A week without internet!

17 Mar

Friday

Paso Robles to Pismo

Hurrah! We have a result, Norcold have agreed to replace the cooling unit in the refrigerator! Hopefully this will make it work properly. We now have to wait about a week for the part to arrive so we have moved on from Paso Robles to Pismo to enable us to enjoy the time whilst we wait.

We drove down to Pismo on the 101 and arrived at the State Beach Park Friday afternoon in time to get a spot close to the edge of the dunes, set up, plugged in and took a walk over the dunes to the beach. It was quite a warm afternoon really but the strong wind blowing across the beach, keeping the kite surfers happy and afloat, was chilly to say the least. The beach is the only one in this area where you can drive on the sand, this is taken advantage of by many in their 4 wheel drive vehicles of various sorts, firming up the sand into a roadway little short of the tide line. We walked each way a while then called enough, and headed back to warm up.

Saturday morning we needed to empty our tanks, this had to be done at the other campground just up the road, but fitted in nicely with our plans to visit the nature area there where the Monarch butterflies over winter. February is the end of their hibernation so we were unsure of how many we might see. The ranger was kind enough to find us a parking spot very close to the plantation and we walked over the little foot bridge spotting one or two monarchs. Once amongst the pine and eucalyptus trees properly we looked up to see clouds of butterfly above us. Every branch had groups hanging from them or flitting around, sometimes coming to land on the path or grass below us. As it is now mating time for them some were coupled together and it looked like one was dragging the other away or even flying up into the trees dragging the other behind it. In the cooler spots they were sitting, wings outstretched, as soon as the sun warmed them they rose in a cloud, changing positions to another perch and enjoying the warmth. The docents (informed staff) had telescopes set up so that you could get a close look at the butterflies in the trees, and were on hand to answer questions. They estimate that around 2,000 are presently in the trees however at the peak this year there had been 28,500!

After lunch outside in the sunshine, the first time we have been able to sit outside properly for any length of time, we crossed the dunes again to the beach. The wind today was blowing from a slightly different direction and as the day was generally warmer anyway, it did not feel as cold initially. The kite surfers were out in full force today, we counted 15 and watched them skim the waves controlling there kites to manoeuvre around one another some expert enough to jump quite high in the air. They seem to be able to skim on a very little amount of water and come quite close to the shoreline, it almost seemed it was easier to control them in the water than on land as one guy walking down the beach was really struggling against his flying kite and the wind to be able to go in the direction he intended. Back at the campground and sheltered from the wind we enjoyed the rest of the day’s sunshine and hope for the same tomorrow.

Sunday

To our surprise and pleasure the sun was still bright in the sky on Sunday morning, the other surprise was the time, our clock which updates via satellite knew something we didn’t…US Pacific Standard time had changed to summer time, and we had lost an hour without realising it!

We intended to move up the coast but before we did Robert wanted to give haRVey a bit of a wash down and remove his mud and road dust crust! I set too inside, when the sun shines it shows the dust, and sparks action.. One and a half hours later coffee was required so we could sit and appreciate our efforts, maybe not pristine, but an awful lot cleaner both inside and out.
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We had looked at the map and had a few campground details and places to head for. First we wanted to take a look at the bay just slightly North, Avila beach, so took the turn off the 101 towards it. We had the choice of Avila or San Luis Harbour, we thought we might take a look at the harbour first. A huge bay stretched out in front of us with small fishing boats and pleasure craft moored just off shore, we passed two wharf’s and could see a third in the distance, but what I also spotted were a number of RV’s seemingly parked up too. The road ends at the Harbour Office and a car park for the wharf, just on the right, before this area, there were 5 or 6 RV reversed in and overlooking this wonderful view. There were certainly a few spots left to be taken but couldn’t believe they were not reserved or private or, far more likely cost a fortune. We parked near the harbour office presuming this was the point of administration, however it was closed and we were ready to pull up alongside the campers enjoying the sun and ask for information when I spotted the bait shop and thought maybe they were the administrators. A conversation with two men inside and I quickly jumped back aboard before anyone else ‘stole’ one of the few available spots. The sites were on a first come basis, no reservation, full hook up with 50amps, and $40 per night. With a million dollar view we were happy to pay just $40 and really could not believe our luck at dropping on this spot. This is exactly our ‘no plan, plan’ go as we please and see what we find, and some you loose, but mostly we seem to win!

Having reversed haRVey into spot 22 (not sure of their numbering system as there were 10 spaces, starting at 14 and counted in even numbers!) settled his jacks and opened the slide outs, Robert was thrilled to be able to get out the canopy awning and our new outdoor chairs to each lunch in the sun. It being Sunday there was a fair amount of traffic on the road to the wharf but we guessed that would subside by the end of the day. We took a stroll over to the wharf to see what the interest was in and found several fish outlets both for fresh fish and restaurants serving as many types of fish you could think of. Cars could drive down the wharf and park for two hours, or stop in the large car park all seemingly free. What was also free was the biting wind which was blowing down the wharf, we walked to the end and found a spot out of the wind with the sun shining on us and stood a while enjoying the picture of the bay with the moored boats bobbing on it. After a while the chill was getting to us and we started back walking on the sunniest, least windy side, several people were looking just over the edge and into the water where to our pleasure we saw sea otters, our friends from Monterey! They were having a great time, catching and eating crabs, lying on their backs to crack them open and discarding the shells in the water. What a privilege to be so close to watch wild otters feeding this way. They were not good at keeping still for photo’s however, probably as difficult to capture as the butterflies.

We arrived back at haRVey for a cuppa and a warm, the temperature was about 18, 19 degrees but the wind was so cold I was frozen. Sitting in the ‘office’ seat to download and edit the photos just taken I had a fabulous view in front of me, enhanced further when a pair of brown pelicans came in to fish and soar on the wind with the gulls. They are such strange creatures, they remind me of pterodactyl when

they fly, not really graceful but have great presence in the sky, on water they appear top heavy and quite often when just on the edge of clear vision they look like buoy’s floating on the water, they seem to fish by plunging from not a great height and again are ungainly, perhaps their awkwardness is what makes them so interestingly cute.

The tide coming in we walked along the sand to the rocks at the left of the beach, lots of sea anemones here and a few mussels. Back at haRVey we had tea and sat in the front seats watching the sun go down and the watery world get dark, the day trippers gone home the road was quieter, a few cars going along the wharf to the restaurant, probably to sit and enjoy a meal looking at a view much similar to ours.

Monday

A bright dawn was soon overtaken by looming cloud blowing in, we braved the still chill breeze to walk along the wharf again, today, so much quieter, the week-end trippers all gone home. The sea lions were enjoying playing around the deeper water beside the wharf posts the younger ones honking and chasing, I am not sure if they were trying to awaken the sleeping adults or persuade them to move over and ‘make room for a little one’ The older members were sleeping lazily an the underside cross beams, not a care in the world. The otters of the day before were not around, although we had watched them on the far edge of the kelp bed from haRVey while having our breakfast. We enquired in the harbour office for information on trails. There was a docent led one each Saturday, otherwise at the opposite end of the bay close to Avila beach there was a mile long trail.

After lunch we set off along the cliff top, although the beach is wide and sandy it has little foot access and each cove being separated by difficult to negotiate rocks it is not particularly easy to cross from one side to the other, so the cliff top, side of the road was the best option. It was about a mile to Avilla, a pretty seaside holiday village, mostly holiday homes and apartments with just a few shops, very clean and tidy but oh, so quiet on a Monday afternoon. The now blue sky, reflecting in the ocean contrasted with the waders and sea birds along the shore line, at the fresh water outfall we spotted a white heron, waiting to catch a late lunch all very peaceful. Early afternoon and now back in ‘the office’ looking out again at this great view and feeling very fortunate, we are going to stay another night.

Tuesday

Another blue sky morning to greet us, we woke fairly early, got organised and prepared to move on. We did not intend to go far, about thirty or so miles to Morro Bay and the State Camp Ground there as we had been told it was very nice. We arrived about an hour later and unfortunately all the hook up sites were fully booked, we decided to take a chance on the fridge staying cold and accepted site 101, beneath the shade of two huge pine trees. With no hook up we soon had the kettle on and were sitting on our picnic bench with cookies and coffee. We needed some provisions and enquired about a supermarket, a 3mile drive back into Morro and we found an Anderson’s, new supermarket to us, but very Safeway style and had everything we needed and more. More included French bread and brie for lunch, again consumed in the sunshine, we were very good and left the wine for Tea time!

Close to the entrance to the Campground is a nature centre, we have seen so many things which we are unfamiliar with any opportunity to learn we quickly pounce on. An outcrop of rock close to the centre provides a lookout point for Moro Rock and Morro Bay, despite the lovely sunshine the wind, blowing quite strongly now, was bitterly cold. We looked quickly at the view and moved indoors where we found along with the information and friendly helpful staff, picture windows overlooking the bay. We learned how the series of Morro, called seven sisters was formed by lava and how the estuary developed and changed over the years. We were able to watch a short video of the local Sea Otters which showed a mother and her pup over its first twelve months, we now think it possible some of the sightings we have had could have been mother and cub as we have often seen two closely together. We now know what to look for.

We had wanted to walk along the Embarcadero into downtown and after a short stop at the ‘rookery’ where several pairs of blue heron are nesting we had a chilly walk downtown and back. It was very sleepy the shops and business very quiet on a weekday afternoon.

Wednesday

Had we have put or chilled things outside we would have been better off, we woke to 2.5 degrees and frost! Hmm..Is this really California as we thought we knew it? By 9.30 am we had hit 6 degrees and the sun was shining. Robert went to book us another night and came back with the good news a hook up was free, at least for one night, we quickly said yes and moved site. Electricity!

The information we had gathered from the nature centre showed us trails leading to one of the other Morro called Black Hill, not too far to walk and apart from the final climb not too steep, we should be rewarded by the view from the top, so we had been told.

We got slightly side tracked talking to the camp host, and finally set off around noon, heading out the back of the campground and slightly up hill. The trail ran through some wild scrubby fields alongside a stream then uphill around a gorge and upwards again. We were fairly sure of the direction we needed to be heading from the map and we could see the Morro in front of us, so, no waypoints did not concern us. We were within sight of the point at which we thought we needed to cross the main road when a mountain biker came panting the other way, he had to stop as the path was not wide enough for us all and we exchanged greetings, I enquired if the road was busy to cross, this led to him asking where we were heading, looking at our map and confirming our suspicions that it was not too accurate. He kindly explained the correct route, that we were actually already on Black Hill, and went on his way. We retraced our footsteps a few hundred yards and very soon found the car park to which you can drive and the short walk to the very top of the Morro. It may have been short but it was also rough and steep, our information was correct however in the detail of the view, 360degree and spectacular. After the required photo at the very top, Robert decided this HAD to be on the top of a rock, we sat and took in the view and ate our well deserved snack.

From our vantage point we could see the campground and the golf course just behind and were able to pick out what looked to be a quicker route back. Going downhill is always the good bit about having climbed up first… it was a quicker route and we arrived back at haRVey at 2.45 just in time for a late lunch, a rest and to write up the blog!

Thursday

We seem to have hit on a good spell of weather, apart from the chill in the wind, again we awoke to a blue sky morning and promise of a good day to come.

We could not, we felt come to Morro Bay without visiting ‘The Rock’ especially having conquered it’s sister yesterday. A little like Gibraltar in miniature the rock protrudes from the ocean and is linked to the mainland by a causeway, this man made causeway unfortunately has caused a certain amount of habitat change and damage over the years, something they were not as in tune with when the work took place in the 1930’s and tons of rock were blasted for the causeway and other projects. It does however give easy access to the harbour mouth for humans, to look at the perch for sea birds who use it for rest, relaxation and breeding. My particular interest was to maybe get a glimpse of the Peregrine Falcons presently nesting there.

The walk from the campground to the rock took us back down the Embarcadero and into downtown, along the way we stopped off to watch some of today’s catch being unloaded from one of the Morro Bay fishing fleet. The sea lions were nosily begging for scraps and plaguing the fishermen, swimming backwards and forwards, circling the boat and jetty, until they got there tit-bits, closely watched by the seagulls who are always up for an easy feed of anything left behind. At the far end of the Embarcadero there are fish restaurants with glass encased decks looking out over the estuary, apart from the usual fish and chips they sell Tuna, Cod and Ahi and other types of fish in various dishes and at least today they seemed to have a few more customers. Leaving the restaurants behind we crossed the car park, past the harbour office and began the walk down the causeway, this some 5 meters above sea level and a well maintained board walk meant we had an easy path. As we approached yet another gravel car park at the end of this area, we spotted some sea otters playing not far off the edge of the water. Armed with our new knowledge about Mum’s and cubs we soon realised there maybe a couple of babies to be seen. Sure enough when we were close enough the group of 5 or 6 otters contained 2 females with cubs resting on their tummies, joy! We watched a while took photos and left them to play and groom, these are fast becoming a favourite and they are so cooperative when it comes to being watched, they obviously don’t feel too threatened which is great for them and the watchers too.

Now, right by the towering, rocky, volcanic outcrop we looked up to see if we could spot the Peregrines, not really knowing what to look for, all I could see were a couple of gulls sitting on ledges, maybe brooding, more likely resting and taking in the sun on the opposite side of the rock to the prevailing wind. We had been told there would be a docent on duty and realised the guy casually stood by a truck talking to a couple was actually the man himself! He had a telescope set up, trained on the rock and on looking through it, to my immense pleasure I was able to see a male bird who just at that moment splayed his tail feathers and stretched out a wing giving me a fantastic view of his plumage. He has a female, now brooding on a ledge not too far away, we were told this is her eighth year on the rock and she normally raises 3 chicks. She lost her mate last year but soon took up with this new male who has chosen her a new spot to brood her chicks which should hatch middle of next month.

Again, we discovered so much information from a patient and informed guy only too willing to answer our questions and show us photos of birds on the rock and elsewhere. All this free and the time freely given by these volunteers who just love to pass on their knowledge, we are impressed.

We had a quick look at the Pacific rollers in the far bay but the icy wind forced us back behind the small shelter to be found on the other side of the rock and a bench to have 5 minutes and a snack. While we sat there a guy, probably in his 60’s passed and said Hi! As we walked back he caught up with us and we set up a conversation, first about the composite material the boardwalk was built with but leading on to language and dialect, California, US etc. etc. etc… He was a fruit farmer from San Diego; he grows Avocado and Oranges, employing Mexican agricultural workers. We shook hands and went our separate ways after a while, with me labelling him ‘The Man from Del Monte’.

Finally back at haRVey, we had walked 7.5miles, and were very glad of a cuppa and a sit in the sun to recover our feet. We move on tomorrow, we have a site booked at Santa Margarita Lake for 3 days, about an hours drive east from here. I am hoping the wet weather we have experienced every time we have stayed at a lakeside up to now doesn’t repeat itself and we have a few dry days there. We are still without Internet so this blog is getting longer and longer, hope your having a good read! (3,660 words to this point)

Friday

Moving on always holds a little excitement, not knowing what the next chosen campground and surroundings will be like, we had enjoyed Morro Bay and would return happily but were ready for our next destination.

After offloading at the dump station, we called at the local supermarket to top up with provisions as we knew there would be little opportunity for purchases at Santa Margarita Lake. Shopping is also a fun time. We have certain things we have ‘discovered’ and continue to buy, like our favourite blue cheese dip which we fool ourselves is good for us as we eat it with baby carrots and raw broccoli, celery sticks and red pepper, ignoring the calorie count on the dip! Then we are also on the look out for new things to try, this is the way you find good stuff. Our most recent find is herb tea bags, a wellness sampler pack with 5 different mint teas. Tummy mint; Sleepytime; Tension tamer; Ginseng energy and Echinacea complete care, not sure of the beneficial effects yet, but they taste good and at $2.29 for 5 x 5 tea bags a good purchase!

So, stocked up we hit the road and followed the 41 out of Morro Bay to meet the 101 then head off towards Santa Margarita. The 41 is a pleasant road and we passed Avocado plantations and Orange groves in the valley before the road climbed up to cross the volcanic range and down to the 101. We soon arrived at our turning, east towards the lake, this side of the hills is also fairly green and the new leaves are just bursting on the deciduous trees. Santa Margarita itself is more like the northern California towns we passed through earlier, slightly wild west looking in architecture, the wooden houses and business premises being set back and porches covering there frontage. Robert is still having problems coming to terms with construction methods, wooden frames and boarded walls with little or no insulation as far as we can see all topped off in most cases with felt tiles give the impression of a very flimsy structure (aka garden shed) however they seem to stand the test of time as some of the property must be 50, 60 or more years old.

We arrived at the KOA campground just a few minutes to Noon and we were greeted by a bunch of pleasant staff, the shop Manager checked us in and we chatted about trails etc. then we were escorted to our site by a young man on a quad bike. Having ensured we were all OK he reminded us they all lived around the site and were available if needed, then zoomed off on his quad. The campground nestles amongst some small hills, there are a number of hook-up sites in two terraces, some scattered around with tent sites and rustic cabins in-between, with the green hills and pine and deciduous trees it is a pleasant spot. We set up and prepared lunch, the sun by now was very warm however in the shade the breeze still chilled quite readily.

The lake is just a quarter of a mile away and we set off, fleece in hand to view, expecting the chill wind to necessitate the extra clothing. We had not gone far when we needed to take off rather than put on layers, it was roasting, the breeze seemed to have disappeared! The County Park entrance gate was womaned by Carol, a volunteer who, guess what, we had a long chat with. She and her husband have been Camp Hosts here since October and on there time off have been exploring the area. She was able to give us information for a County Park (they don’t advertise themselves very well and information seems to pass by word of mouth) in Santa Barbara County, by the ocean, which she would recommend.
We took the trail leading to Osprey campground in the park, dry camping but right by the lake, then followed the path around a small headland on the lake and back to the entrance all in sweltering sunshine! Glad to be back at base, we flopped in the shade and drank a pint – of water!

Saturday

When we were talking with Carol yesterday she mentioned the fact that they had been experiencing foggy mornings, it did not prepare us however. It is presently 10.30 am and 6.5degrees outside with a foggy haze enveloping the whole campground. We plan to take a hike about 4 miles today to the vista point of the lake dam, we were thinking we needed thin trousers and tea shirts… I may need to change…

TBC – Rocky’s trail 6.27miles and Sunday, Grey Pine Trail 7.45miles, all to now write up. We are back at Morro Bay(Monday evening) and have internet access for the first time in over a week so I am downloading while I can!

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