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Sea lions, surfers, butterflies on 3 miles of level bike path in Santa Cruz.

Sea lions, surfers, butterflies on 3 miles of level bike path in Santa Cruz The Santa Cruz shore gets pleasantly unpopulated this time of year. The certain sun of September and early October is gone, but many warm days remain, and, if the day is gray, there are few better places to spend it than sweatered at continent's edge. One fine stretch of coast is centered around Lighthouse Field and Natural Bridges state beaches. It makes a very good bicycle trip along a flat, 3-mile path. Our tour follows W. Cliff Drive, Swanton Drive, and Delaware Avenue, and can be begun in either direction; there's limited street parking available at both ends. We start to the west.

Sea lions, butterflies, and surfers

Reached by dirt road from Delaware Avenue and surrounded by that most typical Santa Cruz crop, Brussels sprouts, Long Marine Laboratory looks like a successful farm. But as the marine research station of UC Santa Cruz, its attention is turned seaward. Start at the aquarium, which highlights marine life of Monterey Bay, then see the 81-foot skeleton of a blue whale, then the lab museum.

Docents introduce you to the facility's marine mammals (all bred in captivity or rescued after being stranded on beaches). Current residents include sea lions, studied for language acquisition, and bottlenosed dolphins, whose echolocation is also a focus of research. (If experiments are going on, animals may be off limits.) The laboratory, at the west end of Delaware Avenue, is open to the public from 1 to 4 Tuesdays through Sundays. For more information, call (408) 429-4087.

From the lab, follow the bike route east along Delaware Avenue. Almost immediately to your left is Antonelli Pond, with mallards and a pretty nature trail. Turn south on Swanton Drive to Natural Bridges State Park.

This is one of the best places on the coast to view the phenomenon that marks autumn in California as surely as reddening maples do in Vermont: the gathering of monarch butterflies on eucalyptus branches. A 1/2-mile butterfly trail begins near park headquarters; walk it with help of a trail guide (available at the start of the trail) or, some weekends, on a ranger-led tour. The park is open from 8 A.M. to sunset; day-use fee is $2 per car. For more, call 423-4609.

From Natural Bridges, take the bike path 2 miles east to Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, home to the new Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. Santa Cruz has been a surfing hot spot since the 1910s: the museum remembers an era when surfers rode 120-pound redwood boards, braved the Pacific wearing only swim trunks (wet suits had to wait for World War II), and applauded visiting royalty of surfdom, such as Duke Kahanomoku. It's open noon to 5 Wednesdays through Sundays. While at the museum, you might pick up information on one of its cosponsors, the Surfrider Foundation, which works up and down the California coast to preserve good surfing conditions, fighting water pollution and coast-threatening development. For more information, write to the foundation, 526 Middlefield Dr., Aptos, Calif. 95003.

You can observe the current state of the sport as you bike W. Cliff Drive north from the museum past Steamer Lane. This spot is at its best when winter brings swells from northern Pacific storms. From here, the bike path joins Beach Street on its way to the Santa Cruz pier and boardwalk.

A helpful aid for cyclists is the Santa Cruz bikeway map, free at the Santa Cruz County Transportation Commission, Government Center, 701 Ocean St., 95060. You can stop by between 8 and 5 weekdays, or ask for a copy by mail or by calling (408) 425-2951.
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Nov 1, 1986
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