Sunday, December 15, 2013

In Search of Christmastown


This is the second year that there has been a train to Christmastown in Santa Cruz County.  Last year, the train started at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and proceeded  north toward, but not quite reaching Wilder Ranch.

the train leads to christmas townthe train leads to christmas town

The train passed through relatively well populated suburban neighborhoods, where it blew its horn at every single effin' intersection.  I'm sure people living on the west-side of Santa Cruz remember the train to Christmastown very very very fondly.

the crazy train returns from Christmas Town

This year the train starts in Watsonville, and magically and mysteriously travels somewhere in the neighborhood of four to six miles up the coast to Christmastown. 
taken to Christmastown

I suppose people really don't think much of the hazards when looking for mythical cities. Are there any mythical cities to look for anymore?

For instance, when Klaus Kinksi seeks out El Dorado, his family dies, his compatriots die or abandon him, he's lost up some random Amazonian tributary, and driven insane. In the end, his only friends are little monkeys. And, even then, the monkeys are really not that fond of Klaus.

But searching for El Dorado is in the ancient past.  In more modern times, people have sought after the Loch Ness Monster.  Surely, the Loch Ness Monster exists in myth only.  Yet a recent expedition resulted in absolute pandelirium. 

Last week, after consulting the interwebs, I set out on an expedition for Christmastown.  Now the easy way to do this, would been to buy a ticket and take the train to Christmastown. 

I did not do this. 

I'm sure all the elves are really nice, but I'm not sure if I could handle an hour's worth of elven cheeriness.  Instead, I set out to walk a long the track near Manresa State Beach and walk south towards Christmastown. 


is there room for an eight foot wide bike path with two feet of clearance on each side?

I imagine, if the Train To Christmastown went this far north,
I imagine, if the Train To Christmastown went this far north,  that the conductor would stop the train and make the elves take the eucalyptus off the tracks.

Like so many expeditions to new worlds and cities, this expedition failed.  I did not find Christmastown.  But I did learn where Christmastown isn't  It is not anywhere along San Andreas Road.

Spring Valley and San Andreas Road

Still... enticed by the magic and mystery of Christmastown, I set out in search of it (again) this week, this time parking near the intersection of San Andreas Road and Buena Vista Drive.

above Buena Vista Drive
above Buena Vista Drive
I walked up the tracks past the one home along the tracks, very purposedly avoiding making eye contact with the sign that read, BEWARE OF DOG. I passed a jogger and his dog, and then I was on my own, walking up the tracks. After a while I found a red airplane in the sky.

a little red plane
a little red plane

Was that plane spying on me?

is that little red plane
is that little red plane

Could that little red plane report back to Santa Claus about my naughtiness?  oh no!

is that little red plane following me?
is that little red plane following me?

After walking a while, I realized that there was a clean metallic streak along the rust of the tracks. I was walking along a live rail, where just a quarter mile ago, the tracks were rusty and filled with eucalyptus debris.

where to fit that eight foot wide bike path with two feet of vertical clearance on each side?

Still, I was pretty confident that I wasn't going to get run over by a train.  The last freight trains in Santa Cruz County stopped running when the Cemex plant in Davenport closed several years ago.  The only train along the tracks was the Train To Christmastown, and that was scheduled to start at 4pm and arrive at Christmastown at 5pm.  I had plenty of train-free time to walk the tracks.  But then I heard a chugga-chugga rumble along the tracks.  I panicked and ran off the tracks and waited a while.  I walked another eighth mile along the tracks and heard a rumble again which stopped me in my tracks, again.

 I checked google-maps on my GPS equipped fancy phone.  I just got to be close!  And there in the distance, is it? could it be?  Christmastown?!!?

is it? could it be!
is it? could it be!

As I approached Christmastown, I realized why the folks on the train wanted to keep the exact location a bit mysterious. And why the first train leaves the station at 4 o'clock just in time to reach it's destination just after dark.

wait, they are not elves
wait, they are not elves

Christmastown is next to an active landfill.  And by active I mean, there are people and trucks operating just 50 feet from Christmastown during the last bit of daylight on a Saturday afternoon at 3:30pm. (That chugga-chugga rumbling I heard earlier? That's the garbage trucks!)

In the end, this was the closest I got to Christmastown.  Armed only with my cute little 35mm summarit, I didn't bring a longer lens with me.

the closest approach
the closest approach

I didn't dare get closer.  What if the Buena Vista landfill workers caught me tresspassing and reported me to Santa Claus?  Yeah, that's right. Stocking full of coal!

Here's a sasquatch-style crop of the previous photo.  You can see the orange landfill truck peeking over the top of Christmastown.

zooming in

I beat a hasty retreat, running along the tracks.

I'm not sure where the rail trail goes here.
 I'm not sure where the rail trail goes here.

 Maybe I'll might make it back to the car and drive to the where the train starts just catching it before it left.  Everywhere outside Santa Cruz County, you can set your watch to the train.  Here the train will wait just a little bit for the last stragglers.

mostly ontime
mostly ontime

And shopping carts!

 not sure why a bicycle is on a yellow diamond caution sign.

 Here are the full flickr sets!

The successful 2013 expedition to Christmastown!

The unsuccessful 2014 expedition to Christmastown!

The semi-successful 2014 expedition to Christmastown!

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