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Santa Cruz Area State Beaches

Santa Cruz Steamer Lane

I am sitting at my desk tonight with an open hard-copy map of California State Parks, to retrace our trip today, while my camera downloads its RAW images. It was a bright, sunny spring day in our part of California, and my wife and I needed our dose of “ocean.” We took Highway 17 over the Santa Cruz Mountains and then headed southward on Highway 1. Eventually we decided to travel to Sunset State Beach, and then return northward, visiting State Beaches along the way, photographing as we went, with an ultimate destination of Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz in the late afternoon (hoping that the waves were good and the surfers plentiful). I will revisit today’s trip, when I can illustrate the day with photos!

Highway 17 was in bloom as we crossed the Santa Cruz Mountains – the trees were a blanket of yellow flowers in some places. Sunset State Beach, where I had photographed California poppies awhile ago, was similarly affected, with scattered patches of California Poppies at the beach, and patches of yellow, purple, and white flowers throughout the campground. The admission to Sunset State Beach (and other State Beaches) was $6/car, BUT admission to one of the State Beaches allowed free admission to others ON THE SAME DAY ONLY. We paid to enter Sunset, and we were “good to go” for the others.

Our next stop was Manresa State Beach. I put the tripod at the edge of the bluff-top parking lot, next to the picnic table with the couple drinking white wine (in blatant violation of the “no alcohol” policy, :-) perhaps it was California wine, and they were providing an economic stimulus). The position afforded great views up and down the beach.

We drove through Rio del Mar, and passed by Seacliff State Beach this time, with its concrete ship (as in “ship made of concrete,” I kid you not!), the Palo Alto, slowly deteriorating at the end of the pier.

Our next stop was New Brighton State Beach, with grand views from the bluff. A ride through the campground (some “premium” sites have extraordinary bluff-top views of the ocean, and today, the entire Monterey Peninsula) revealed trees and flowers in bloom, and mushrooms sprouting from the ground. Yes, I photographed most of them. :-)

Hunger then drove us to nearby Capitola, which is a great place for a cure. My wife said that she would circle the downtown and stop only if a parking spot presented itself (a rare event). Fate was with us, and we filled a parking meter with the coinage necessary for the maximum 2 hours. Then we sought food on foot. After looking at the exhorbitant prices :-) of a few places, we settled on our old standby, The Fog Bank, which has good food, a relaxed atmosphere, and good prices (and Guinness on tap). There were no empty tables on the balcony overlooking the river, beach and pier, so we ate indoors.

Surfers were all over West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz. We looked in vain for a parking place, before my wife decided to drop me off in the parking lot of the Santa Cruz Surfer Museum, next to Steamer Lane. The waves were as large as I have seen them there, and surfers were streaming to Steamer Lane. I shot a little over a gigabyte of just the surfing shots, and I have hopes of a good outcome. Time, and Photoshop®, will tell.

The ride north on Highway 17 was without incident, which is a very good thing on that road. My mind flashed back to a Web site of a daily commuter over and back on Highway 17, who used to take photos of people doing stupid things on the road (no, someone else was driving). The Web site included in the title, “Highway of Shame.” If you travel in and around Silicon Valley very much, you see all sorts of stupid behavior, besides the usual shouting on cell phones – things like reading newspapers and books while driving, shaving while driving, applying eye makeup while driving, texting while driving, and the occasional use of a laptop next to the driver, while driving. The words of Dirty Harry Callahan come to mind, that “a man (or woman) has got to know his (her) limitations.” So many people in Silicon Valley just don’t. Highway 17 is so scenic, that it would be easy to get distracted, if you did not have to pay such close attention to folks doing foolish things all around you. This evening, the foolish event was a line of cars dropping speed far too much as they passed a police car, risking a chain reaction collision on a blind curve of the mountain road.

Ah well, maybe the occasional excitement is why we live here. I will have the shots from today’s trip up on the Cheshire Cat Photo™ site as soon as I can.

Update: March 23, 2008 – The photos of Santa Cruz Area State Beaches and surfing at Steamer Lane are up on cheshirecatphoto.com. Almost 200 photos, including over 100 surfing shots, were placed in the California CoastFlowers, and Outdoor Recreation albums in the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™. Lower-resolution versions of all photos of the coast and flowers, but only a sample of the surfing shots, were also placed in the Portfolio, in the Calfornia CoastFlowers, and Outdoor Recreation sections, respectively.

Enjoy!

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

You can view higher-resolution photos (*generally* 7-30 megabytes, compressed) at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™, where you can also order prints and gifts decorated with the photos of your choice from the gallery. Apparel and other gifts decorated with some of our most popular photos can be ordered from the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Store on CafePress®.

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