1890: It sounded like a great idea: San Francisco to Santa Cruz

Story from John Vonderlin

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This appeared in the August 31st, 1890, issue of “The Morning Call.”  Enjoy. John
The   Beauty   of   the   Natural   Scen – 
ery   Along   the   Coast
Sea   Lions   That   Disport   in   the   Waters
Near   Halfmoon   Bay—A   Town
Properly   Named—Ruins   of   the
Old   Landing   at   ”   Gordon   Chute.”
The   Redwood   Forests   in   the
Santa   Cruz   Mountains.

Written   for   The  Morning Call  
    There   are   few,   if   any,   great   cities   of  the  
world   surrounded   by   more   strik – 
ing   natural   scenery   than   San   Fran – 
cisco   enjoys.   You   may   take   a   boat,   or   a
train,   or   a   stage,   or   your   own   horse   and
buggy,   and   start   out   toward   any   point   of
the   compass,   and   you   cannot   fail   to   be   sur – 
prised   and   pleased   with   what   you   see.
Within   this   last   two   years   I   have   dutifully
trudged   over   the   hills   and   plains   around
New   York,   Washington,   Chicago,   Omaha,
St. Louis,   Los   Angeles   and   several
conisiderable   towns   of   smaller   size   and
less   note.   Books   of   travel   are   stupid   in – 
deed,   compared   with   what   an   idle   rambler
sees   on   such   excursions.   If   he   has   good
eyes   aud   reasonably   good   legs,   he   can   walk
around   the   suburbs   and   back   into   town,
and   tell   the   natives   more   about   the   city   in
five   minutes   than   they   had   learned   in   all
their   lives.   I   had   a   nurse   in   New   York
who   had   been   in   the   business   in   that   city
for   thirty   years,   going   from   house   to   house
and   nursingj   the   sick,   and   yet   I   had
to   tell   her   the   course   of  the Harlem   River.   But
this   leads   me   to   remark   that   San   Francis – 
cans   are   not   so   green.   They   know   more
about   their   environs   than   do   the   denizens
of   any   city   I   have   been   over,   except   Los
Angeles.   And   yet   I   venture   to   say   that
after   four   months   of   sojourn   in   the   vicinity
I   could   show   the   great   majority   of   them,
within   thirty   unit’s   of   town,   scenes   of
beauty   and   grandeur   which   would   be   new
and   amazing   to   them.   When   Robert   Louis
Stevenson   was   here,   bent   on   an   errand
similar   to   mine,   “thin-legged,   thin-chested,
slight   unspeakably,   near-footed   and   weak – 
fingered,”   as   the   poet   has   described   him,   he
went   north   a   hundred   miles   to   hide   and
rest,   and   then   came   out   aud   published   his
“Silverado   .Squatters.”   Indeed,   it   is   a
nice   trip   to   the   Sonoma   County   Geysers,
but   my   favorite   haunts   are   in   another   direc – 
The   whole   coast   is   pretty,   from   the   Cliff
House   at   San   Francisco   to   the   Cliff   Drive
at   Santa   Cruz.   Considering   its   beauties   it
is   too   little   known—less   perhaps   than   any
pleasure   ground   adjacent   to   the   city.   Some
are   familiar   with   it,   or   it   could   not   properly
be   called   a   pleasure   ground.   Its  Halfmoon Bay,  
its   Pebble  Beach,   its   Mossy   Beacb,   its
Pescadero,   its   Pigeon   Point   Lighthouse
and   its   big   basin   of   gigantic   trees   have   all
been   heard   of,   but   no   railroad   leads   there,
and   only   those   are   familiar   with   them   who
have   the   courage   to   stage   it   or   the   means
Taking   the   train   at   the   corner   of   Third
and   Townsend   streets,   you   go   to   San   Ma – 
teo.   I   took   the   morning   train   at   8:30.
This   connects   with   the   stage   at   San   Mateo,
and   from   there   you   have   a   drive   across   the
mountains   to   Spanishtown,   passing   on
your   way   the   immense   reservoir   of   the
Spring   Valley   Water   Company,   which
looks   like   a   mountain   lake   and   supplies   a
large   part   ol   the   city’s   water.
At   Spanishtown   you   are   on   the   coast
The   stage   stops   for   dinner   and   gives   you
ample   time.   Perhaps   you   will   be   told,   as
I   was,   that   the   place   was   so   named   from
the   fact   that   it   really   was   a   Spanish   town
originally.  Inasmuch (sic)   as   the   same   name
might,   for the   same   reason,   have   been   ap – 
plied to any   other   old   town   in   the   State,
you  make   a   note   here   at   the   threshold   of
your   journey.   The   chances   are   that   after
looking   it   over   you   will   say   that   of   all   the
Spanish   towns   you   have   seen   in   the   State
this   quaint   and   curious   hamlet   best   befits
the   name.   At   any   rate   you   will   say   that
no   Spaniard   need   be   ashamed   of   it.
From   Spanishtown   southward   along   the
coast   you   will   find   all   you   want   of   the
weird   and   wonderful.   To   your   left   will   be
the   mountains,   with   cottages   aud   groves   of
giant   redwoods,   criss-crossed   with   fences.
On   your   right   is   the ocean,   with   a   shore
line   of   wondrous   beauty.   Across   your   path – 
way,   from   the   mountains   to   the   sea,   runs
every   mile   or   two   a   trout   stream   of   roman – 
tic   outline   and   drowsy   murmur.   Follow   it
up   and   you   are   soon   lost   In   a   grove   of   red – 
woods,   compared   with   which   any   tree   east
of   the   Rocky   Mountains   is   a   scrub.   Trees
250   leet   high,   ten  or  a   dozen   feet   through,
are   as   thick   as   hoop-poles   an   stand
as   near   to   San   Francisco   as   one
end   of   Chicago   is   to   the   other.
I   have   had   no   greater   surprise   in   Cali – 
fornia   than   these   two,   that   the   big   trees
stand   so   thick   on   the   ground   and   so   close   to
San   Francisco.   You   might   see   bigger
sequoias   in   Calaveras,   Mariposa   or   Tulare
County.   But   a   tree   one   rod   in   diameter
and   twenty   rods   in   height   is   big   enough   for
either   the   lumberman   or   the   ordinary   sight – 
seer.   Aud   you   can   find   bigger   trees   than
that   between   Sutro   Heights   and   Santa
The   shore   itself   is   hilly   most   of   the   way.
As   you   drive   over   the   hills   you   get   views
of   indescribable   grandeur.   Such   beaches,
such   :   cliffs,   such   rocks,   such   caverns,   such
miles   ol   surf,   yon   may   have   seen,   but   I
haven’t.   At   the   Doble   ranch,   below  Halfmoon  
Bay,   you   may   leave   the   road,   drive
through   the   barnyard   gate   and   across   a
pasture,   and   there   you   will   see   sea   lion
rocks   which   beat   those   at   the   Cliff   House
two   to   one.   There   are   ten   times   as   many
sea   lions   and   they   are   more   easily   seen.   I
never   tire   of   watching   them.   Many   a   one
has   been   cuuaht   here   for   the   menageries.
On   the   beach   will   give   you   a   young   sea   lion
for   a   pet,   and   if   you   like,   you   may   proceed
at   once   to   pet   him.   He   will   bark   at   you,
but   he   won’t   bite.   His   parents   might,   if
they   saw   you   near   him.   They   weigh,   per – 
haps,   a   ton   apiece.   By   the   way,   attention
should   be   called   to   a   bad   practice   of   natives
or   tourists   at   this   point.   They   shoot   the
sea   lions.   Anybody   could   shoot   one   who
could   shoot   the   side   of   a   barn   if   he   was
inside   and   had   the  door   closed,   so   there   is
no   sport   in   it.   The   monstrous   carcasses
float   ashore   and   fill   the   air   with   stench.   Is
there   no   law   to   prevent   such   wantonness?
or   is   the   trouble   in   the   enforcement   of   the
law?   The   last   time   I   was   there   the   fine
beach   at   tho   mouth   of   Tumitas   Creek   was
strewn   with   half   a   dozen   carcasses   of   all
sizes   in   all   stages   of   decomposition.
Tunitas   Creek   is   said   to   be   named   after   a
plant   which   abounds   at   its   mouth,   and
which   has   a   long,   thick,   fleshy   leaf   and   an
aster-like   flower.   The   stage   road   crosses   ‘  
the   creek   on   a   bridge   appropriately   called
the   Long  Bridge.   Near   by   is   the   Gordon
Chute,   one   ot   the   wrecks   of   old   landings   so
familiar   to   the   people   down   that   coast.
Tlie   great   warehouse   is   still   there,   and   the
deserted   cottages   of   the   superintendent   and
employes.   The   old   pier,   disconnected   from
the   shore   and   inaccessible,   is   as   weird   a
skeleton   as   ever   stretched   its   arms   across   a
Western   ocean   sky   at   sunset.
Follow   the   windings   of   the   cliff   at   this
point   and   you   will   see   some   two   dozen
caves,   from   one   to   six   rods   deep,   which   you
may   penetrate   at   low   tide,   but   into   which
the   water   rolls   and   churns   and   thunders   at
high   tide.   You   may   hear   the   story   of   the
three   sea-lion   catchers   whom   the   tide
caught   in   one   of   the   deepest   of   these   caves
and   held   there   all   night.   From   these   cliffs
I   had   a   fine   view   of   several   whales   quite
near   to   shore,   and   have   generally   been,   for – 
tunate   enough   to   sight   one   or   two.
All   that   country   is   a   fine   hunting   grounid.
As   for   fish,   you   can   get   all   the   trout   you
want   and   also   surf   fish   and   other   sea   fish.
Clams   aud   mussels   abound.
A   county   road   has   been   surveyed   through,
which,   when   completed,   will   give   a   short
line   from   the   great   Stanford   University   to
as   pretty   a   spot   as   there   is   on   the   coast.   It
follows   down   Tunitas   Creek   to   the   Long
Bridge   at   the   old   Potter   ranch,   where   stands
the   ideal   “cottage   by   the   sea.”
Pescadero   is   too   well   known   to   require
description,   but   its   Pebble   Beach   ought   to
be   seen.   There   is   something   wild   and   awe-
inspiring   in   the   peculiar   formation   of   the
great   rocks   over   which   the   water   dashes.
One   would   not   suppose   that   so   flat   a   shore
could   be   so   grand.   There   was
When   I   was   there—nothing   but   clean   peb – 
bles.   It   was   like   walking   on   a   bin   of
beans.   They   are   several   feet   deep,   you
will   see   the   tourist   lady   or   gentleman
stretched   at   full   length   and   pawing   the
beach   over   for   gems.   Patience   aud   skill
are   pretty   sure   to   win   a   fine   collection.
Within   a   few   miles   of   Pescadero   you   may
bury   yourself   in   a   virgin   forest   of   red – 
vioods   untouched   by   the   ax.   I   have   seen
train-loads   of   tourists   go   wild   over   a
clump   of   saplings.
.   Go   with   me   from   San   Francisco   to   Santa
Cruz   in  a one-horse   buggy   and   I   will   show
you   grove   after   grove   of   monsters   so   tall
that   you   could   not   see   a   squirrel   at   their
tops   and   so   thick   on   the   ground   that   you
would   be   lucky   to   shoot   a   deer   within   easy
range.   I   spent   a   counle   of   weeks   in   the
haunts   of   Rip   Van   Winkle.   The   scene
of   that   slory   was   happily   laid   and   I
am   as   familiar   with   the   waterfall   and   the
dense   grove   where   he.   slept   for   twenty
years   as   with   the   Jolly   face   of   Joe   Jefferson
and   tho  long   beard,   ragged   clothes   and
broken   gun   which   appear   on   the   stage.   I
haven’t   seen   a   wilder,   sleepier   spot   on   this
coast,   but   within   much   less   than   a   day’s
drive   of   San   Francisco   I   will   show   you
Rip’s   long   resting   place,   with   all   its dreamy
seclusion,   with   its   trees   and   its   hill   and   its
Kaaterskill   and   its   old   saw-mill   grown   a
hundred-fold   in   size   and   grandeur.   You
shall   have   the   mountain   lake   and   all,   except
the  260 foot waterfall.
We   should   want   to   linger   a   whole   sum – 
mer   long  from   Halfmoon Bay to Pescadero,
bul   if   we   do   go   on   here   is   Mossy   Beach,   as
famed   tor   its   mosses   as   Pebble   Beach   for
its   pebbles,   and   here   is   P’igeon   Point,   where
you   may   climb   the   light-house   tower   above
100   feet   and   see   one   of   the   most   modern   of
flash-lanterns.   They   won’t   let   you   inside
the   lantern   now.   but   half   a   dozen   people
could   find   room   in   there.   I   had   the   oppor – 
tunity   of   hearing   the   fog-horn   at   night   at
Pescadero,   six   miles   away.
A   little   further   down   you   follow   the
stage   road   where   it   leaves   terra   firma   and
takes   the   beach   for   two   or   three   miles.
Keep   close   to   the   water’s   edge   for   a  good
hard   road,   and   let   the   brine   lave   your
buggy-wheels.   We   had   company   along
this   part   of   our   Journey.   It   was   a   live
coyote.   The   bank   was   steep   and   he   had   no
escape,   so   he   trotted   along   by   our   side,
looking   anxiously   for   a   hole   in   the   bank,
and   all   the   time   within   easy   shot.   His   dis – 
appearance   was   complete   and   sudden,   and
left   us   wondering   whither   he   had   gone.
We   leave   the   beach   at   the   mouth   of   Wad – 
dell   Creek,   where   we   hear   the   story   of   .Mr.
Waddell   who   was
In   the camping   season   the   banks   of   the
creek   are   white   with   tents.   Passing   on – 
ward   down   the   coast   the   rest   of   the   drive   to
Santa   Cruz   is   pretty   and   interesting,   and   of
course   the   last   two   or   three   miles—famed
for   beaches,   cliffs,   natural   bridges   and   live
drives—need   not   be   described.
About   nine   miles   north   of   Sauta   Cruz   we
met   a   large   party   of   railroad   surveyors   run- 
ning   a   line   for   the   Southern   Pacific,   said   to
be   for   the   purpose   of   tapping   the   immense
deposits   of   bituminous   rock   in   that   region.
Will   they   push   it   through?   Will   a   railroad
ever   be   built   up   that   coast?   It   will   be   ex – 
pensive,   perhaps,   but   it   would   open   up
timber   lands   and   pass   through   soil   not   ex – 
celled   in   the   State  for   raising   hogs,
cattle,   horses,   poultry,   potatoes   and   all
bulky   vegetables,   apples   and   pears   and   the
small   fruits,   here   is   the   best   of   land,   a
little   rough,   but   cheaper   than   land   not   half
as   good   can   be   found   as   near   to   any   other
American   city.   Shut   out   from   the   rest   of
the   world   by   a   high   range   of   mountains   on
one   side   and   a   wide   ocean   on   tbe   other,   it
is   now   devoted   to   pasturage.   A   rail – 
road   would   divert   it   to   the   uses   which
make   business   for   railroads—the   production
of   bulky   products.   It   is   a   well-watered
country and   would   make   thousands   of
homes   for   the   busy,   energetic,   thriving
classes   to   whom    it   is   suited.   Coming   from
the   rolling   States   of   the   East   they   would
feel   more   at   home   here   than   in   any   part   of
California   that   I   have   seen.   This   feeling
would   be   increased   by   the   greater   simi – 
larity   of   the   products   and   methods   ol
farming   to   those   of   the   East.   Variety
and   grandeur   ol   scenery,   proximity   to   a
great   city,   abundance   of   wood   and   water,
evenness   of   temperature,   all   would be  there,
and   half   the   energy   which   has   been   wasted
on   that   many   square   miles   at   the   other   end
of   the   State   would   give   this   region   a   boom
too   big   to   be   healthy.   Let   me   express   the
hope   that   it   will   rather   have   a   steady
growth,   but   let   it   soon   get   the   .start   that   has
been   so   long   in   coming.
Half   the   profit   of   a   ramble   through
strange,   scenes   is   gained   or   lost   by   the   kind
of   traveling   companion   you   have.   In   this
I   have   been   fortunate   in   all   my   journeyings
about   San   Francisco.   Perry   Morrison,   who
has   kindly   taken   me   on   these   delightful
trips,   is   a   forty-niner   of   the   best   type,   who
has   recently   extended   his   domains   on   the
coast   from   sheer   enthusiasm   and   faith   in   it.
His   seaside   home   is   at   Potter   ranch,   by   the
Long   Bridge,   near   the   famous   ranch   of   Creed
Haymond,   and   just   at   tbe   point   where   the
shortest   road  from   tbe   Stanford   University
will   strike   the.   seashore.   The   road   is   now
impassable   from   washouts,   but   when   fin – 
ished   is   destined   to   be   one   of   the   finest
drives   in   the   United   States.   Of   Mr.   Hay – 
mond’s   ranch,   and   the   work   he   is   doing   to
make   it   both   profitable   and   beautiful,   too
much   cannot   be   said.   It   is   high   up   on   the
mountains   and   it   looks   down   on   the   bound – 
less   ocean.   It   is   whispered   that   Mrs.   Stan – 
ford   will   yet   have   a   cottage   there.    Henry Philpott
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