A change of environment.

6 Dec

Idyllwild, a small community, sits amongst the pine clad mountains around 50 miles by road west of Palm Springs. The journey along a twisty and steep mountain road, with greenery either side and ranches dotted here and there, was refreshingly different from both the desert and Palm Springs environment we had experienced recently.

We had discussed campgrounds with our friends at the Thanksgiving celebrations, Marsha and Tony live in the town and Malgosia displays her pottery at a gallery there. The County Park sounded a good choice but no one was sure if it would be busy or not. It was not! In total there were around 95 sites, we were the only vehicle in an area for around 15, a few groups of hardy tent campers were present and a scattering of other RV’s around the park but in all it was very peaceful. We settled ourselves in before taking a walk into the town area after lunch, a selection of stores enticed the visitor to browse a while. The post Thanksgiving holiday had brought quite a few day visitors it seemed and we enjoyed the atmosphere. We found Malgosia and her pottery stall at the far end of the main street, the wonderful lustre on the Raku pottery catching our eye before we realised who it belonged to. We chatted a while and discussed the fact that it was turning chilly, apparently there was snow in the forecast. Having enjoyed the warm summer like conditions in Palm Springs this did not seem possible, we had however risen several thousand feet and should realise by now that makes a difference.

Just as we were settling to sleep that night we heard the sound of rain on the roof and it disturbed us a couple of times through the night too, however drawing the blinds at daybreak we discovered the rain had actually been the threatened snow and we had a small covering, it looked pretty and I actually thought it might help to get us into the Christmas spirit. By the time we had breakfast the snow was falling thickly and we decided IMG_3415if we were moving we should do it quickly. A quick chat with the ranger as we left the campground confirmed that once we got out of the higher ground the road was wet the snow turning to rain.

The twisty road was not so inviting in the slippery conditions and we were both relieved when  we reached lower ground, large amounts of rain had obviously fallen here and the gullies at the side of the road were struggling to cope, shallow floods covered many intersections as we drove through the more built up area of the highway.

We were heading for the coast south of Los Angeles and had thought of stopping off at Lake Elsinore but on arriving in the area it did not appeal to us so we drove on. We had started early and had plenty of time to make the coast before evening and in fact pulled into the Information centre near San Clemente around 12pm. We gathered a fist full of literature and a wealth of verbal information from the lovely volunteer in the office before driving on to the State Park, where we received a surprise. We had heard the cost of camping in State Parks had increased since we were using them in April/May time, a site for the night was now going to cost us $60 for a hook up or $35 to dry camp, as we needed to recharge our batteries and empty our tanks we opted for the last hook up available and paid, rather reluctantly for the pleasure. The other surprise was the close proximity of neighbours, in the past state parks have pleased us with the spacing, we found this campground to be different and on a busy Saturday night not really to our liking.

The best part however was the beach, we love the Pacific Coast, it has a IMG_3422rugged charm even here close to a large population we could still walk on uncrowded sand, daring the waves to catch us out and enjoy the peace of the Ocean. 

A beautiful sunset closed the day for us, darkness falling before 5pm, however daylight arrives again before 6.30am providing  ten hours of mostly sunshine and around 24 degrees centigrade. We are finding it hard to realise it is Winter and such a short time to Christmas.

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Next morning we were not sure where we would end the day, we were reluctant to pay the price of the State Parks campgrounds but really wished to stay by the ocean. We drove along the coast road through Oceanside and Carlsbad stopping for lunch at Encinitas. Three miles further on the coast road brought us to San Elijo State Beach, again $50 to camp, but this time it was a dry camp so even more expensive, the sites however were lined up along a shallow bluff with an uninterrupted view out to sea, we could not resist, so paid our fee!IMG_3457 

After another beach walk we spent the rest of the afternoon watching the many IMG_3455 surfers ride the waves right up until sunset, next morning as soon as there was enough light they were out there again, we are still not sure when they slept!

Yet another beIMG_3468autiful sunset, another thing we enjoy on this coast

Monday we drove to San Diego, not to visit the city but a promontory of land called Point Loma and the Cabrillo National Monument.

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The monument is accessed through a naval base and the waters below the point were busy with naval vessels, the sky equally as busy with aircraft and helicopters, the military and civilian airport being just the other side of the water.

The visitor centre explains that the first European to achieve landfall on the western coast arrived at this spot in 1542, it seems whether he was Portuguese or Spanish is in question, he did however claim the land for Spain.

Being a promontory of land also led to a lighthouse being built here first on the top of the cliffs and lit in 1855 but  36 years later it was moved to lower land as the light was often masked to shipping by fog or low cloud.P1030414  The first lighthouse and keepers quarters have been restored and are open for viewing. Anyone who was reading the blog earlier in the year might remember how we became fascinated with the lighthouse on the coast, so, we obviously had to visit this one too.

A third order Fresnel lens was the original light at this point, today a light of thisP1030410 type can be viewed in the assistant keepers quarters, now a museum. They make a great photo opportunity! A very insignificant beacon now guides the way to mariners around the coast, probably very efficient but not so picturesque I think. Within the museum I  read information on the surprising number of

women lighthouse keepers there had been including two here at Point Loma, they were often it seems assistants and the wife of the keeper however many were keepers in there own right, I find it interesting that at a job thought of mainly as a masculine occupation had such a large contingent of women and I had not seen this written about previously. Further research required I feel.

IMG_3490Driving away from  Point Loma we spotted a large ship sailing down the channel, I thought it was an aircraft carrier Robert informed me it was a smaller craft – amphibious support craft! It was still big, dwarfing the boats around it but setting a pretty scene with San Diego in the background.

Across the city we parked at a campground near Imperial Beach wheP1030418re on our afternoon walk we still found it difficult to come to terms with sea, sun and a Christmas tree amongst the Palm trees!  

During our chat at the tourist information centre in  San Clemente we had heard about the town of Julian, famous for apple pies. It seemed it could very easily be a part of our route and with some extra info from Jennie and Google regarding wineries in the area it was a must. Around twelve miles before Julian we decided to call ahead to the campground we had chosen hoping for a more direct route than the one indicated in Good Sam. This however it seems was the correct route but skirted Julian in a 32mile detour, apple pie would have to wait! On questioning the guy checking us in at the campground we were told a twisty steep road led to the small town, it was not advised for vehicles over 40ft (we had already seen this posted – we are 36ft so ignored it) and the road was described as challenging. Hmm, apple pie and a challenging route, Robert had no issues getting up early the next morning. 

IMG_3517He got his reward in the lovely surroundings of the Julian Pie Shop, with coffee too and of course I had to join in just to be sure of the quality and standard.IMG_3510 

A pretty mountain town to browse around but most stores did not open before eleven and we had arrived around 9.45am. We walked the main street to settle our pie and then drove the twisty road back again. Yes, it was worth the effort!

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