This is a long one that covers 2 weeks and 4 campgrounds. I tried to sum it all up as concisely as possible, but I do ramble sometimes and it’s hard to choose just a few pictures from a large collection. This post might be a good one if you are having trouble sleeping.
In July 2015 we took two weeks off and towed our Airstream up to Moss Landing, which is a little north of Monterey, California. We only towed between 200 – 300 (at most) miles a day so we made overnight stops both to and from. It’s a beautiful drive with lots to see and do.
Most of our trip was near the ocean. We did stay inland once, but even then we were only about 30 minutes from the ocean.
The order of our stays follows:
- 1st stop going: El Chorro Regional Park campground for three nights – 7/17/2015 to 7/20/2015
- Destination: Moss Landing KOA campground for four nights – 7/20/2015 to 7/24/2015
- 1st stop return: San Simeon State Park for three nights – 7/24/2015 to 7/27/2015
- 2nd stop return: Flying Flags RV Resort for three nights – 7/27/2015 to 7/30/2015
El Chorro Regional Park
Our first stop was at the campground in El Chorro Regional Park, a San Luis Obispo County park. This is a beautiful campground that’s just off of hwy. 1 between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay. The best campsites appeared to be R10, R11 and R12 (the nicest). Just don’t book campsite C2 if it looks like rain. We lost our awning in C2 the second morning of our 2 week vacation due to my not having put enough slope in the awning when I opened it up (see problems and fixes, “How to trash one side of your Airstream”). Overnight, rain filled the awning and the weight snapped the awning supports. A very strong torrent of mud-laden water raged through this campsite making things miserable while I took the awning apart.
There’s a lot to see around El Chorro. You can enjoy a nice 2.4 mile roundtrip hike to Eagle Rock Viewpoint (you can see Morro Bay from here), visit a botanical garden (next to the campground), play golf, go to Morro Bay or visit any one of several near-by beaches.
We hiked the Eagle Rock Nature Trail to Eagle Rock Viewpoint. The payoff is beautiful views of the Chorro Valley, Hollister Peak and Morro Bay. It takes about 1 hour to get to the Viewpoint and the trail climbs about 450 feet. It’s a fairly easy hike.
Besides visiting Morro Bay, which is a given when in this area, we went to Montaña de Oro State Park for a hike along the bluffs overlooking the beach. The park is six miles southwest of Morro bay and presents some absolutely stunning views. In one of the pictures, you can see Morro Bay.
Moss Landing was our primary destination and our second stop. It’s about 15 miles north of Monterey, California, on hwy. 1. Sometime around 1866 a guy named Charles Moss moved his family from Texas to California and homesteaded this spot. I guess that’s where the name Moss Landing originated. Originally, it was a whaling port but now it’s a fishing village and tourist destination.
This is a great place for a base camp to explore the area around Monterey Bay. Gotta see spots for us are the Elkhorn Slough Reserve, Monterey Bay Aquarium and the city of Pacific Grove. Camping is limited in this area so we opted to stay at the Moss Landing KOA Express Plus that sits right next to the Moss Landing Marina. The sites are close together but the park is very clean and the staff is extremely nice. We stayed in #9:
About half way down the campground road is an entrance to the marina. There are restaurants, boats and sea critters in the marina. You hear the Sea Lions talking to each other all the time.
And we can’t forget this comforting sign:
There is some nice hiking around Moss Landing. Hiking trails take you by marshland and to the ocean. The trails are easy and very relaxing:
If you like wildlife, the Elkhorn Slough Reserve (in Moss Landing) is a one-of-a-kind ecosystem home to diverse wildlife you should visit. We like to rent kayaks so we can venture deeper in to the slough. Since the slough is predominently sea water, one can see various sea creatures (sea otters and sting rays for example) swimming near your kayak. All kinds of birds are either on the banks or in the water. It’s really quite an experience. We even did a moonlight kayak trek that was fascinating and a little spooky. Here’s a link to the Elkhart Slough website: Elkhorn Slough
Here’s a link to the kayak company we use: Monterey Bay Kayaks
We always visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium when we are in this part of California. If you haven’t been there, you are missing out. Before it was an aquarium, it was a sardine cannery. I believe it became an aquarium in 1984. The feature exhibits are a 28-foot-high, 333,000 gallon tank for viewing California coastal marine life and a 1,200,000 gallon open sea tank. They even have ocean sunfish which are very rare in captivity. I could stare at these things all day. It’s especially interesting when a diver is in a tank feeding the residents. The diver has a microphone and talks with the audience.
If you have some extra cash, take one of the tours. They take you places the public can’t go and the tour guides give you some really neat information about sea animals and how the aquarium operates. We’ve taken the Insider’s Tour and Feeding Frenzy tours. Here’s a link to the aquarium website and a few more pictures: Monterey Bay Aquarium
Even more pictures (I guess we like Jellyfish) …
Just south of Monterey is Pacific Grove. We love the beaches here and always find time to visit when we are in the area. Probably the most visited trail in Pacific Grove is the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail that is about one mile long and goes from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to Lovers Point. This is a walking, bicycling trail that offers marvelous ocean views and is an easy walk, but it’s too crowed for us. We prefer hiking the beach trails on the Sunset Drive side of Pacific Grove. This area is gorgeous. Here you have neat tide pools, ocean views, interesting plant life, and very clean beaches.
During one of our stays in Pacific Grove, we visited the historic Point Pinos Lighthouse. This thing first lit up in 1855. Its still working and is the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast. If you are into history, this is an interesting stop. Point Pinos Lighthouse Website
Before we had a travel trailer, we used to stay at the Lighthouse Lodge in Pacific Grove. At that time they allowed pets, and probably still do. Our first family dog, Bear, loved Pacific Grove. He could smell Pacific Grove in the air and would start getting excited about the time we got to Carmel. He would get royally P.O.’d if we left him in the room when we went out. One time when we came back to the room after an outing, Bear had ripped down the curtains, knocked over a chair and peed on our daughter’s pillow. He wasn’t a big dog, but he sure had a big dog attitude and he didn’t hesitate to let you know how he felt.
Following are some pictures taken from our favorite Pacific Grove hiking trails.
Some more beach pictures I like. It’s hard to just pick a couple …
Oh yes, while in Pacific Grove go to the Ice Cream Shoppe located at 708 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA. The place is loaded with music memorabilia that will take you way, way back in time. This guy also offers some killer ice cream. It’s hard to choose one, especially on a warm day. Here’s the menu: Ice Cream Shoppe in Pacific Grove
Another interesting historic site we took in while in the Monterey area was a visit to the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton. It’s run by the University of California Observatories and has quite a history. It was the 1st permanently occupied mountain top observatory and was constructed between 1876 and 1887. The observatories historical centerpiece has to be the 36-inch refracting telescope. It was the largest refracting telescope on Earth from January 3, 1888, until the construction of Yerkes Observatory in 1897. Some of the Licks astronomical discoveries include: some of Jupiter’s moons, several extra-solar planets, quintuple, triple and double planetary systems, and many more. They host many great, special events through out the year. You can check the Lick out here: Lick Observatory
San Simeon State Park
San Simeon State Park was our first stop on the way home. San Simeon State Park is near the city of Cambria, on the California coast near Hearst Castle. There are 115 campsites in the The San Simeon Creek Campground. Each campsite has a fire ring and picnic table. Because of the messed up water situation in California, there were no flush toilets or shower facilities. Chemical toilets were available, but they get very ripe if you know what I mean. The dump station was open but was subject to closure as well. Make sure your fresh water tanks are full as there was no water available during our trip. If you are self contained it’s no problem and the campground is very nice.
The main attractions here are the Elephant Seals (they are BIG) and Hearst Castle.
The beaches themselves are beautiful and hiking along the bluffs overlooking the beaches is a treat. I’ve talked about beaches a lot so I won’t go into the same type of detail here. However, on the beach up the road from San Simeon Bay are Elephant Seals, which are found at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. If you’ve not seen one before in person, you’ll be amazed how big these bad boys are!
The elephant seals found here are the second largest seals in the world. Males are 14 to 16 feet long and weigh 4,000 to 5,000 pounds. Females are smaller, about 9 to 12 feet long, and weigh 900 to 1,800 pounds. Pups are 3 to 4 feet long at birth and weigh about 70 pounds, ouch! These things are something to see on the beach, especially when they are moving around. Most of the time they lie on the beach looking dead. Every once and a while however, two males decide to duke it out. I’m betting one of the girl seals starts it and these guys have to protect her honor. Anyway, they go at it in a loud and vicious manner.
You can find more information about them here: Friends of the Elephant Seal
Here is some video of 2 males settling a disagreement. It was really windy on the beach.
Hearst Castle is close by and a must see. If you’ve seen the classic movie “Citizen Kane”, then you have a good understanding of the history of this place. Architect Julia Morgan designed it and built between 1919 and 1947 for William Randolph Hearst. Hearst was a very rich newspaper magnate who died in 1951. We’ve visited the castle and I can tell you that there is just too much history for me to cover. This place is huge, had it’s own exotic animal zoo and cost a boatload of money each day to keep it going.
It’s well worth your time to see. We did notice that it’s getting a little worn looking. Since the State of California now runs it, funding is probably not adequate to maintain it as it should be maintained.
Here’s a link if you want to read more about it or make reservations to see it: Hearst Castle
Flying Flags RV Resort
Good old Flying Flags in Buellton, California. We’ve been here a couple of times and it was a good place to end our vacation. All of the campsites are pull-thru and have full hookups. You can walk to Split Pea Anderson’s restaurant or any number of other places. They have a store, laundry facilities, showers and friendly staff. It doesn’t have the feel of a State or National Park but a little civilization at the end of a vacation isn’t bad at all.
Each time we’ve been here we have visited an Ostrich farm that’s just a few miles down the road. They also raise Emus. You can purchase all kinds of Ostrich/Emu things if you want and you can feed the birds. Watch your fingers however, both species are very aggressive.
We also visited a miniature horse ranch that’s just a little farther down the road from the Ostrich farm. For $2,500 you can own one. They are smaller than some dog species but I don’t think you would want to walk one on a leash. All I heard for days was “But their only $2,500!!”
Solvang is a touristy Danish town not far from Flying Flags. We usually go to Solvang when we stay at Flying Flags. There are many quaint Danish shops and great restaurants. I like the aebleskivers. They are like light and puffy pancakes rolled into a ball, if that makes any sense. Aebkeskivers are not sweet but are traditionally served dipped in raspberry, strawberry, black currant or blackberry jam and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Eat a bunch of them, they are great for your diet. Find out about Solvang here: Solvang
That ends our 2015 summer vacation. It was fun. As we become more and more confident about dry-camping, knowing what and how to pack and handling the unexpected, we plan longer and longer trips. After we both retire in 2016, we plan to travel across the Southern part of the USA with many shorter trips before and after. Maybe we’ll run into some of you on the road. If so, be sure to say hello.