Magazine article Sunset

Sea Lions, Surfers, Butterflies on 3 Miles of Level Bike Path in Santa Cruz

Magazine article Sunset

Sea Lions, Surfers, Butterflies on 3 Miles of Level Bike Path in Santa Cruz

Article excerpt

Sea lions, surfers, butterflies on 3 miles of level bike path in Santa Cruz The Santa Cruz shore gets pleasantly unpopulated this time of year. The certain sun of September and early October is gone, but many warm days remain, and, if the day is gray, there are few better places to spend it than sweatered at continent's edge. One fine stretch of coast is centered around Lighthouse Field and Natural Bridges state beaches. It makes a very good bicycle trip along a flat, 3-mile path. Our tour follows W. Cliff Drive, Swanton Drive, and Delaware Avenue, and can be begun in either direction; there's limited street parking available at both ends. We start to the west.

Sea lions, butterflies, and surfers

Reached by dirt road from Delaware Avenue and surrounded by that most typical Santa Cruz crop, Brussels sprouts, Long Marine Laboratory looks like a successful farm. But as the marine research station of UC Santa Cruz, its attention is turned seaward. Start at the aquarium, which highlights marine life of Monterey Bay, then see the 81-foot skeleton of a blue whale, then the lab museum.

Docents introduce you to the facility's marine mammals (all bred in captivity or rescued after being stranded on beaches). Current residents include sea lions, studied for language acquisition, and bottlenosed dolphins, whose echolocation is also a focus of research. (If experiments are going on, animals may be off limits.) The laboratory, at the west end of Delaware Avenue, is open to the public from 1 to 4 Tuesdays through Sundays. For more information, call (408) 429-4087.

From the lab, follow the bike route east along Delaware Avenue. Almost immediately to your left is Antonelli Pond, with mallards and a pretty nature trail. Turn south on Swanton Drive to Natural Bridges State Park.

This is one of the best places on the coast to view the phenomenon that marks autumn in California as surely as reddening maples do in Vermont: the gathering of monarch butterflies on eucalyptus branches. …

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