This Saturday, March 7, at the Mission Santa Cruz/UC Santa Cruz
Arboretum field trip, at least ten camera club members and associates
drove over the hill to the city of Santa Cruz to go to the University
of California Santa Cruz Arboretum to see the hummingbirds. (Some of
our club members, I suspect, were touring with a local garden club.)
It couldn't have been a more beautiful day and five of the foodies met
at Zachary's to start it with a nice breakfast before we drove up to
the very beautiful campus of UC Santa Cruz.
It just so happened that Saturday was hummingbird day at the arboretum
and a large number of other people were there on the grounds, making it
seem like a big event. My trip timing was impeccable, but
unintentional! (Did you notice me trying to take credit for something I
didn't do?) To tell the truth, without the hummingbird event, the day
would have seemed fairly lackluster, but everybody seemed to be having
a very good time, so the trip didn't wash out after all.
The collection of plants at the arboretum include a strange mixture of
natives and exotics from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. There
were some odd looking plants and flowers and the little "hummers" were
happily buzzing allover the place. Those who brought their extra long
lenses probably got some good pictures of the amazingly colorful little
birds. And there were some species of them that we usually don't see in
Santa Clara County.
I was counting on Mission Santa Cruz to be more of what it wasn't.
Although it is part of the state park system, it is small and
relatively uninteresting - unless, of course, you are an aficionado of
the California missions. Originally we planned to meet at the mission
after breakfast, but the new hummingbird developments at the arboretum
caused plans to change. Had we based all the interest of the trip on
the mission, we would have all been disappointed.
I'm not saying Mission Santa Cruz is not interesting, there s really
not much left of it. All that remains of the original complex is a
portion of one of the reconstructed secondary buildings only a couple
hundred feet of it. The museum, relative to some of the others, is
really a bit of a disappointment, but the structure itself is
interesting because you can see behind some of the finished walls and
see how it was constructed. Now that I've been to about half of the
California missions and one of the ruins in Mexico, I can say that if
you've seen one mission museum, then you could probably skip the rest!
In my opinion, Mission San Juan Bautista is one of the better missions
to go see because there are quite a few structures from the old town
nearby and the landscape around the mission hasn't been completely
ruined by development. The gift shop is pretty nice and the courtyard
and interior of the sanctuary are beautiful. Plus it's got chickens! If
you walk around the old mission village you can see several chickens
strutting around engaging in important chicken business crowing,
scratching, pecking and cackling. The chickens sort of pulled me back
into the time vortex to a place where I could close my eyes and
visualize what might have been. You can still see the old dirt path
that used to run where El Camino Real did and imagine some of the
travelers stopping by for a drink of water or to rest in the shade
provided by the mission's roof.
The history of Mission Santa Cruz is more interesting than that of
Mission San Juan Bautista, but there is nothing there to put you in
contact with the long-buried past definitely no chickens! A replica of
the mission chapel sits on the square, but since the original mission
was sort of a rambling complex, the replica chapel is small and squat
and does little to command the eye. The view inside the sanctuary is
lovely, but lacks any of the much better statuary, iconic art and
native-painted designs that adorn the sanctuaries of the other missions
such as San Luis Obispo, San Juan Bautista etc.
Unfortunately the church probably doesn't want to capitalize on the
"Bad Luck Mission" aspect of the history. Natural disasters such as a
flood and two devastating earthquakes, not to mention hostile locals
and threats by pirates make the history and legends much richer than
anything the museum has to offer in its exhibits. Although a
demonstration on making acorn mush provided by a very enthusiastic
state park employee had a group of us going for a few minutes. In case
you are curious, acorn mush tastes like Cream of Wheat! And the term
"Cream of Wheat" could pretty much sum up the experience that most
visitors have when they visit Mission Santa Cruz. Still, I enjoyed
seeing the old houses that surround the mission site, and the view of
downtown Santa Cruz from mission hill is very pleasing.
Later my traveling companion and I went down to the good old Boardwalk
to clear the taste of the Cream of Wheat off our palettes with some
corn dogs and caramel apples on the midway. (Down by the sea, the
pirates are plastic, but the atmosphere was much more interesting!)
If you want to go on your own to either location, admission for the
arboretum is $5 per person and it is open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Hummingbirds should be present most of the year, but the spring blossoms really brings them out.
Take a drive around the campus it is spectacular!
The mission opens at 10 a.m. and a donation is suggested. The grounds
are very pleasant and suitable for a very nice picnic. Plus the acorn
mush is the best in town!
© 2009 S.R. Hinrichs
||Mission Santa Cruz/UC Santa Cruz
||March 7, 2009
||March 9, 2009