Beaches · Hiking · Travel

Day trip to the Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz

Two years, multiple surgeries and a plethora of ups and downs later we are back to doing things that we love. And I hope it continues this way. We kicked off 2015 with a short hiking trip. Our first hike in almost over 2 years and our first hike with our one year old was at Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz, California. I must say that picking a hiking spot was slightly challenging since we are trying to get used to carrying a baby on our backs and want to target shorter hikes. Nevertheless, our first pick find turned out to be a great one. It was M’s idea to go to Natural Bridges State Park to photograph the monarchs, spend time at the beach and keep it baby friendly. So off we were to Santa Cruz all prepared to introduce our little one to hiking.

Natural Bridge
Natural Bridge

So what’s special about this state park? As per the state park’s website: The beach, with its famous natural bridge, is an excellent vantage point for viewing shore birds, migrating whales, and seals and otters playing offshore. The park’s Monarch Grove provides a temporary home for up to 100,000 Monarchs.  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. The monarchs typically begin arriving in mid-October and have left by mid-February. 

On the Monarch Trail
On the Monarch Trail

The GOOD: Lovely weather, clear skies and my excited little one who couldn’t stop muttering “fy-fy” and fluttering his hands like a bird when I explained to him that we were going to spot butterflies and they fly too, just like birds!

Can you count how many monarchs are there?
Can you count how many monarchs are there?

 

The BAD: Not being able to spot as many butterflies as we hoped too.

Before we went on the hike, I googled up the ‘Monarch Trail’ to find out what to expect and I was thrilled by the images I saw. It appeared as if it was going to live up to the hype that M had created. Of course, I knew that since we were going there towards the end of the season, the number of butterflies might be less since they migrate back. Google up images for monarch butterflies at natural bridges state park in santa cruz and you will know what I am talking about.

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Unfortunately, we did not get to witness so many butterflies and the so called “monarch bokeh”. When we were on the hike, the rangers told us that the number of butterflies has been much much lesser this year. Even during the start of the season. They are dwindling in numbers 😦 I wish next year and the years to come are better! I never thought I would say this – NEVER and I really mean NEVER, but we need to preserve nature and our natural habitat, for the next generations. I am a nature lover and I feel a joy that I cannot explain when I go hiking and it would be nice if my child can experience it! The rangers at the state park are encouraging everyone to plant more milkweed plants because that is the only plant these monarchs feed on.

Caterpillar spotted at the visitor center
Caterpillar spotted at the visitor center

Anyhoo, after the hike we headed to the beach and spent some time there. There’s only one natural bridge now, but earlier there used to be three. The first one fell off in the early 1900’s and the second one around 1980 due to a storm. There is access to tide pools from the beach so we took a stroll there. All in all, it was a great day out and my little one loved it. Post our trip, butterflies have become a thing for him. He cannot stop saying “fy fy fy” and flutter his hands when he spots a butterfly in the book. Every time I see that, I feel the trip was worth it 🙂

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