Thursday, December 17, 2015

Wrapping Up Our Month at Santee Lakes

We've returned to San Diego every holiday season since we started fulltiming in 2012, spending one month at Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve and another month at Mission Bay RV Resort. This year marks our fourth month-long stay at Santee Lakes and I find I enjoy this park more each year.

Santee Lakes is not perfect, in fact it has a couple of big issues, but it does have one of my most sought after features of any private RV park or public campground: easy access to walking in nature. At Santee Lakes you can walk several miles around the seven man made lakes in a park setting, or you can hike or mountain bike many miles up Sycamore Canyon directly from the RV park.

This year we stayed in site #173. This site backs up to the "creek", with good separation and privacy plantings between us and our neighbors. In this site our booster managed to give us 4 bars of Verizon during our entire stay...better than we've ever had in this park. Unfortunately the only way to make or receive phone calls was to have the phone in the booster and on speaker.

Here's a link to one of my previous reviews of this RV park. And here's my take on the problems with this RV park:

1) The decomposed granite that covers most of the RV sites is a pain the butt when it rains. The stuff is easily tracked into the RV and many sites have large puddles during heavy rain storms. Gravel would have been a better choice for the RV sites. Patio mats are necessary here.

2) The biggest issue with Santee Lakes: poor Verizon signal. In fact, we are so fed up with not having decent Verizon signal while staying in the middle of a big city that Hans brought it up with the office staff and they connected him with the parks director. Ms. Evans was extremely responsive to his concerns and his suggestion that Santee Lakes work with the local service providers to install more towers.

Amazingly a meeting with Verizon was already in place on that very day to talk about that exact topic! And Ms. Evans even got back to Hans after the meeting with an update! Verizon is planning on placing 2 or 3 towers in or near the park...though it is unknown how long this will take it was reassuring to know something is being done. Especially since the park's Tengo internet is not a good alternative for heavier use. Hans intends to keep in touch with the park regarding the status of the project.

Pretty and private site #173.

The "creek" running behind our site.

As we prepare to move to Hans' brothers driveway in Poway for a couple of weeks I'll sign off with some photos taken since my last post...

The Creepy Creeps at SoNo Fest.
SoNo Fest is a growing holiday festival in our former neighborhood (North Park).
This year their chili cook off featured 42 local restaurants and a craft beer garden that must have had 20 local brewers - YUM!

Black Crowned Night Heron awaiting lunch service at Santee Lakes.

Rusty remnants seen along the trail in Sycamore Canyon.

On one hike in Sycamore Canyon I saw five coyotes!

Making sure that woman wielding a camera is not a threat.

Annual chili dinner at Annie's!

A Star Wars escapee over Santee Lakes!

Red Tailed Hawk about six feet overhead at Santee Lakes.

Happy hour with Janet and Tom at Santee Lakes.

One of the best things we've done in the past month was to play lots of pickleball
with the wonderful people playing at Big Rock Park in Santee.
We just might make the drive to Santee occasionally to continue playing with this fun group!

Hans enjoying his new bike in Sycamore Canyon.
It's a Fuji SLM 2.4 carbon fiber 29er hard tail.

Riding through Sycamore Canyon.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Two Weeks in San Diego

Our annual 2.5 month stay in San Diego is well under way and full of visits with family and old friends and various chores and purchases we have put off till now. We're also meeting up with many folks we've met on the road in the past three plus years as they too pass through San Diego...this really is an ideal place to spend a portion of the winter, the climate simply does not get any better than San Diego's.

As much as I enjoy blogging about our travels to share with friends and family and to create a history for us to look back on over the years, while in our former home town I also really enjoy stepping back a bit and not thinking about everything we do as blog fodder. So this post is mostly photos of various things that made me happy over the past couple of weeks, heavily influenced by the fact we are staying at Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve where there are lots of birds!

A skate gliding over sea grass at San Dieguito Lagoon.

Osprey at Santee Lakes.

Martin showing us his pretzel making skills.

Best buds with the most delicious pretzels ever!

White pelicans at Santee Lakes.

Hans carved the turkey at Thanksgiving at his brothers house...
while Bentley waited for any tidbits to fall his way!

A cold, rainy day spent in the kitchen makes me very happy!
Turkey broth made from the turkey carcass plus beer cheddar biscuits...yum!

The Coronado Bridge as seen from Embarcadero Park in black and white

Stately Great Blue Heron at Santee Lakes.

Snowy Egret at Santee Lakes.

A military vessel model club gathering at Santee Lakes.

The turtles at Santee Lakes are extremely skittish, it's really hard to sneak up on them and actually snap a photo!

This rattler was still squirming while trapped under the hawks foot.

We've had several meet ups with RVing friends, including dinner at yummy Domo Sushi in Santee with Dan and Lise whom we've seen at Santee Lakes every year. We also had a fun evening, with live music, at the delicious BNS Brewing in Santee with Janet and Tom who we met in Red Lodge, MT this past summer and it turns out they camp host at Santee Lakes every year. Alas, photography was not on my mind.

Last night though, Hans remembered to snap a photo of the delicious meal we had with Mike and Donna at their site at Mission Bay RV Resort. Having very briefly met these two before, it was fun to really get to know them over dinner. We'll overlap with them at Mission Bay in January for a few days, another opportunity perhaps for pickleball, beer and good food and company!

Mike, Donna and Lisa,

Friday, November 20, 2015

Yuma, AZ to Boulevard, CA to San Diego

As we made our way back to our former hometown San Diego for the holidays, we spent a few nights in Yuma, AZ...for the second time this year. The lure of inexpensive dental work in Los Algodones, Baja California means we'll stopover in Yuma every time we pass through the area.

This was our fourth time getting our teeth cleaned in Los Algodones and the third dentist we have tried. We learned about Dr. Maria Fonseca from some Canadian friends who have been going to her for many years and have had a variety of dental issues addressed by her. The previous dentists we visited were not bad, but Dr. Fonseca was excellent and will get our repeat business.

Dr. Fonseca has a small practice with top notch modern equipment; it's just her and an assistant and the doctor does the cleaning herself. Hans' teeth generally need more extensive work than mine and she spent an hour cleaning his teeth, by far the most thorough cleaning we've had in Mexico. I also felt my cleaning was as good as any cleaning I'd gotten previously in the US...and it only cost $30 each!

We intend to return to Dr. Fonseca next March for our next cleaning and Hans may have some old crowns and fillings replaced as well. We'll be sure to update our experience here. Dr. Maria Fonseca gets our vote for excellent dental care in Los Algodones!

Happy Hans with super clean teeth!

Our stay in Yuma was brief but we had fun catching up with our friends Cliff and Sharon who spend the winter here, over pickleball and an excellent dinner. Then we moved on into California to a planned meet up with my parents in Boulevard at The Oaks at Sacred Rocks.

My parents camp with their church RV group on a regular basis at various parks around San Diego County. The November outing happened to coincide nicely with our entry into California. Though I failed to take any photos of the campground or the group meals, we had a very nice time during our three night stay at this beautiful and peaceful RV park.

We did, of course, manage to get in a couple of hikes. McCain Valley is a swatch of BLM land encompassing almost 40,000 acres of chaparral and granitic boulder covered hills in eastern San Diego County. There are two primitive campgrounds along this decent dirt road and a small area for OHV riding.

We drove a small segment of McCain Valley Rd and took the spur out to Sacatone Overlook. The spur road is pretty rough, high clearance only, so we drove about a mile then hiked the remaining mile to the fantastic view into Carrizo Gorge.

Carrizo Gorge from Sacatone Overlook.
The Salton Sea is visible in the far distance.

Center right in the previous photo is a segment of the San Diego and Arizona Railway, aka "The Impossible Railroad"
due to the logistical challenges involved in building it. 

A couple of derailed cars are visible on the far right.

McCain Valley Rd goes through some wonderful granitic boulder strewn hillsides,
we'll definitely spend more time exploring this area in the future.

Morena Butte has long been one of our favorite hikes in San Diego County and staying in Boulevard put us within 20 miles of the trail head at Lake Morena. Though Lake Morena has suffered mightily from the drought, it did have a little more water in it compared to when we hiked here last December with John and Pam.

We were pleased to discover that Lake Morena County Park campground has upgraded their electric sites to 50 amp and added sewer to some sites. This park is peaceful and beautiful despite the low lake level.

Lake Morena campground had more turkeys walking through it than campers!

Within the first half mile of the trail head we got a lake view and a view of our destination.
Morena Butte is the granite topped mountain on the left.

Horny toad!

View of the lake from the Butte.
The campground sits along the top right edge of the dry lake bed so it is no longer near the water.

Martin, Estella and Chelsea joined us on the hike!

There's lots of fun rock scrambling at the top...sometimes straight up!
Chelsea seems to be half mountain goat!

A little rain lately has perked up the yuccas.

Yesterday we arrived at Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve where we'll settle in for a month as part of our annual 2+ month stay in San Diego. It feels good to slow down for a while...blogging included, as we spend time with family and old friends and RVing friends who pass through town.

It will be interesting to see what El Nino has in store for us over the next few months!

We'll likely see a lot of these beautiful creatures during our stay at Santee Lakes.

And birds, lots of  birds!

Friday, November 13, 2015

White Tank Mountain Regional Park

To break up the drive from Cottonwood to Yuma we spent a few nights at a new-to-us Phoenix area regional park: White Tank Mountain Regional Park. This park sits on the far western edge of Phoenix, well away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis...It's 6 or 7 miles to the nearest grocery store...perfect!

The biggest draw for us was the 25 miles of shared use trails and 10 miles of mountain biking on a competitive track, all in the beautiful Sonoran desert.. We did a great 9 mile loop hike one day using the Ford Canyon and Willow Canyon trails, walked a 5 mile loop on the lowland/easy trails and biked the competitive track on our last day.

Sunrise our first morning.
Cool and a little cloudy, perfect for a long hike into the nearby hills.

As we hiked up Ford Canyon we began to understand why it's called White Tank Mountain...white granite boulders line the canyon bottoms creating tanks to hold rain water long after a storm.
See little Hans on the left?

Would these be called cactus hips???

There was some fun scrambling as we continued up the canyon 

It had rained in the last week so we saw dozens of full tanks in the canyon.

The competitive track has some pretty easy trails, though we did not do the Technical Loop.
White Tank Mountain Regional Park has 40 water/electric sites. Roads are paved and sites are gravel. Each site has a picnic table and fire pit. Some sites are somewhat slanted and privacy is varied. We always use Google Maps along with the campground map to choose our site and site #31 was excellent. Good privacy with only one neighbor a good distance away on our docking station side.

There is one restroom/shower building for the 40 campsites, and only one shower for men and one for women in that building, fortunately the campground was not even a quarter full. We had okay Verizon signal, it was kind of slow midday. The dump station had two stations and looked pretty new. In fact the water and electric utilities at each site looked pretty new.

This is a nice place to stay in the Phoenix area, comparable to many of the other Regional Parks. We'd stay here again if the West side of Phoenix made sense in our travels.

Lovely site 31.
About 10 feet beyond the rock border is a small wash, great for watching small wildlife.

The huntress in her element.

Gilded Flicker.

Such a lovely site as the evening shadows slowly overtake us.

Cactus Wren.