This morning (Saturday) we got picked up at the San Jose Elks Lodge by my cousin Beth and her husband Keith. They offered to act as our tour-guides for the day and take us to see the Monarch butterflies in Santa Cruz Natural Bridges State Beach. We also planned to check out the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz while we were there.
We left little dog ‘Coach’ in the Coach since we planned to be back before suppertime.
We made good time getting to Santa Cruz on CA-17 and parked on the street opposite the Natural Bridges State Park (←link) parking lot, therefore saving ourselves the parking fee. It sure is great to have local tour-guides! 🙂
I took a picture of Stilla, Cousin Beth, and her husband Keith in front of the entrance sign…
then Keith returned the favor and took a rare photograph of Stilla and I.
Informational placard at the entrance to the State Beach.
The park website says that the Monarch Grove in the state beach park provides a temporary home for up to 100,000 Monarch butterflies. From late fall into winter, the Monarchs form a “city in the trees.” The area’s mild seaside climate and eucalyptus grove provide a safe place for monarchs to roost until spring.
We took the Monarch Trail in search of butterflies.
We came across the strangest tree while walking the trail. The tree had grown onto itself… don’t recall seeing that before.
We continued down the trail in search of butterflies… if anyone told me years ago that I’d be doing that – I’d call ’em crazy 🙂
We reached the boardwalk area of the trail:
And we soon found the butterflies… they were hiding behind all the people:
A lot of folks take their butterfly watching seriously; there were people with telescopes, binoculars, and cameras with telephoto lenses…
This guy really got down with the butterflies (literally) 🙂
We sat down with Beth & Keith to enjoy the show.
More informational placards:
And some pictures of Monarch butterflies:
After getting our fill of butterfly watching, we walked over to the visitor center.
There were a few neat “live” displays in the visitors center:
OK, this one (below) wasn’t “live” but the caterpillars (above) were.
Beth aced the ‘Monarch Madness Quiz’ on the wall of the visitors center. I missed a few of the questions 🙁 But in my defense, Beth is a teacher by profession.
And as we have all come to know; all visitor centers have their exits through the gift shop:
We walked down to the beach from the visitor center:
It was a really nice beach. We hung out for a while.
Here’s the only remaining natural bridge (below) that the beach was named after. There were originally three of these.
Wikipedia® (←link) says that wave erosion carved the arches and then cut away the cliffs leaving only islands. Of the three original arches only the middle one remains. The outermost arch fell during the early 20th century and the inner arch collapsed during a storm in 1980.
Here’s a few ‘action’ pics of the waves breaking on the arch:
I even got a chance to get my feet wet while we checked out the beach.
We watched some younger folks that seemed to be going through some sort of initiation ritual, possibly a college fraternity.
We had a great seafood dinner at Gilda’s:
After an awesome lunch we drove on over to the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot.
The entrance fees were pretty reasonable.
Our tour-guide led us up the hill after entertaining us with a lot of ‘tongue-in-cheek’ humor.
He demonstrated that a couple boards laid out on the concrete slabs were level…
then he asked for volunteers to stand opposite each other and take note of who is taller than the other…
then he had the volunteers switch sides… and to everyone’s amazement; the person on the downhill side would ‘magically’ appear to be taller.
A couple other volunteers tried it out as well:
Beth & Keith checked out the ‘anomaly’ after the crowd left… I’m unsure of the result!?!
We marched up the steep concrete walkway.
Our tour-guide demonstrated some more ‘anomalies’ outside the tilted shack that he said slid down the hill to it’s present position… not quite sure I believe that one, do you?
Here (below) he demonstrates how a cue ball appears to roll uphill away from the shack. He demonstrated the same thing by pouring some water onto the board as well.
Then we got to play around in the tilted shack:
This heavy metal ball (below) was suspended from the ceiling. It was harder to push away from the wall than it was to push towards the wall from its natural level position. Weird, huh?
I was climbing the wall (literally).
We got one more demonstration regarding ‘perspective’ and some more bad jokes from our nice tour-guide, then he passed out bumper stickers.
At the end of the tour, we made the trek back down to the bottom of the hill… much easier going down 🙂
And then we did a quick tour of the gift shop:
After that unique and interesting experience, Keith & Beth drove us back to the Coach. We made pretty good time with not too much traffic. What a great day… I have to give Beth & Keith an A+ tour-guide rating. Maybe they should look into starting a side business as local tour-guides 🙂
We made plans to get together again for dinner at my cousin Phil’s house on Sunday evening. Check back for more on that…