Thursday, November 28, 2013

Back to Our Roots

We've arrived in San Diego for the second holiday season in a row, and what is likely to be an annual routine. We are fortunate most of our families live in such a hospitable part of the country! Both of us lived in San Diego for decades so coming up with things to write about may be tough for the next two months. I'll attempt to see the city with new eyes, visitors eyes.

We're settled in at Santee Lakes Recreational Preserve for a month; our favorite, inland, full hook up park. We are in site 267, backing up to a nice grassy area, with low traffic, few neighbors and the sound of the creek burbling nearby. The park upgraded their internet service this past year, thank goodness, because this park is a black hole for Verizon service.

That's our Montana in the center of the photo.
Only one neighbor and lots of park space around us.

We wasted no time in hitting the trail with friends Martin and Estella and their adorable new family member, Chelsea. Santee Lakes is very close to Mission Trails Regional Park which has miles and miles of trails offering great views of San Diego. Some of the trails can be extremely busy any day of the week due to their proximity to neighborhoods (like Cowles Mountain Trail), but if you don't want to drive far and are looking for a good workout give the South Fortuna Trail or Big Rock Trail a try.

Estella holding Chelsea, Martin, Hans

Miss Chelsea is super photogenic!

On another day we met up with Hans brother, Norm, to hike the Ellie Lane Trail at Iron Mountain. Just like Cowles Mountain Trail noted above, the main Iron Mountain trail is very popular. Less crowded, and more strenuous, is the Ellie Lane Trail. The parking lot is just a half mile North of the main Iron Mountain trail head. This trail goes through some wonderful giant granite boulders and offers excellent views of San Diego and Ramona.

Brothers on the trail: Hans and Norm.

You can see the ocean from this saddle.
The trail wound up through the rocky hillside on the right and then up the canyon below.

One of the best things about Santee Lakes are the variety of animals that are drawn to the lakes. We've seen a red breasted sapsucker out our window, many raptors glide overhead searching for a meal, coyotes make their yip yapping racket several times a day, raccoons leave dirty footprints on our picnic table and water fowl are abundant on the water.

Kingfishers always look like they're having a bad hair day!

Cormorants enjoy the sun surrounded by dozens of coots.

We're off to Hans' brothers family home for Thanksgiving dinner and both our parents will be there too. We have much to be thankful for living this amazing lifestyle. We wish all of our readers a Happy Thanksgiving too!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Farewell to the Beach...For Now

We've had a very low key week here in San Clemente. Lots of easy beach walks, very little touristy exploring. Today we head into San Diego where we'll spend the next two months. The first month will be inland at Santee Lakes, where it will be nice to get away from the noise of the freeway. Here, at San Clemente State Beach, we've been serenaded by Interstate 5 for seven nights...fortunately when you walk down to the beach you can replace the freeway noise with the sound of the ocean!

Here are some scenes from our last few days at the beach:

Another stranded sea lion? It watches Hans warily...

Looks pretty healthy to me...but I'm no expert.

Uh oh...Pacific Marine Mammal Rescuers need rescuing!
They were here checking on that sea lion (who did not want to be saved) and got stuck!

We helped them dig the truck out.

The "Western White House" has a beautiful beachfront location; Nixon owned this home during his term in office.

San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Relaxing in San Clemente

San Clemente is a smallish, upscale, retirement beach town at the very Southern end of the madness that is Los Angeles and Orange County. The beaches are long sandy stretches backed by high bluffs which are topped by million dollar (or more) homes. The area is easy on the eyes and has a pleasant laid back feel (unless you are trying to shop at the Trader Joes shopping center - what a zoo!).

Rosie does lazy very well.
AND, we are finally finished with the 3 weeks of twice daily antibiotics - YAY!

We're spending a lazy week at San Clemente State Beach. This state park has about 50 full hook up sites all lined up in rows and about 75 no hook up sites scattered haphazardly around a bluff. Some of the no hook up sites have amazing ocean views...but are not big enough for the likes of us. The full hookups are $47/night, a bargain for SoCal beaches.

Aloe arborescens in fine form at San Clemente State Beach.

There's been lots of walking along the beach...

Pelican feeding frenzy in the late afternoon.

Sunsets from the bluff or the beach each evening...

We've had the pleasure of meeting our neighbors and fellow full timers Lynda and Ken over happy hour in their lovely Phaeton. They happened to start full timing the same day we did in 2012!

There's a path at the base of the cliffs heading North for several miles from our campground. The San Clemente pier and access to downtown lies along this walkway about a mile up the beach. Casa Romantica, the former home of Ole Hanson, co-founder of San Clemente, sits on the bluff above the pier and made a nice afternoon destination for us one day.

Casa Romatica, as seen from the pier, is now dwarfed by condo buildings on either side.

Ole Hanson wanted to create a "Spanish village by the sea" and in 1925 San Clemente was born as one of California's first master planned communities. All of the homes had to be built in the Spanish Revival style and Casa Romantica has been preserved as a cultural center and museum. We enjoyed the graceful architecture, beautiful settings and learned some history of area beach cities, nearby Camp Pendleton and surfing.

Keyhole entry to Casa Romantica.

The Ocean Porch opens onto spectacular views over the Pacific.

Inside, the main salons are rich in Spanish-style details.

Hanging out in the garden enjoying the view.

And what a view it is!

Beehive fireplace and gorgeous tile floors in this pleasant outdoor patio.

After the Casa we walked a few blocks to the library and hung out for a bit then headed back to the beach for a sunset walk home...

A minus tide makes for perfect beach walking.

Back at the campground just in time.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Exploring Ventura County

We spent three nights in Santa Paula, CA, a small agricultural town just East of Ventura. This brief stop over was simply a good distance between our two one-week stays in beach towns and gave us a new area to explore. The day we arrived it was 95 degrees...I guess Mother Nature doesn't know it's November!

The detail in this mural on the Santa Paula library was incredible, depicting the first inhabitants of the area.

On our first full day we decided to explore Santa Paula on foot as downtown was just a mile from our RV park and it was going to be a hot day, making air conditioned museums much more attractive. The several museums in downtown Santa Paula teamed up to offer a deal of $6/person to visit all the museums in one day. Santa Paula also has a number of excellent murals scattered around downtown.

Mural depicting the citrus history of the area.

Agriculture is the backbone of commerce around these parts; Santa Paula is known as the "Citrus Capital of the World" and also is a big producer of avocados and strawberries. It was also one of the early oil towns in California. We visited the Agriculture Museum, the California Oil Museum and the Santa Paula Art Museum.

A working replica of an early oil well...those pulleys were moving!

Mural showing the train depot, which happened to be across the street.

The next day we drove about 20 miles North to go for a hike and explore the charming town of Ojai. There are a number of trails into the mountains surrounding Ojai which borders the Los Padres National Forest. We hiked the Cozy Dell trail, a 4 mile RT out and back with a little bit of climb and a lot of great views.

One of the occasional oak shaded parts of the trail.

Lovely views of citrus and avocado orchards and Los Padres National Forest land beyond.

Ojai is known as an artist community and has a charming Spanish vibe to it. After a fire in 1917 demolished much of the town, prominent early settler Edward Libbey worked with Richard Requa, famous for his Spanish Revival architecture in San Diego, to create the look of downtown.

Post office tower and entrance to Libbey Park designed by the Libbey-Requa team.

Tomorrow we head back to the beach...via the dreaded drive through Los Angeles. When we lived in San Diego and had to drive through LA, we'd often leave the house by 4am to ease the pain of that drive. Hopefully departing mid-morning on a Saturday will not be too bad. Next up - a week in San Clemente.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Campground Review: Oceano County Campground, Oceano, CA

Located near the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, Oceano County Campground is a reasonably priced full hookup campground about two blocks from the beach. There is a day use park right across the street with a pretty lagoon for excellent bird watching.

There is an old wooden bridge on the road right outside the park. Every time a vehicle drives over it it makes a loud racket...kind of like two seconds of thunder. We got used to it after the first day, but were glad the roads were pretty quiet at night so we weren't woken up by this "thunder". Other than that, it was very quiet at night.

There are 22 full hookup sites, each with a picnic table and fire pit. Roads and sites are paved. Roads are narrow and there are railroad ties bordering the planted areas as well as short posts to number each site. Getting our 36 foot rig into site #12 was very difficult! That said, once parked, we felt we had good site separation and reasonable privacy for our sitting area due to the angle of the sites. The surface throughout the campground is a mix of dirt and small bark, we were glad we had a patio mat to avoid tracking the dirt in the RV.

Amenities include restrooms and fee showers ($1 for 3 minutes) and a playground. Since this is a county park and open to the public the showers are locked at 6pm each night to keep outsiders from coming in and using them. We had decent, but kind of slow, 4G Verizon signal.

The park backs up to a small airstrip and we enjoyed seeing small aircraft coming and going occasionally, mostly on the weekend.

There are many camping options in the area. At $35/night for full hookups this was a very good bargain. It seems to be a relatively unknown park and was never completely full during our week long stay.

Pros: Great price for full hookups near the beach, short walk to the beach, much quieter than other parks closer to Hwy 1, great bird watching. Cons: Tight access for larger RV's, the dirt/bark surface was a bit annoying, the wooden bridge noise was a bit annoying.

This was a decent place to stay for the reasons listed above but I don't know if we'd return since there are other places to explore along the central coast and we did everything we wanted to do while in this area.

We were in site 12. Those short posts and railroad ties can be a problem when backing in to your site.

Since our neighbors site was angled forward from ours we had a realtively private sitting area.

The bird watching lagoon across the street.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wrapping Up Our Week in Oceano with a Sea Lion Rescue!

We've had a lovely time hanging out in Oceano, CA for the past week. The weather has been perfect: Sunny and low 70's on the coast and high 70's inland. The coast cools down quickly in the afternoon though, so you always have to have a jacket in the car just in case.

We hiked a combo of the Felsman Loop and Bishop Peak trails for a 5 mile, view-tastic, leg stretcher overlooking San Luis Obispo and the surrounding mountains. Bishop Peak is one of the chain of nine Morro's, or volcanic plugs, formed over 20 million years ago. The most well-known of them is in Morro Bay, a few miles North West.

We hiked on the Monday holiday and found Bishop Peak trail to be a very busy trail. Located on the edge of a college town, the many trails in the area get a lot of use at high traffic times. The trail up Bishop Peak is pretty steep, fully exposed to the sun (it was hot!) and has lots of boulders to step over and around. This area must be incredibly beautiful in the spring when all of the surrounding hills are green.

Bishop Peak looms over Hans at the start of the hike.
It tops out at 1,546 feet.

On the East flank of Bishop Peak we could see three other Morro's snaking North towards Morro Bay.

View of San Luis Obispo.

The top has clusters of giant boulders. You can see a couple of people top center.

Like Santa Cruz, where we stayed last week, Pismo Beach experiences the Monarch butterfly winter migration. We walked through the Monarch grove this morning when it was cloudy and cool so all the butterflies were hanging very quietly. They become more active when it's warmer.

This was one of many large clusters of Monarchs.

We spied some vultures having a meeting in the dunes:

Vultures in the dunes???

Walking back up the beach we spied a small sea lion seemingly stranded on the beach. A couple of women standing nearby had just called The Marine Mammal Center; luckily one of them had just recently learned about this group through her daughters Girl Scout troop...serendipitous! Moments later the rescuer arrived and he asked us bystanders to help!

Small sea lion stranded on the beach and kind of freaked out by people walking by...

The Marine Mammal Center to the rescue!

I held him captive while the rescuer got a crate...

Another bystander braced the crate...getting it in there was a challenge!

Off to the Center for a medical evaluation and eventual release back to the ocean!

After our exciting morning saving the sea lion (!!!) we spent the afternoon cleaning the roof of the stuff! Tomorrow we're heading inland to Santa Paula for a few days and it's gonna be hot (compared to the beach anyhow)...before we make our way back to the coast.

Sea stars on the Pismo Beach pier.