Wet and wild

Schwan Lake Park and

Simpkins Family Swim Center

Neil Wiley

This small park packs a lot of nature into

a small space. On one short 1.1-mile trail,

you can see giant oaks, groves of eucalyptus,

and dark mixed forest. You can wander

through large meadows, hear the calls of

songbirds and seabirds, and look out toward

Twin Lakes Beach and the ocean. Hikers and

runners like its smooth paths. Dogs on leash

are welcome.


No, it’s not particularly challenging, but

it’s a pleasant walk alone or with your family.

And to top it off , after your little hike, you

can stop by the nearby Simpkins Family

Swim Center. Choose from a refreshing

lap swim or a wade with the kids in a large

warm-water pool.


Schwan Lake Park hides behind Shoreline

Middle School and the swim center. It

doesn’t look promising. Behind the parking

lot, a dusty trail follows a railroad track, with

only a small sign and an information panel

to indicate the park entrance. The trail is

too wide for a single-track, too narrow for

a road. Low shrubs and a few trees suggest

a city lot rather than a proper park, but as

you continue straight on the trail, you find

a pleasant path through lovely old oaks and

walls of ivy. To the right, you’ll see glimpses

of a surprisingly large Schwan Lagoon.


Halfway through a 6/10-mile loop is

a picnic table, a perfect place for a snack

or lunch, with a wide view of the lagoon,

waterfowl, and in the distance, Twin Lakes

Beach. Continuing on the loop, you walk

through a dark forest of interlaced branches,

ivy, and deep grasses, then emerge into a

giant meadow.


You’ve completed the first loop, the top half

of a backward “B.” To find the bottom half

of the “B,” turn right down the main trail a

short distance until you find another trail on

the right to the south. This 5/10-mile loop

circles around through a large meadow back

to the parking lot. Several less well-developed

trails bisect the loop. In the middle of the

meadow, a single tree hosts song birds whose

music is worth the walk.


Top off your hike with a shower and a swim.

Lap swim is available for anyone age 13 and

over, Tuesday through Sunday, weekdays from

6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and weekends from 9 a.m.

to 4 p.m. All ages are welcome to soak in the

large warm-water pool, complete with entry

ramp for wheelchair access. Children and

adults acting like children may enjoy the two-story

corkscrew splash-down slide. In addition

to open swimming, classes are available for

adult fitness, water aerobics, water polo,

lifeguard training, swim lessons, etc.

Bring your own towels, flip-fl ops, and lock.

Lap swimmers should bring goggles. A single

adult ticket is $4.75. Youth (7 to 12) and

seniors (over 60) tickets are $3.75. Discounts

are available for 20-entry, 100-entry, and

annual passes.


A personal note

I found the Simpkins Center to be an

excellent, well-maintained facility. The

service was friendly, especially after I found

Los Gatos Rec. 16-year veteran Laurie

Boswell working there. I also saw MNN

veteran editor and designer Christina Lopp

Schwabecher with her daughter enjoying the

warm-water pool.


My only problem was returning to lap

swimming after a twenty-year lapse. It wasn’t

pretty. My flip turns looked like a whale

breaching, forgetting my goggles led to red and

teary eyes, and overreaching my stroke gave

me sore muscles restored only by ice packs,

Tiger Balm®, and a special stretching routine

designed by trainer Jenny Yamate of Summit

Fitness. If you are smarter than I am, you won’t

try to swim a mile the first time out.


Want more information? Check the swim

calendars online at www.scparks.com/

parkfac/simpkins.shtml. You can also hear an

automated pool schedule at 831-454-7948.

If you still have questions, call Clark Beattie

at 831-454-7910.


Getting there

Drive south on Highway 17 to the

Highway 1 Watsonville-Monterey exit. Take

exit 439 (Soquel Avenue), and keep left at

the fork to turn left on Soquel Avenue. Turn

right at 17th Avenue. Follow 17th Avenue

to Simpkins Family Swim Center, 979 17th

Avenue, behind Shoreline Middle School.

Parking is free. If the swim center is closed,

you can park on El Dorado Street, just north

of Brommer and 17th, and walk across the

railroad tracks to the trailhead.



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