Last week, Ben surprised me with an adventure! We went to Wilder Ranch State Park near Santa Cruz. It turned out to be a beautiful fall day, and we followed a pumpkin field to get into the park. This year we’ll have to drink some apple cider and pick pumpkins. I’m craving some sensory experience of the changing season, which I’ve found I really have to seek out in California if I want it. It’s easy to miss here.

The trail we picked followed the bluffs along the ocean. All of the beaches were off limits to protect the seabirds, but the view from the bluffs was spectacular, and it was neat to see so many birds. I particularly loved the little plovers that follow the waves, scurrying back and forth along the shoreline to find food but stay dry. I don’t know if this is the type of plover that is endangered, but some are and whenever I see plovers I’m grateful for the experience. I’m also aware of the fact that this gratitude probably has something to do with the fact that they are ridiculously cute. I’ll head over to ugly overload to work against this baby-seal-effect. Anyway, we also saw a colony of brown pelicans and two colonies of cormorants (and gulls, of course). It was awesome to see entire colonies of these birds. I love watching pelicans fly. They’re so awkward and ancient in their wing shape.

We saw a whole colony of seals! The adults were all lazing in the sun and the little ones were sitting further away and splashing around in the water. It reminded me of family gatherings – all of the kids playing downstairs while the adults hung out in the kitchen.

Seals in foreground, cormorants and pelicans in background

We wandered around and checked out a hobby farm that’s still kept up on the property. Crawled through some aloe jungle. Talked to the chickens (I am the chicken whisperer).

This is what I’m talkin’ about when I say ‘jungle’.

When we started to get hungry, we headed into town for a stroll around the Santa Cruz boardwalk. The rides weren’t running, so we’ll have to go back on a weekend, but it was cool just walking through the classic amusement park, checking out the arcade (they have a great classic corner with all of the faves), feeling the ocean breeze, watching the beach volleyball players (they are serious, for realz), eating pizza, playing songs on the jukebox, and basking in the neon glow. I like Santa Cruz. It’s touristy, but it’s also a town that seems to value having fun.

Lost Boys

Oh, also sea lions. Santa Cruz has sea lions.