After spending six months enjoying our near-the-beach condo, we wanted to get out on the road again, but we weren’t too keen on traveling far from home just yet. Only partially vaccinated from COVID-19 when we set out, we nevertheless decided that it would be pretty easy to protect ourselves in the motorhome. This three-week trip in Southern California would only cover about 600 miles, with very short travel distances, but it gave us a chance to get reacquainted with RV travel and visit some places new to us in our own backyard.
First stop: Puddingstone Reservoir (San Dimas), about 30 miles east of downtown L.A. This was a great chance to visit with Hank’s mom, sister Judy, and brother-in-law Allyn, whom we had not seen in more than a year. Kevin (Hank’s son) joined us for a little bit as well. Outdoor dining with family, plus bike riding and walking around the lake, was very enjoyable, especially because of all the birds here in SoCal at this time of year.
On to Hemet to visit one of the largest RV campgrounds in the country (over 1000 sites). We were only 25 miles from Idyllwild in the mountains, so we took a scenic drive to Idyllwild County Park, where we did a lovely 2½-mile hike along the Perimeter Trail and Summit Trail. This would probably be a scorching hike in summer, but in late March it was perfect—just enough breeze to keep us from overheating. There were patches of snow remaining from a recent storm, and plenty of birds to sing to us as we panted up the hill (boy, are we out of shape from sheltering at home for so long!).
We decided to check out two RV campgrounds associated with casinos in the Temecula Valley—Pechanga and Pala—in case we ever wanted to return to this area. Not that we’re interested in gambling—we’re not—but the development of wineries around Temecula has gotten huge in the last twenty years, so we figured we could check some out. Wine tasting was a refreshing way to enjoy a sunny day overlooking hills covered with grapevines and orange trees.
For the most adventurous and winding drive of this trip, we headed southeast to Borrego Springs, the center of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the largest state park in the lower-48 states. Our RV campground here was next to a golf course, like an oasis in the desert. This was our home for three nights in this tiny town.
Anza-Borrego is a great hiking destination, but it’s important to get out early because these desert trails heat up quickly. Our main hike was the well-known Borrego Palm Canyon trail, where we were treated to multiple cacti and desert wildflowers in bloom. Not a super-bloom this year because there wasn’t enough rainfall in the winter, but it was spectacular to see all the reds, pinks, yellows, and purples as we hiked this popular route.
The palm oasis is a refreshing shady destination after hiking with little shade most of the way. A tiny waterfall barely deserves its name, but the palms were beautiful nonetheless.
The highlight of this hike was definitely the peninsular bighorn sheep who grazed just off the trail early on our route. This sub-species of desert bighorn sheep is endangered, and we felt so blessed to be able to watch them up close as they munched. We could hear other males fighting up on the hillside, just a little too far away for photos. The clashing of their horns sounds like gunshots and the impact is so great it would cause brain damage in just about any other species. Mating season must be here! The things males will do for love!
Borrego Springs is also known for its Sky Art that is scattered around the area. Artist and welder Ricardo Breceda was commissioned by a local landowner to create these sculptures, and there are more than 100 of them around Borrego Springs. For you artists who want more details, here’s a great website with much better pictures than ours: https://www.travelyesplease.com/travel-blog-borrego-springs-sculptures/. Here are a few of the sculptures we liked best…
Anza-Borrego is an official Dark Sky location, so it was fun to get out and look at stars that we can only imagine when we’re in L.A.
For you RVers out there, we avoided the Montezuma Valley Road going in and out of Borrego Springs. Though theoretically do-able in the motorhome, it is VERY twisty-and-turny, so we opted for a slightly longer route past the Tamarisk Grove along Yaqui Pass Road.
On to Escondido, where we had three highlights:
1. I (Cindy) drove home (two hours each way) to get my second COVID vaccination while we were here. It was easier to drive home than figure out how to schedule a second shot on a different day or at a different location from the original. It was worth it, and I got to spend one night at home before getting the shot early the next day.
2. We visited the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (I’ll always call it the Wild Animal Park), which gave us a chance to try to get in better shape by walking for miles. It also reminded us of Africa and Australia, two favorite trips from the past.
3. We got to enjoy a relaxing dinner with Hank’s cousin Cindy and her husband Dan. We (and they) are feeling like we’re coming out of hibernation, slowly going out there and doing things like eating (outside) in a restaurant, gathering with small groups of family or friends, and starting to return to “normal” life. We always joke that Hank’s cousin is the original Cindy Kratzer (now Cindy Kratzer Keane), while I picked up the name a year later when we married in 1989.
It was time to head for cooler climes and that meant the beach. We found a brand-new RV park in Chula Vista, right on San Diego Bay (called Costa Vista RV Resort, or alternatively Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay), and it was very refreshing after our urban campground in Escondido. Great views of the water and a wonderful system of bike paths made this a fun hangout spot.
We also visited the San Diego Zoo, where we walked over 6 miles, and tried to get more photos for Cindy’s series of non-fiction phonics books. We love animals, and though we’d rather see them in their natural habitat, the San Diego Zoo is a good substitute for seeing animals in the wild.
Cabrillo National Monument at the end of Point Loma gives a wonderful view of the bay in one direction and the ocean looking the other way. No whale sightings today (too late in the season), but it was still well-worth the visit.
Staying in Oceanside gave us a chance to bike along the beach and enjoy a fish and chips lunch at the pier.
Last stop was Long Beach, where we did another bike ride, and had a great time with Hank’s sister Janice. A highlight of this three-week trip was definitely getting to see so many members of Hank’s family.
We’re back home and dreaming about (and planning for) our next trips. It’s so refreshing to get out on the road again. We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to travel in this way, and for the vaccinations that we were able to receive. We wish health and adventure to all of you!