New Almaden, Fremont Peak, and Monterey Bay Trip
January 29 to February 1, 2013

In reviewing the map of my panorama coverage, which I do several times a year, I realized that there were some significant gaps quite close to home. This was the first of four trips in early 2013 attempting to fix that (the others were to Pinnacles, the Santa Cruz Mountains, and the Napa Valley).

In four days I took 61 panoramas.

(Click any picture to open a larger version.)

January 29, 2013

New Almaden has been on my list since college and I finally made it. A fascinating locale, one of the the two big historic mercury mines in California, it dates back to before the Gold Rush. I had a look at the Casa Grande museum and the village in the valley, then a good hike around the mine and smelter area, English Town and Spanish Town, on the ridge high above.

Casa Grande at Almaden, the mine superintendent's house, now the museum.

Little remains of Spanish Town and English Town on the ridge where the mines were.

Because of the short days at this time of year I arrived in camp well after dark. I was the only one in the tiny campground at the summit of Fremont Peak, high above San Juan Bautista. The morning views were spectacular.

All panoramas taken this day (11)

Panoramas of New Almaden Quicksilver County Park

January 30, 2013

Early in the morning I made the short hike to the summit of Fremont Peak, then drove down the mountain and west to Castroville and the coast. In the afternoon I took a nice hike at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Preserve.

Fremont Peak played a dramatic, though largely symbolic, role in the history of California. In 1846 Captain John C. Fremont raised the American flag here, in plain sight of the town of San Juan Bautista, defying the Mexican authorities.

Castroville proclaims itself to be the Artichoke Center of the World. The first queen of their annual Artichoke Festival was an unknown starlet named Norma Jean Baker, later known as Marilyn Monroe.

Overlooking one of the branches of Elkhorn Slough, a national estuarine preserve.

This is at the Elkhorn Slough visitor center. The intertidal mud ecosystem is quite alarming when portrayed this size - that's a heron's foot and beak coming down through the ceiling.

The campground at Sunset Beach is perched on the crest of the sand dunes in a grove of Monterey pine and cypress.

All panoramas taken this day (18)

Panoramas of Fremont Peak, near San Juan Bautista, California

Panoramas of Castroville, California

Panoramas of the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Preserve

January 31, 2013

I spent the day visiting the string of state park beaches that line the crescent of Monterey Bay, a continuous sandy strip almost forty miles long. North to south they are: New Brighton, Seacliff, La Selva/Manresa, Sunset, Zmudowski, Moss Landing, Salinas River, Marina, and Monterey. I also shot some panos at the interesting little harbor of Moss Landing with its defunct power plant, oceanographic research lab, and a small fishing fleet.

There were lots of surfers at La Selva beach despite posted warnings of high surf.

Sea otters, once so rare they were thought to be extinct, can be easily watched as they raft together to rest in the calm waters of Elkhorn Slough.

California sea lions are also entertaining residents of Moss Landing harbor.

My last stop was at Seacliff Beach, where the pier leads out to a beached concrete ship, the SS Palo Alto. I remember when I was a kid you could walk around the ship, but now it is broken and dangerously deteriorated, fenced off.

California State Park campgrounds usually cost $35, which is a lot more than they used to. I was shocked to find that it costs $55 per night to park in a row of motorhomes at Seacliff State Beach, so I kept looking.

Another nice campground on the cliffs above the beach, New Brighton State Beach in Capitola. The winter nights were still long and the lights in the camper very much appreciated.

All panoramas taken this day (18)

Panoramas of Sunset and Manresa State Beaches

Panoramas of Moss Landing

Panoramas of Seacliff and New Brighton State Beaches

February 1, 2013

I explored the little beach town of Capitola and the harbor at Santa Cruz, then took panoramas at Santa Cruz Mission (such as it is). The fog suddenly came in as I attempted to photograph surfers at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz.

On the bridge over Aptos Creek in the tiny beach town of Capitola.

Calm and sunny in February, another great beach day in Santa Cruz.

Steamer Lane is popular both with surfers and with surfer-watchers. The faux lighthouse one the point is also a surfing museum.

All panoramas taken this day (14)

Panoramas of Capitola, California

Panoramas of the southern part of Santa Cruz

Panoramas of Santa Cruz Mission

Panoramas of West Cliff Drive and Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz

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