California 2013: Aptos and Capitola


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Zoey meets the Pacific Ocean, and a tasty crab.

Friday, May 31, 2013

I wake up at 6:30am to a cold wet nose in my face.   Zoey, our 10-month old Australian Shepard is looking at me — eyes alert, grin wide, and with a tougue that hangs like a pink drippy rag in the cutest possible way.  With a small whine she tells me that she needs to go out.

We have been watching the weather and decided that today is the day to introduce Zoey to the Pacific Ocean.   So around 9:30am, we pack up Zoey and her day bag (towels, brush, water dish, and the rawhide bone she’d been working on) and head off for Seascape Beach near Aptos, CA.   Based on my research, Aptos is a picturesque town in an unincorporated area of Santa Cruz County that includes the Rio Del Mar, Seacliff, and Seascape areas.  It is also the gateway to the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park.   I have lived in the Bay Area since 1996 and I have never been there — shame on me!

It takes about 60 minutes to reach Aptos from Santa Clara.   We head south on I-101 and take the I-880 exit that will take us to Route 17 toward Santa Cruz.   The Friday morning rush-hour in the opposite direction is still in full force — I-101, I-880, and Route 17 North are parking lots.  “Geez,” I tell my DH  who is behind the wheel of our 1999 Honda CRV with an eye on the GPS, “a year ago, I was in that traffic!  What was I thinking?”    “You were thinking of how to spend your paycheck,” says my DH.    Considering that he rarely gets out of bed before 10am, he is amazingly quick this morning.

About a month after our return from 106 days in Europe, we decided that now would be a good time to get a dog.   After all, we are both home now and would be able to properly care for and train a puppy.   And we were so right about that!  We got Zoey at 10 weeks old and 12 pounds.   Zoey is now 10-months old,  48 pounds, and is the “Bell of the Dog Park” — we must be doing something right!   She also behaves well in public, is gentle and calm around people, and rides really well in the  car — we take her everywhere!

A friend of a friend told us about the Seascape Beach in Aptos and said that it was one of the few off-leash beaches in Northern California — its where he takes his dog, a hyper Dalmatian.    Zoey has been doing well off-leash.  She comes when called and tends to stay close to us at the park, so we figured she earned this little treat.

The GPS knew how to get us to the beach, but it failed to know that a gated community (complete with an electronic gate) would prevent our access.   We called our friend of a friend and he said he was aware of the gate and told us to just drive around until we found the access to the beach.  We could see the beach in the distance, beyond the expensive homes in the gated community.   We decided to just park the car and walk through the gated community to the beach.   This worked out just fine — it was an easy walk down the hill and to the beach entrance.

The first thing I noticed about the beach is how large it is.  Off in the distance there is a mist.  Off to our right, there are blue frothy waves pounding the sand.   Under our feet there is soft warm sand.  This was a great idea!

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DH walks Zoey to the Seascape Beach.

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Zoey, I don’t think we are at the dog park anymore.

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The water is wet and cool — perfect for an Aussie! Oh — crab!

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The beach is a hub of activity!

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Zoey finds some beach buddies almost immediately!

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In no time, Zoey is in the water!

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Zoey and a friend dig a hole in the sand and take a break from their play to survey the beach.

It would be an understatement to say the Zoey enjoyed the beach.   Zoey appeared to have the time of her life!    We stayed more than an hour as we followed Zoey and her pack of beach buddies up and down the beach.   We were amazed at how far away she went from us!  I had visions of her being swept away by a wave!   But, I could see her looking back to us.  I could also see that she would run into the water, a wave would approach her, and she would run toward the nearest human who would reach down and scratch her wet head.  As for her beach buddies, they had no apparent fear of the water.  Zoey was getting braver and braver by the minute!  We spoke with a number of the owners who told me not to worry.  We all enjoyed watching our dogs play with each other and jump into the surf for balls and Frisbees.  By the time we left for lunch, Zoey was wet and full of sand.   However, she lost most of the dirt as we walked up the steep hill to our car — that is how gravity works for you.

We consulted Yelp to find a nice place for lunch near the beach.   We found Cafe Rio (just off the Rio Del Mar Beach) because it got 4 stars and had a dog-friendly patio!   It turned out to be an excellent choice for lunch.   I had the BLT (excellent) and my DH had the Angus Beef Hamburger (good).   Zoey snacked on a bully stick and ice cubes.

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Cafe Rio off of the Rio Del Mar Beach.

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Cafe Rio’s dog-friendly patio.

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Zoey takes a nap.

After lunch, we took a short walk on the Rio Del Mar Beach.

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A short walk on the Rio Del Mar Beach after lunch.

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Zoey takes one last look at the ocean.

Before going home, we decide to stop in the cute town of Capitola, the Pacific Coast’s oldest seaside resort town.    This little town retains its vintage feel.  It has galleries, boutiques, coffee shops, ice cream parlors, and a beach.   However, Capitola is best known for its colorful Venetian buildings.

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The Venetian bungalows in Capitola.

Capitola is one of those little gems of a town that make you wish you planned your day better so you can stay longer.   Actually, both my DH and I agree that we have not been good at enjoying what Northern California has to offer.    We need to correct that.

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Zoey is ready for a nap as we drive home from our day at the beach!

Quote of the day:   “Why don’t we do this more often?”  — DH

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