Alas, no Butterflies,
but Elfland Lives
I went to university at UC Santa Cruz, so it doesn't take much excuse
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,
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,
it off till the 11th. A great decision, because that was a lovely day.
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
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.
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
Lunch in hand, we headed up to the UCSC campus.
Now here I should explain something. Most universities have a bunch
classrooms, perhaps broken up by a few trees. At Santa Cruz, rolling
and vast redwood forests are broken up by a few classrooms. The campus
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.
dens also have another important feature, message boxes. Tins or plastic
boxes with bits of paper inside. Thoughts and poems left behind by fellow
Most dens have painted signs identifying the name of the den. There
signs on other important landmarks. The Troll bridge, a fallen tree
bridges a sink hole, the bridge to Heaven, a fallen tree that reaches
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,
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