Santa Cruz, you know it has hills. They're nothing like San Francisco's hills, but I got a good workout nonetheless. The street layout of the city, due to the hills and the curving bay to the south makes it difficult to make a straight line direction to anything, but I eventually found a way over to where I needed to be.

What I found was Neary Lagoon. It's a freshwater wetlands area in the middle of a residential area. At first I thought it might be a salt water lagoon, but that opinion was quickly changed once I started walking on the trail. At the beginning of the loop trail, there were interpretive signs that for some reason I didn't read. Usually, I always read the signs and look at the maps, but I didn't this time. Because of that I was in for the surprise of my life and a nice treat.

I had my choice of left or right on the trail and I chose right, mainly because that's what I ended up seeing first when I approached the entrance to the lagoon area. It was actually a very good choice, because I felt the climax of the trail was at the end of my hike, so it worked its way up to bigger and better things as I walked.

Almost the entire path, at least on the side I started was a wooden boardwalk over grasses and different kinds of flowering plants. There were view points along the trail with interpretive signs, all of which I read. The first part almost felt like I was infringing on some one's backyard because there were townhouses that literally abutted the grounds of the lagoon area. About 200 feet or so of walking along this boardwalk, the walk made a left hand turn into a tunnel of bushes and smallish types of trees. I was unprepared for what lay ahead.

When I came out of the natural tunnel I was on the lagoon. The walk now floated on top of the water and there was a large island. I could see turtles sunning themselves on makeshift landings that had been provided for them. Coots and mallards were swimming in the water and sitting on the shoreline. The walk had become one of those pleasant surprises that geocaching throws at you from time to time. I was experiencing someone else's backyard this time, not my own, and it was grand.

At the far end of the loop was the virtual cache. I needed to get information off of the sign to score the smiley on this one. Originally, there had been a cache at the site, but somehow it disappeared. Perhaps a clumsy geocacher dropped it in the lagoon? Whatever the reason, the hider decided to make it a virtual cache and it worked just as well.

Eventually, I left the lagoon and got onto a dirt trail that wound around the north end of the lagoon on the shore. There was a water treatment facility just to the north that I suspect is where most of the run off for this lagoon comes, but it didn't detract from the overall atmosphere of the walk.

Nearing the end of my walk, I noticed that I was going to end up crossing over a small "stream" that fed the lagoon. There was an area of water overflow here and much to my surprise, I ended up coming almost face to face with a very large Great Blue Heron. It eyed me for several minutes, giving me enough time to take a couple of pictures, then slowly rose out of the water, flew off and settled somewhere else in the overflow that apparently was a little bit more private. It was a nice chance encounter and a nice end to a very relaxing walk on the wild side of Santa Cruz.

This was the third time I've cached in Santa Cruz County. I haven't been disappointed yet with the caches I've found. Perhaps I could say I'm also lucky that I've ended up finding some real gems for caches up there. Who knows? Maybe the hiders in that part of the state just like to hide slightly better caches than in other areas. I did notice there didn't seem to be a high degree of cache density in the area we were staying, so that could be the reason. Whatever the reason, this particular cache ended up on my top 5% list for rather obvious reasons. Next time you're in the Santa Cruz area, you'll probably enjoy the hour of your time to walk around the lagoon.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocache:
S.C. Birdwalk Cache - by grumpybear and jtkcacher

Profile for Webfoot


RDOwens said...

The lagoon certainly looks like my kind of place. Nice photographs.

Webfoot said...

Thanks. It really was an unexpected surprise. The walk over the water had regular intervals with benches to just sit and enjoy the solitude. Outside of a couple of teenagers enjoying an area, I pretty much had the area to myself that day.

chaosmanor said...

When Sharon and I were up that way last summer, we almost went to that lagoon, but we spent more time at Natural Bridges SB than we expected to (the tide pools there were pretty good, and I'm loathe to hurry Sharon along when she's enjoying herself; she *did* emphasis in Marine Biology when she got her BS in Zoology, after all), and we spent an entire day up the coast at the elephant seal preserve attached to Año Nuevo SP. The Santa Cruz area is a treasure trove of wonders of all sorts, and we haven't even discussed the redwood country :-D Henry Cowell Redwoods has been a favorite of ours for many years, and we've begun to gain an appreciation for Big Basin, in no small part due to your trumpeting its appeal; we're begin to share your enthusiasm for it.

While we still have the Eureka area pegged as our retirement location, we have to admit that coastal communities such as Montara, Davenport and El Granada have begun to call to us. It should be interesting to see where we finally choose to spend our "Golden Years".

Thanks for the nice write-up! We'll definitely take the time to visit this spot the next time we are up that way.