Santa Cruz

Alas, no Butterflies, but Elfland Lives

I went to university at UC Santa Cruz, so it doesn't take much excuse for
me to head down there.

Sometime in February, I mentioned to my friends that Monarch
Butterflies spend the winter in Santa Cruz at Natural Bridges. So, we
decided to head down there the first weekend in March.

However, given the torrential rains, mudslides, poor driving conditions,
and a general disinclination on my part to die for a pleasure trip, we put
it off till the 11th. A great decision, because that was a lovely day.

Karen, Gina, Ken and I set out around 10:30 a.m. I took the coastal route. Hwy. 280 from San Francisco, and then over the mountains on Hwy. 92 towards Half Moon Bay and then down the coast on Hwy. 1. It is my favorite route and I take it whenever I can. It's a little less curvy than the Devil's Slide stretch between San Francisco and Half Moon Bay. And unlike the Devil's Slide area, there are frequent passing lanes. It is not as fast as taking 280 all the way to San Jose and then over the mountains on Hwy. 17, but there are some
beautiful stretches of coastline, rolling hills, and farmland that are very

We went to Natural Bridges State Park first thing. Unfortunately, most of the butterflies had already begun their spring time migration north. They arrive in October and stay through February / March. At the height of the season, millions of butterflies cling to strands of hanging Eucalyptus
branches. By the time we got there, only a few dozen floated around. But
since they were floating around on a darn nice day, eh, whatever, try again next year. (We marked the calendar for December.)

After that, we headed for Zoccoli's deli in downtown Santa Cruz. They aren't fast, but they serve incredible sandwiches.

Lunch in hand, we headed up to the UCSC campus.

Now here I should explain something. Most universities have a bunch of
classrooms, perhaps broken up by a few trees. At Santa Cruz, rolling hills
and vast redwood forests are broken up by a few classrooms. The campus is
huge and gorgeous and I loved every minute that I spent there.

One of the, well I can't really say odder, hmmm...more interesting, no well, typical aspects of the Campus is Elfland. (Aside. Santa Cruz is an odd place. When I went there, there were no grades. Instead, we had page long
narrative evaluations. We had and have no sports teams, only intramural
sports. Our mascot is a Banana Slug.)

Hmmm...I really need to back up here. Ok, basically, redwood trees often grow in circles because they can reproduce by budding off another tree. Students, making use of this phenomenon, built elf dens by weaving fallen branches between the trees. They then leave offerings to the elves. Bits of plastic, toys, jewels. Cheap things (we are talking students), but cool interesting things. We decorated the dens like we would have done a dorm room. And on moonlit nights, students will go into the woods and sit in dens and tell ghost stories while the trees creak.

Sigh, anyway, dens also have another important feature, message boxes. Tins or plastic boxes with bits of paper inside. Thoughts and poems left behind by fellow travelers.

Most dens have painted signs identifying the name of the den. There are also
signs on other important landmarks. The Troll bridge, a fallen tree which
bridges a sink hole, the bridge to Heaven, a fallen tree that reaches into
the air, and the way to hell, where the tree's roots once sat.

Now Elfland used to be bigger. It used to be in the middle of nowhere. Now its right next to Colleges 9 and 10 (Elfland was there first). So, there are not quite as many dens, but it's still cool.

We wrapped up the trip by a visit to my college (the UC is divided into
colleges along the English system like Oxford) and then home again, home
again jiggetty, jig, via Hwy. 17.

For a map of Elfland, visit the Special Collections department at McHenry Library and check out the Morad Roel (it has a map) or for a low rez version, go here. And what the hey, here's the on-line version of the Morad Roel.

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