California Days

Has it really been two weeks since I last posted? Joshua Tree seems like a distant memory, but I’ll try to recreate the high spots of that, and our travels since.

Our hideway site in Joshua Tree was perfect. We love being tucked in among the rocks in such an unusual landscape. We called this our King Kong Kampsite.20180319_110540728641496.jpg Everywhere you look, there are people scrambling up and around these crazy boulders. They have a stubbly granite surface which is very grippy, which makes it easy for one to feel like Hillary on Everest. Well, we didn’t actually get very high off the ground, but it feels high. Green Valley pals Deb and Tony joined us for a day of scrambling around in the sun.



20180313_133824-1311166515.jpgThere’s a vast difference in the scenery between the east and west side of Joshua Tree. We decided to wander over to the west end for a hike, and couldn’t have been more amazed at the difference in scenery. No granite boulders, but Joshua Trees everywhere (go figure!) There was so much greenery! 20180314_122021788052877.jpgThe Panorama Loop hike was our destination, and we were undeterred by the Ranger’s warning that the forecasted 50mph wind gusts could be a problem on the exposed mountainside. Ha! I thought. The first blast that hit me in the face made me want to drop on all fours for safety. But the views were incredible.20180314_1229371045669474.jpg Snowy peaks were visible across the Cochella Valley.20180314_1356151829682667.jpg20180314_155832808471924.jpg Descending back to the Trailhead, we passed what must be the granddaddy of all Joshua Trees.20180319_1106242085002328.jpg Next time we visit the Park, we may camp on this end to make further exploration a bit easier.

We spent two nights cold rainy nights in the Oak Grove Campground in the Cleveland National Forest. The weather dampened our spirits a bit, but the 40 or so Boy Scouts there for the weekend seemed to have a great time. As they were packing up to leave, I could only imagine how exhausted the leaders must have been. Organized chaos.

On the way to our next stop, we passed by an incredible sculpture place. Who could pass by this spot without stopping to see these treaures? 20180318_092523505329847.jpg20180318_092452833497834.jpgThere was a full-sized stage coach, complete with passengers AND four horses that was jaw-dropping. I bought a $10 ladybug for my garden in exchange for the time we spent viewing these amazing artworks. I’m ashamed to admi that I lost the card with the name and location of this fabulous sculptor. But, you will recognize it if you pass by, for sure.

Get us to the beach! We were craving some warm sunshine, and figured that our next stop at San Clemente State Beach would be just the ticket. While we did get the sunshine (for the most part), the warmth eluded us. But, it was perfect for beach walks. Watch out for sharks! From a rocky outcropping about 150 yards off shore, we could hear seals barking, although we could only see them with our binoculars.



20180321_121542-11481871097.jpgI probably never would have heard of San Clemente if it weren’t for the fact that Nixon’s Western White House was located here. Seems crazy that I can walk on the beach and see it, but here’s the view of it from the beach. 20180319_133041-1618857943.jpgOld photos in the visitor center show that, during Nixon’s years, it was the only house along the bluff to the south of the State Park. Now it’s jammed with houses of all shapes and colors. Surfers still reign here – there’s a nice beach-y vibe to this area that we like a lot.20180319_124006222710642.jpg20180319_113023219599090.jpgHow is it possible that it’s been weeks since we actually have ridden our bikes? We decided to visit San Juan Capistrano, and utilizing the miles of bike paths seemed to be the best way to go. The wide packed-sand multi-use trail along the beach is a blast on a bike.20180320_1131191542769736.jpg It’s busy with walkers, gawkers, surfers, and moms with strollers. This photo makes that statement look like a lie, but we did find a non-congested stretch or two. Along the way were a few great viewpoints.20180320_1159561934629678.jpgThe busy highway also has its own separate two-lane bike path and pedestrian walkway.20180320_15210954269708.jpg Many of these California communities have made it easy to stay fit – there is a genuine vitality here that we just don’t see elsewhere.

The Mission at San Juan Capistrano is the summer home of cliff swallow, which migrate each spring to SJC from Goya, Argentina – a 6000 trip. March 19 is the ‘official’ return date. We were there on the 20th, and there was nary a swallow in sight. Hope they made it back in time for the official parade and Festival scheduled for the 23rd.

The Mission is a gorgeous place. Parts of the original church were destroyed only six years after completion by the earthquake of 1812. The alter from the back wall was saved, and appears in one of the photos below. It’s spectacular.20180320_1305382000215669.jpg20180320_1304271336934057.jpgPortions of the original structure still stand. I had to laugh at the two girls taking glamour shots of themselves in front of  the old section. 20180320_130637-1819951110.jpgPeople and selfies – it’s out of control! The Mission seems to do a brisk tourist business – it’s beautifully restored, and worth the few dollars it takes to visit.



No bicycle outing would be complete without a brewery visit. Docent Brewing, an IPA temple, fit the bill perfectly! We had fabulous brews and sandwiches. One of the best brewpubs we’ve ever visited – and we’ve been to many!20180320_14085012269542.jpgWe just bummed around the rest of our five San Clemente days. Sometimes it’s nice just to be lazy. There weren’t many campers in our area of the campground – most of the showers and bathrooms seemed to be locked. A few of the others seem to be inhabited by the regular gathering of homeless folks to live in the Park during the day. Most would leave for places unknown for the night, returning faithfully at 7am the next day when the Park reopened. But a few locked themselves into the individual bathroom stalls for the night. While we weren’t ‘inconvenienced’ by this, it did make me a bit uncomfortable. The worst part of it were the ones who smoked – nothing worse than using a stinky, smoke-filled bathroom. I can’t believe the Rangers aren’t aware – there must be a tacit agreement to overlook this inhabitation. As you can probably tell, I’m kind of conflicted about how I feel about this. It was creepy knowing that people were sleeping in the bathrooms all night long, although I have a lot of sympathy for their plight.

One new thing we did see here were these food recycling bins, which look exactly like the regular green recycling bins at many facilities.20180321_094049-1754401314.jpg Seems weird to just dump food scraps – apparently we weren’t the only ones who weren’t used to this, as these green bins had more cans, plastic bottles, and cardboard boxes than food scraps in them. Ironically, there weren’t any recycling bins in the Park anywhere that we could find, which just magnified the confusion.

We couldn’t have moved on to a more different location – from sea level to 5500 feet at Mt San Jacinto State Park, a gem of a campground in the San Bernadino Mountains, near the town of Idyllwild.20180323_164800387251762.jpg It’s cold up here, in spite of the brilliant sunshine. Although nearly deserted when we arrived, it filled up yesterday with hikers from the Pacific Crest Trail, which crosses a few miles from here. This perhaps is one of the nicest, most pristine campgrounds we’ve visited – the bathrooms are spotless, and there’s not a speck of litter anywhere. It’s definitely someplace we will return.

We hiked up the Devil’s Slide yesterday, enjoying panoramic views from many places on the trail. 20180324_1212331506636580.jpg20180324_131908411954111.jpgFabulous hike – about five miles roundtrip, with 1700′ of elevation. There are many places where the effects of the constant wind were evident. Tree trunks have been twisted by the constant forces of wind and sun. They are swirled like a barber pole.20180324_113502703562467.jpg We were above the snowline when we reached about 7300′, and with a brisk wind and temps in the 30s, the snow sure wasn’t melting any, even with all that sunshine. This was the first time we have hiked anywhere where a Backcountry Wilderness Pass was required. There’s no fee for the permit – I think it’s more of a counting device.

We wanted to find a hike where we could take Jezzy along – our 94 year old pup (human years, according to our DNA report) has slowed down significantly in the past year. About four miles is her limit, and we try to keep it to an easy stroll. The Iyllwild Nature Center seemed like the perfect place to do that. What a gorgeous county park, complete with its own campground. We would definitely consider it next trip. We found these gigantic pinecones – that’s John’s iphone alongside for size comparison.20180325_135947996377917.jpgJezzy also located a mortar rock, used by native peoples hundreds of years ago to grind grains, or in this case probably acorns, for food. With the accumulated water from the recent rains, the depressions really stood out.20180324_1633042030260130.jpgThis is our last night in California. We cross the State Line tomorrow back into Arizona, and begin our slow trek back to Michigan. As always, we have the feeling that much has been left unseen and undone. Pretty sure a return trip is in our future.

16 thoughts on “California Days

  1. Thanks for those beautiful pictures and stories, I will be leaving soon, if you come to Reno give me a call, always love to see you.


    • Jochen, I know we will catch up with you again in our travels. I’ll miss seeing you at the Monday Time Trials – you are an institution!

      Enjoy exploring your new home area. You’re going to have to start climbing lots of hills again!

      Safe travels, my friend.


      • Thanks for your note. Yes it will be different in my new world, but I have my son, his wife, and daughter and 2 dogs to keep me going. My daughter is only 4 hr’s by car away from me. I hope to be able to use my looms, I am taking 2.
        I miss Nancy and I always will, but being close to Family makes up for it.


  2. Somehow, I don’t think that I’d fit the California lifestyle very well. However, I can see why people would be attracted to all the natural beauty there that you featured in this post. I don’t think that there was a place that you photographed that I wouldn’t like to see in person.

    I also liked seeing the San Juan Capistrano Mission, I’ve heard about the swallows there, but I don’t think that I’ve ever seen photos of the mission before.

    The sculptures were something to see as well, it would be easy to spend a day there.

    If I were you, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to get back to Michigan. It finally hit 50 today for the first time in two weeks or more, but there’s snow in the forecast for next weekend. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed this post so much, all of the wonderful weather that you had while shooting the photos that you did.


    • Hi Jerry. It’s easy to make up for low temps with lots of brilliant temps. Yesterday morning in Idyllwild, it was 26 degrees when we were packing our camp. Makes packing our electrical cable a real comedic adventure. But we were very happy to have been in a site with power (the first time in a very long time). Makes it very convenient to run our little electric heater for a bit in the morning.

      Not sure how many swallows actually come back to the Mission any more. I only saw one nest. It would be pretty sad if they moved somewhere else, wouldn’t it?

      Not in a huge hurry go get home (target is Mother’s Day), but I do start worrying about my yard and related spring house chores about this time. But we’ll try to push some nice weather your way.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Judy, Do you or any of your readers have some idea of where the large metal sculpture place is? Do you remember the nearby highway or approximately where you were? I like that type of sculpture and would be interested in planning a trip to see the place.


    • I found them! I think. They are scattered around in two places in Borrego Springs, California, just outside of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Sylvia


    • Hi Sylvia. I found the card! The artist’s name is Ricardo Breceda, and his website is The address of his gallery on Highway 79 in Aguanga, CA (where I took the photos) is there.

      I’ve heard from another friend that there are also many of his pieces near Borrego Springs.

      We really enjoyed wandering around and looking at some of these magnificent works.

      Hope all is well with you.


  4. When you were at Joshua you were only about 1 1/2 hours from the great state park we live in the middle of. Anza Borrego State Park. Make sure you stop net time. Our town of Borrego has over a hundred of the sculptures you stopped to see too. Great place to camp and hike.
    Marie & Lee Holly


    • Marie, I had no idea you lived out there. We have stayed at the State Park once – it take a lot of planning ahead to get a spot there! But, it’s such a beautiful area. You must love it there.

      Do you still have your 5th wheel? Still get out and roam around, or do you stay put?

      So nice to hear from you. We sure will be in touch when we are out that way again. Best to you and Lee.


      • We still have the 5th wheel but it doesn’t get out of MI. We have a house here. We volunteer at the park and love it. Would love to get together next time you are in the area. We can even come up to you. You can do primitive camping anywhere in the 750,000 acres here. 👍 We’re hoping to find a used short box truck camper to do more side trips on our way out and back. The 5th wheel is just too much for us to haul. Let us know if you see any nice ones for sale on your trips. 🤗
        Love reading you travels and use e site to find spots to camp as we travel too.


  5. Sounds like you all have had an amazing time! love the pictures… especially those of San Clemente which was my mother’s favorite place.. she’s from California and we always tried to visit there whenever we could. Happy travels!


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