Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Casa De Fruita and Anthony Chabot Regional Park

I am writing this on March 19. I am still playing catch-up from all of our activities of the last two weeks. We have weak cell signal where we are now and it takes for ever to get anything posted. 

We left our awesome campsite at Laguna Mountain on March 7 and drove the 60 miles north to an RV park Called Casa De Fruita near Kilroy, California. It was a beautiful drive through a valley. We were losing elevation just about the entire way. CDF is a Passport America Park that accepts the discount only during the week for a maximum of 3 days. We stayed three days at a $21 rate with full hook ups. That is the first time we have had FHU since Las Cruces at Christmas. The sites are all on Asphalt and are really just a large parking lot with many large trees. CDF started as a road side fruit stand for a family orchard in the 1940's and is now a large roadside stop including a restaurant and gas station. They have a large camping and amphitheater area that looked like it had been hit by the recent flood waters. They have a number of festivals at the park including a Renaissance festival in the fall. The place was about half full until Thursday when the rigs started coming in for the weekend. There was some kind of gathering for the weekend. We checked out their fruit stand and it was very expensive.

I took a drive over to the town of Kilroy and found a Walmart with normal prices and a number of fruit stands along the road with very good prices on avocados, dates and pistachios. The one interesting thing about this park was that they had antique farm equipment lined up on display. I had a good time during my morning walk checking out what they had.

I just love the old wooden wheels.

Here is an old sprayer

An old grader

We enjoyed our time at Casa De Fruita, but it was a bit noisy with road noise and the activity in the park. We did just come from the most quiet site we have ever stayed at. I think we really just liked the long hot showers and having a microwave oven to use. It is funny how those things become luxuries. I still would not trade our life for anything else.

We left Casa De Fruita on March 10 and headed to Oakland, California. Most would ask, “Where can you camp in Oakland?”. Well, we found a gem. There is a large park in the foothills overlooking Oakland called Anthony Chabot Regional Park. I had been on their website a few months ago and they had one site left. I grabbed it and I am glad I did. This park is awesome. You have to drive up a steep winding road for about 6 miles from the Castro Valley area, but it is not too bad. Then you enter the park and 2 more miles of very curvy roads. We checked in and found our beautiful site overlooking Oakland and the bay. It is amazing to think that you are in the middle of this mass of people and city and in such a beautiful and quiet place.

We were surrounded by giant eucalyptus trees. The only issue was they had no power. Not a big problem for us, but they brought out a huge generator to run the park during our stay. I found out later that an underground cable had been damaged during a recent storm. We did see storm damage around the park.

My first course of business was to go make a visit to my grandfather's grave. He is buried in Livermore, California. Kim and I headed over the mountain and found the grave site without an issue. I really enjoyed my visit. He was a very good man.

We were now ready for the arrival of our daughter and SIL and little Amelia the next day. I will begin writing about our very hectic but fun filled week in my next entry.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Pinnacles National Park

I am writing this entry on March 18 from Horseshoe Bend Campground near Coulterville, California. Our daughter Shannon and SIL Brian and 1 year old Amelia left this morning to head back to the airport in San Francisco. We had an amazing time with them while they were with us. We love it when we get visitors. Blogging has taken a back seat to full time adventuring during their visit. I will now try to start getting caught up.

We were staying at Laguna Mountain BLM area, which is only about 30 miles from Pinnacles National Park. I have to be honest, I had never heard of Pinnacles before we were looking at the map planning our trip through California. When I noticed it, I asked Kim and she had not heard of it either. Pinnacles has only been a NP since 2013, but has been a National Monument since early in the 20th century.

You can make a visit from either the East or West Side of the park. There is no way to drive through the park, so you have to choose one or the other. We were closer to the East side, so we visited the east side of Pinnacles on this visit. The west side would have to wait for another visit in the future.

Pinnacles is known for some high rock spires that looked beautiful in pictures. When we arrived on this Saturday, the park was busy due to the weekend and the beautiful weather. It was warm and sunny and we were in shorts. We were stopped at the small visitor center and told we had to park the truck and take a shuttle bus up into the park. We rode the bus up to Bear Gulch, which we would use for our base for the day. We could then see some high rocks, but nothing too impressive.

We talked to a ranger and he recommended that we start with the cave trail. That was an excellent suggestion. We headed up a fairly steep trail for about a half mile before we hit the caves and larger rocks. We saw some rock climbers along the side of the trail. Rock climbing is a favorite activity in Pinnacles.

The caves are not natural caves. There are deep rock gorges in the area. Over the centuries, large rocks have fallen from the higher areas into the gorges and created openings. Those openings were expanded and stairs and railings were installed by the CCC back in the 1930's to create the trail we have today. It is very interesting and the lighting creates some interesting views. It is not overly strenuous, but we had a cub scout troop ahead of us and some of the smaller kids were getting a little freaked out by he dark and heights. There is a creek that runs through the canyon and the caves. One section was closed due to high water.

We hiked for about an hour and it was fun and interesting. I had my eye on the larger spires above us and really wanted to go up and take a look. Kim was not as enthusiastic. When I suggested a hike up to the California Condor overlook, she told me to have fun. This trail was all uphill with no breaks for a little over a mile. The views were as good as expected.

The trail was lined with some early spring flowers including this nice Indian Paintbrush:

Getting closer...

After some significant huffing and puffing I made it to the overlook and enjoyed the view.

I was able to see large birds circling the tall spires above. I was able to identify a condor or two. That is the first time I was able to confirm a sighting of a condor in the wild.

The walk down was fun and fast. I did not stop once. This hike was good training for what was to come.

We really enjoyed our short visit to Pinnacles National Park. There is a campground on the West side of the park, but it stays pretty full. Electric sites are $38 per night and are packed in pretty tight. We were very happy with our decision to stay at Laguna Mountain.

In the middle of Saturday night a major cold front arrived. We had high winds and rain. We pretty much stayed in the trailer all day. Later in the morning it started to SNOW! It was very pretty and we stayed warm inside and enjoyed the view. We got about an inch of accumulation, but I had to be quick with the camera, because it was gone in an hour.

We spent a couple of days inside and let the ground dry. We had one other camper in the campground over the next three days. We were loving the isolation. We needed one more stop before we met up with Shannon and Brian, so we decided on a park a few miles north. We were ready for a grocery store and electric hook ups. I will write all about our next stop and some time in the San Francisco area in my next entry.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Best Free Camp Spot Ever!

We left San Luis Obispo on March 2. We looked for a place that was on our way to the bay area, but was close to Pinnacles National Park. We looked at staying at the NP, but it was kind of expensive and we would be in a site packed in with other RV's. We also were not able to get a site for Saturday night. We found a BLM campground that is just about 30 miles south of the park and is free. How good could it be good, if it was free. I read reviews and all were positive. The only problem is they only have 5 sites and they do not take reservations. We were coming in on a Thursday, so we felt like we had a good chance of getting a site. I looked at the profile of the drive on Google Maps and decided to take the long way to get there through the inner valley and the town of Coalinga. It is a very uninhabited part of California. We saw more grape vines and then miles and miles of pistachio trees. I guess that is where the grow them. We then got on a twisty winding road for about 30 miles. The road surface was not very good, but we just took it slow.

When we arrived at Laguna Mountain, we were amazed. We had the place all to ourselves for the first night and had our pick of sites. When I saw site 4, I knew that was it. It is a huge site with a nice shelter and an amazing view of the valley below. Here are a few shots:

That is the view from our awesome site. 
There was nothing to fill out or anything. It is just a free campground provided by the BLM. There are multiple hiking trails that lead right out of the campground. One that goes to a waterfall and the other to the top of Laguna Mountain. We had zero cell signal and no OTA TV. Our solar worked well and we never had to fire up a generator. We have had some awesome free campsites while we have been in the western US, but this is clearly our favorite. We settled in for some reading and I started planning some hikes.

To my motorcycle friends, we drove right by the SRMC ranch. This is the Salinas Ramblers Motorcycle Club. They have been in existence for over 80 years. They host national level events at the ranch including the Quicksilver Enduro. I planned to make a visit to their ranch later in our stay.

On March 3, I decided to hike to the waterfall. This place, like much of California, has seen some significant rain. Much of the trails had been wet, but were now dry. I did see plenty of evidence of damage caused by flooding and mud slides on the trail.

That is Laguna Mountain in the distance
I walked down a nice trail for about 2 miles and down some steep switchbacks. I made it to the creek, but the waterfall was further downstream and flooding had wiped out the trail. Oh well, it was still a pretty spot.

I ended up hiking about 4 miles and got a great workout with the significant elevation change.

Laguna Mountain was so nice and very quiet. It is a stark contrast to where we are now. We are within a few miles of downtown Oakland, California. We are ready to head into San Franciso to meet up with our Daughter Shannon and SIL Brian along with our youngest grandchild, Amelia. This should be an interesting day.

In our next entry, I will write about our visit to Pinnacles National Park and some serious weather issues that significantly changed the look of our campground.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

An Interesting Golf outing and Pismo Beach

On February 28, we got our normally slow start. It was kind of windy, but we had blue skies and sun. I decided to go for a walk around the regional park. It is really a nice park with a botanical garden and lots of trails to walk on. I decided to walk over to the pro shop to see what it cost to play golf expecting it to be more money than I wanted to spend. I was shocked to see that I could play after twilight for $14 for as much as I wanted to play. It was just after 2 and I was sure I could get at least 9 in before it became too dark. I thought about getting a cart, but I really wanted to see if all the hiking I have been doing would allow me to walk without too much trouble. The guy in the golf shop did say it was a very hilly course. He also said the greens are great, but there are some wet spots from the recent rains. What he didn't tell me about was all of the wildlife on the course.

I went back to the trailer and grabbed my clubs. We have been carrying them this trip and I have not used them once. I have been playing Wii golf and I hoped that would help with the muscles. It is amazing, but I am sure it did. I was not the slightest bit sore the next day.

I walked out to the first hole and could immediately see what I was faced with. Big ups and downs and beautiful green grass. I then saw the turkeys. Yes, Wild Turkeys! Right on the fairway. There must have been about 10 of them. I would see them off and on throughout the round. They seemed to have very little fear of me.

At this point the turkeys had moved off of the fairway.
The course was very interesting with a number of difficult shots to target areas. I did not expect to play well, and I didn't, but I did manage a par on the Par 5 #7 and hit a excellent tee shot on the short par 3 over water #8. I did shoot a 52 if you must know. Mostly bogeys and double bogeys and one bad hole that included a 4 putt. The greens were in excellent shape and very fast with very significant breaks. You really had to read them and I missed a few of those reads and ended up hitting some putts that ended up further from the hole than I started. Oh well, I was having fun just playing along with the course all to myself.
Par 5 #7 - Made par on this one.

In the picture above you can see a large flock of Coots. I also saw quail and ducks and a few other birds. It really was a wildlife show.

I finished my first 9 and headed out to play a few more before dark. As it turned out 2 more was about all I had in me.

It was a fun outing and I am not really sure why I don't play more golf. In some cases it is the money, I am not going to spend over $100 for a round of golf, but that is not it. I really enjoy the game and thought when I retired, I would play more. I did play a lot of golf when I was working and maybe it reminds me of those times and I would rather not remember.

I spoke with the guy in the golf shop and he told me that the number of people that play golf in the US is declining sharply. The young people are just not playing the game. Maybe the cost? We have seen a number of golf courses in our travels that are closed. I guess they are too expensive to maintain if they do not have the players.

On March 1, we decided to head over to Pismo Beach and check out the area. Pismo was only about 15 miles from El Chorro Regional Park. The Pismo beach area is a typical congested beach community. They have a pier and lots of surf shops and other businesses along the water front and the main street. It would be a nice place for a walk if you are into that sort of thing. We really aren't, so we saved the parking cost and moved on to the beach.

The beach area is normally open to camping. You can drive right on the beach and then ride your OHV in the dunes just south of the area. The recent storms had the beaches closed to vehicle traffic. I understand that a river had cut the beach off. We did find a place to park and took a walk on the beach. This is really more our kind of thing.

Another picture of Kim on a beach. You would think the poor girl would be tired of beaches by now. 
There were a number of people fishing in the surf.

It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed seeing the area. We stopped in town to buy propane and paid the $3.25 per gallon for a bottle fill up. We paid $2.00 per gallon in Quartzsite. The price at this station had not changed in a long time. Why is that? I guess it is all about competition. Just one of my pet peeves.

Well that is about it for our visit to the SLO area. We had about a week before we are meeting our daughter and SIL along with little Amelia in San Francisco. We are really excited about that. We were only about 250 miles away. We needed a place to stay through the next weekend and we wanted to make a visit to Pinnacles National Park. We found this place that was free. It is BLM land and only had 5 sites, but they said it was OK for big rigs. There was a steep winding road to get there and the elevation was 2880 feet. We decided to go for it. This is where the adventure begins. We had no idea what we were getting into. I will write about that adventure in my next entry.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

San Luis Obispo

I am writing this on March 5 from kind of an amazing place. We have not had cell signal for the past 5 days, so I am not sure when I will be able to post this. I am sitting here watching it snow! I will write all about this place in coming entries, but for now, I will write about our time in San Luis Obispo (SLO).

We left Jalama Beach on February 26. We did not have a great plan because we had not had internet for more than a week and I had not done my normal level of research. We drove back on that 12 miles of very twisty road to reach Highway 1 and then headed north to Lompoc. Once we reached Lompoc, Kim used my phone to do some research. I had tentatively found a place called Lake San Antonio. She looked at the website for this regional park and although it did not come right out and say it was closed, she thought it looked like it might be. (I later found out it was indeed closed) We were driving along through the Pismo beach area and we thought about camping there on the beach, but that was closed. I guess the bad Pacific storm from the previous week had things in a mess around here. Kim started telling me about a place just outside of SLO called El Chorro Regional Park. I asked her where to turn and she said, “you just passed it”. Well, you see, I have this wife that is always right. I knew we needed to get turned around. I hit the next exit and went through town to get back to highway 1 and then out of town about 6 miles to El Chorro. We went in and I saw a golf course, but that was probably too expensive, but the park looked nice with huge sites. We could stay in a no hookup site for $23 per night. Full hookups were $37. We had 4 bars of 4G Verizon, so I was pretty happy. We paid for two nights, but ended up staying 4. This was a perfect place to explore this area. You can see in the picture below, the recent rain had this place looking green and beautiful.

The first morning we headed out to the coast. I had received a greeting from another camper on Rvillage that was staying in the park and gave me the “Must-See's”. First up was Morro Bay. Morro Bay was only about 10 miles from the park. This is kind of a small touristy type town, but it is off-season and there was not much going on. Just a beautiful little town to walk around and check out the bay.

We walked around town and did not stop in one shop. We really don't need anything and shopping just is not our thing. It was still a nice walk. We did see a few seals in the bay and two sea otters.

We then drove over to the large rock in the previous picture and walked around and enjoyed the nice day.

We then drove on Highway 1 through a number of coastal towns and by the Hearst Castle. We were heading down to see the Elephant Seals at the Piedras Blancas Rookery. We were amazed when we arrived to see hundreds of seals just lying on the beach. We had a volunteer come over and give us some excellent information. She stayed with us for a while and told us what was going on a what their life cycle consisted of. The males are huge. We loved it!

They were actually more active than it looks in this picture. We watched the new pups nursing and the interaction between the entire colony. After an hour or so, we went to an overlook to have lunch. There is no shortage of beauty on this coastline. Then we stopped at Moonstone beach and took a walk along the beach and boardwalk.

We then drove inland to take care of some boring stuff. Once a month I need to get my prescriptions refilled and the closest Walgreens was a few miles away. The drive was beautiful as we left the coast and headed up into the hills. The hills were as green as I have ever seen.

As we dropped down into the first valley, we started seeing wineries. They were just one after another. Literally hundreds of them. I was just amazed.

All that and it was just day one. I will write more about out time in SLO in my next entry. This is a very cool area with tons to do.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Jalama Beach

I looked at my various on line tools for finding a campsite and saw this place called Jalama Beach. It is right on the coast almost due west of Santa Barbara. I read as much as I could, and the main issue was the road getting to the place is steep and winding. There was also some issue with mud slides from the recent storm. We decided to go for it, and are so glad we did.

The road is rough and has a couple of serious hills, but nothing we could not handle. When we topped that last hill and looked down to the beach we both just said, "WOW". We did not have a reservation, so the next issue was do they have a spot we can fit in. They have a row of walk in sites. All were empty. The one on the end (10A) was open and was $25 with no hook ups. We are next to the store, but the view is amazing.

They have some rows up high that have electric. I think they are $40 per night. Beach side campsites with no hookups are $45. We had no cell signal and no OTA TV. The Wi-Fi in the park only worked if you were close to a bathroom and then was not great. The store was nice and had a nice menu including the famous Jalama Burger. We decided to have them for dinner one night. Two burgers with one large order of fries was $20, but very good.

It was very windy the first few days we were there, but also sunny. We never had to get the generator out in the 4 days we were there. We went for many walks on the beach and just sat and looked out our windows at the amazing view. It was one of our all time best views.

The wind brought out the kite surfers. I could sit and watch those guys for hours.

The beach is fairly rocky. We saw a number of people out surf fishing. I talked to a few of them and all were having good luck. I would have gone, but the California fishing license was just too expensive. I was still recovering from my cold anyway. By the end of the 4 days, I was feeling pretty good. Here are a few more shots to show off the beauty of this place.

Kim on a beach. No surprise there. 
Sunsets? You want to talk sunsets... well the Pacific sunsets are not as good as the gulf side of Florida, but we had some nice ones while we were there.

There was the Jalama Creek just behind our rig that cut the beach in half. If you wanted to go north on the beach you had to cross the cold creek. We had walked south a number of times, but I wanted to see what was up north. Kim decided to sit this one out. So, I took off my shoes and crossed the cold and rocky creek. I was able to walk about 2 miles up the beach. It was beautiful and I was all by myself.

This was as far as I could go.
We awoke the last morning to beautiful sunshine and very little wind. The surfers started showing up and headed out to catch a wave. I delayed our departure by an hour or so to watch them take on the break.

I got one good video of this guy shredding this wave.


Our time at Jalama Beach (Pronounced "Halama") was quite memorable. The locals we met really did not want me to write about it. They want to keep this place a secret. I would have to say, if you are in the area, you have to check it out. We loved it!