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.

Whirlwind SoCal Tour

Let’s clear the air about one thing right now. The Campshaws were NOT the holders of the winning Powerball ticket from California. Many idle moments were spent planning on how we would change the world with our billion dollars. Bummer.

Since my last post, we’ve moved four times. That’s a lot of territory to cover in one post, but let’s do the nickel tour of our past 10 days or so.

We headed toward Simi Valley from Death Valley. Why? Simi Valley, CA is the home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. Our home base for three nights was Tapo Canyon Regional Park, a small municipal park with about 18 campsites.20160107_165820 This would have been a great place to stay except for one thing – it was a PARK and a CAMPGROUND, yet dogs were not allowed on the grass. We could walk Jezzy around the street of the campground, but nowhere else. Seemed a bit ridiculous, especially in light of the fact that we paid a buck extra per day to have a dog in camp.

So, the Reagan Museum was our target for Day 1.20160108_121224 Although the Museum was only a dozen miles from the campground, we decided not to try to bicycle there. We couldn’t really pick out a reliable route from our online maps, and most of the roads leading in that direction were four or five lanes. So, we headed out in the truck, only to find that it could have been easily bicycled. Crap!

The Reagan Museum sits on a stunning piece of property in the hills overlooking Simi Valley.20160108_144218 This is especially evident when one gets to the wing where they have Reagan’s actual Air Force One open for view. The plane is situated so that it points out right over the Valley.20160108_131854It’s amazing. Touring the actual plane was one of the day’s highlights, although I don’t have any photos to back up that claim.

This Presidential Museum, we both agreed, made better use of multimedia than any of the others we have visited to date. There were many audio and film clips. One of the more dramatic examples of this was the assassination attempt. We stood in small groups surrounded by screens as the guns popped, men shouted, and bodies hit the ground. It was chilling. But the whole story of the Communist Menace seemed ridiculous. Loud dreary music, creeping red stains across a map. No.

Reagan’s finest moment? “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down this wall!” No doubt.

Here are a few of our favorite scenes from the Museum.20160108_12573320160108_12332220160108_12330920160108_123303I tried my damndest, but couldn’t get John to get on that sawed-off horse so that I could take his photo riding with Reagan.20160108_14311520160108_142951And finally, Reagan may have been the last President to be photographed wearing a plaid jacket.20160108_125745As with most the Presidential Museums, we felt that we had learned a few things about Reagan the man, and Reagan the President. Although he is generally idolized by Republicans today, it seems that he would hardly be in the running to be a Party standard-bearer. The beat goes on….

What better way to escape the Red Menace than a stroll through Hollywood?20160109_122158 We matched hand and footprints with our favorite stars,20160109_12285520160109_122920 gawked at the famous sights, and enjoyed the best fish tacos ever. Did we see anyone famous? Nope.20160109_122821 Did we tour mansions or see homes of the Stars? Nope. But we had a really great day hoofing around Hollywood Boulevard.20160109_133842Moving on, our next target was the Richard Nixon Museum in Yorba Linda, CA. Good thing we checked first, because it’s CLOSED for remodeling. Now, I don’t want to be one of these conspiracy theory folks, but isn’t it a bit odd that the Gerald Ford Museum is also now CLOSED for remodeling? My own theory here is that, since these Museums are privately funded, a new cash infusion to these two is facilitating a bit of history revision. (Just my own theory).

On the road again, we headed toward Laguna Beach. But, a detour to Long Beach was in order, as I really wanted a glimpse of the Queen Mary, which is permanently berthed there. Right next to it is an old Russian Scorpion sub (cold war era?). What a curious juxtaposition.20160110_124650Moving on, we landed at Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach. If there’s a more beautiful place to camp, we’ve yet to find it.20160111_06472320160111_152747 We wandered the beach, listened to the surf pound the shore all night long, hiked into Moro Canyon, and cycled into Newport Beach and Balboa Island.20160111_13190120160111_12523420160112_131444Words cannot describe how much I wanted to dig out this enormous boulder and haul it home. Such a geology lesson laying on the beach.20160111_145458


Three perfect days. But, it is expensive to camp in California State Parks. Crystal Cove is $50/night for a rustic site. Showers are coin-op, probably to conserve water, rather than to raise money – but a nuisance anyway since you have to use their tokens, not your quarters. But, if I could stay in one place for two weeks and just do nothing – this would be it. Gray whales breached for us for our morning coffee entertainment. (John probably took 300 photos with his iPhone held up to binoculars to get this shot. I was convulsed with laughter.)imageThey should just call it Camp Paradise.

All good things must come to an end, so we headed back to the boondocks for a few days, selecting Dripping Springs Campground in the Cleveland National Forest as our home for the next two nights.20160113_16270920160113_162635.jpg We chose this spot because of its price ($7.50/night with our Senior Pass), access to hiking trails, and because we really wanted a campfire. Although I don’t have photos to prove it, we enjoyed an eight mile hike into the neighboring canyon, where we had expansive views of nothing – more and more remote scrubby canyon. We loved being able to take Jezzy along for the hike – dogs weren’t allowed on the trails in Crystal Cove, and she had been cooped up a lot in the past week.

Today (Friday), our home is Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in Borrego Springs, CA. We rolled in mid-afternoon, hoping to find available space for the weekend. imageUnfortunately, we can only stay for the night, as everything is booked. We grabbed a shower (coin-op), but very welcome, indeed. Our plan is to take a quick hike into Palm Canyon tomorrow morning before moving on.

One thing has become very obvious to us so far on this trip – we love our new 6V golf-cart batteries, which John installed before we left. We’ve only had one campground where we had electric service, and only one time did we deploy our solar panel. Not worrying about having enough power to run the fridge or the lights is liberating. Wish we would have done this two years ago. Our duct-taped window is holding fast, so we’ve been able to move past that little catastrophe for the time being.