We’ve been so busy that we haven’t posted about the last 7 camping trips we’ve taken. Some trips were to familiar campgrounds (3) and others (4) were new to us. Here’s a quick summary by month: Red Rock Canyon State Park, Nov. 2018; Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton (new), Nov. 2018; Flying Flags RV Resort, Dec. 2018; Oasis Palms RV Resort (new), Feb. 2019; Refugio State Beach (new), March 2019; Anza Borrego State Park, March 2019; Chino Hills State Park (new).
That’s a lot to talk about! We’ll try to summarize each the best we can to keep this post reasonably short.
Red Rock Canyon State Park
Cantil, California – November 2018 (post by Alexandra)
We decided to go back to Red Rock Canyon since the weather was pleasant. This time our daughter Felicia was able to come with us so we wanted to share this beautiful area with her and show her one of the nearby ghost towns.
On our first day, we drove out to China Lake to visit The Naval Museum of Armament & Technology and spent a good amount of time there. The museum’s purpose is “to create a self sustaining, historical, educational, entertaining museum that shares the history of China Lake and its role in development of Naval Armament and Technology with Navy personnel, their contractors, and the public, and to nurture curiosity in science and technology to youth through its rocket scientist program and other science programs.” We spent the afternoon at this unique museum learning about the history of China Lake Naval Air Weapons station. It is a small but very interesting museum with nice volunteers who are eager to share info about its history. We spent some time watching various videos, one of the best being “In Their Words” with interviews with civilian engineers and military folks who had worked at the base from its founding in the 1940’s up to through the 1980’s. If you are ever in the area and like history, it is a worthwhile stop!
On our second day we drove up to Randsburg, the “living” ghost town. Since it was a weekday, nothing much was open. It is still a funky and old little town to check out. We will need to make it a point to camp out here on a weekend so we can visit this town when it has some stores, eateries, etc. open.
We spent rest of our time hiking around Red Rock Canyon, checking out the Visitor Center, the Red Cliffs Natural Area and the Friends of Jawbone (BLM) Visitor Center, which is down highway 14. It was a fun visit to a beautiful state park that we look forward to going to again!
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Campground
Oceanside, California – November 2018 (post by Jim)
Recently, we joined the Greater Los Angeles Airstream Club (GLAAC). One of the members is a retired Lt. Colonel who graciously sponsored our Airstream club at a beach campground located within Camp Pendleton for 4 nights. The campground is primarily for use by members of the military, but civilians are allowed if sponsored by someone who is active or retired military. We had to be cleared via background check 2 weeks before our visit. Once on base, we had to get an id card in order to leave and re-enter the base. You want proper id because the Marines at the gates have some serious weapons that you only want to see pointed downward.
Camp Pendleton is the major West Coast base of the United States Marine Corps. It’s located on the coast north of San Diego and it’s huge. It was named after Major General Joseph Henry Pendleton, who advocated setting up a training base for the Marine Corps on the west coast. Originally, the base was established in 1942 to train U.S. Marines for service in World War II. By October 1944, Camp Pendleton was declared a permanent installation. We’ve camped at the San Mateo campground next to Camp Pendleton several times, but never on the base itself.
A lot of beach campgrounds can be a little rough around the edges, if you know what I mean. Many aren’t exactly clean, campsites can be very close to each other and it can be very noisy well into the evening. Not so at the Camp Pendleton campground. The campground was very clean, campsites were a fair distance apart and it was quiet. We were located on a bluff overlooking the ocean with a beautiful view and only the sound at night was ocean waves. I’m not sure what the final count was, but I’d guess there were about 25 Airstreams from our club at the campground.
This was our first outing with the Airstream club and we had a lot of fun. There was a “happy hour” each evening, group dinners, a club provided lunch and a club provided breakfast. Some club members were surfers who took advantage of some of the best waves in California. A few folks did some surf fishing, but I’m not sure they caught more than clumps of seaweed. We hiked up and down the beach, watched the surfers, bird watched and poked around all the stuff that washes up onto beaches. We were surprised how many lobster pieces were on the beach. Something was eating well for sure. We also took a couple of side trips off base to The Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum and the Museum of Making Music.
The Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum is presented by The Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship. One of the people working there told us the museum should have been named The Museum of The Obsessive Compulsive and I believe it. The work that went into the pieces on exhibit was unbelievable!
The museum collection includes approximately 500 working miniature engines as well as models of aircraft, automobiles, and other objects. The prime craftsmanship example would have to be the fully functional 1/6 scale model of a 1932 SJ Duesenberg located near the entrance. It took master craftsman Louse Chenot 10 years and 20,000 hours to build. The engine runs on gasoline. Doors close with two clicks, outside and inside handles operate independently. The steering and lights work and it has a working 3 speed transmission. Mr. Chenot built the car from an actual Duesenberg blueprint and it is considered to be a real Duesenberg, just a lot smaller. Also of note are several aluminum cutaway World War II fighter models that feature extraordinary detail. This place was a real gem and it’s free! If you visit, give yourself plenty of time because you’ll be there a while.
Since we like music a lot, we visited the Museum of Making Music in nearby Carlsbad. The museum is located in the world headquarters for NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants). NAMM hosts a huge convention each year in Los Angeles to showcase new innovations in musical products, recording technology, and sound and lighting equipment. The museum was founded in 1998 and opened to the public in March 2000 and features music products from 1900 to today. In addition to music products, instruments and such, there are excellent video and audio presentations. Instruments are available for visitors to play. I messed around with a mandolin, guitar, ukulele, strum stick and slide guitar. There were also gongs, drums and keyboards, but they were being “played” by younger than me folks. If you are in the area for a while, the museum offers live music performances. The Museum of Making Music is not huge, but it is definitely worth a visit if you enjoy music.
We really enjoyed our camping trip to Camp Pendleton and the surrounding area. A special thanks to our sponsor for getting us on the base and hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to visit there again.
Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground
Buellton, California – December 2018 (post by Jim)
Flying Flags, located in Buellton, California, was our second camping trip with the Greater Los Angeles Airstream Club (GLAAC). We’ve been to Flying Flags a few times. It’s a nice, clean resort that is a good base for exploring the area. This 4-night outing was the club’s year-end gathering during which the club business was discussed and the club held a fun Christmas party. There was also enough free time for members to tour local sites and attractions.
The Christmas party was a lot of fun. After a great Club paid for feast, members participated in a steal-a-gift exchange, which was a lot of cutthroat fun, and an ugly sweater contest. I won 3rdplace with my sweater!
There is a lot to do around Buellton. When we had free time, we visited an ostrich farm, went horseback riding at, near by Circle Bar B Ranch, and joined fellow club members for a tour of the Mendenhall’s Museum, which is a fascinating collection of cars and car-related displays.
It seems each time we go to Buellton we go to the ostrich farm (Ostrich Land) located just outside of town. Here you can get up close to both emu and ostriches. For a small fee you can feed them, but you have to be careful because these birds are big and very aggressive. Ostrich Land has a gift shop featuring a large variety of ostrich and emu related products and trinkets including ostrich/emu eggs and meat.
Another free-time adventure we took was to near-by Circle Bar B Guest Ranch and Stables for some horseback riding. Prior to owning our Airstream, we stayed at Circle Bar B a couple of times. It’s a great Ranch and the trail ride is wonderful. The ride pauses about half way through, on top of a high bluff, and features a view of the ocean and part of the Ronald Reagan family ranch. The view is wonderful. We try to take this ride whenever we are in the Buellton area.
Across the street from Flying Flags is Mendenhall’s Museum of Gasoline Pumps and Petroliana. We visited this place with some of the club members. As I mentioned, we’ve been to Flying Flags a number of times and we never knew this place existed. The museum has one of the west coasts largest petroliana collections including gasoline pumps, globes and porcelain gas, oil & road signs. There are also racecars, racing memorabilia, license plates, gas & oil items, and other miscellaneous antiques.The museum and collection is family owned and operated. The family even lives in one of the museum buildings and seems to be rather free-spirited, if you know what I mean. If you are in the Buellton area, this is a very interesting place to visit if you have an interest in cars.
For those that like pea soup, the city of Buellton is also the home of Pea Soup Andersen’s. If you ever are in the area, be sure stop by their restuarant and check out the points of interest I’ve mentioned.
Oasis Palms RV Resort
Thermal, California – February 2019 (post by Jim)
The Oasis Palms RV Resort is just west of the Northern tip of the Salton Sea, in Thermal, California. It’s privately owned, clean and a good base for exploring the Salton Sea area. We stayed here instead of one of the state park campgrounds on the east shore of the lake because we wanted to check out those campgrounds out first, since the Salton Sea area has been in steep decline for some time now.
In case you didn’t know, the Salton Sea is the largest lake in California. It’s not a natural lake though. It was created when engineers made a mistake in maintaining irrigation ditches that resulted in Colorado River water flowing unchecked into the area for two years. That’s a real short explanation.
In the 1950s, the Salton Sea was a very popular resort area. However, it’s popularity declined and all but died because of the increasing salinity and pollution of the lake over the years from agricultural runoff and other sources. Most of the communities around the lake have been abandoned and very few people live there. The abandoned areas are really creepy and many of the few remaining residents are “different” for sure. But there are a number of great places to explore if you don’t mind driving (it’s a BIG lake) and have a bit of an open mind. I guess the most interesting places we visited were two Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge areas, mud volcano’s near a city named Niland, Salvation Mountain, Slab City and East Jesus.
The Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge areas are great to visit if you like hiking and bird watching (my wife likes to bird watch). Mud volcanoes are just outside of the city of Niland on the South East side of the lake. This area is a hotbed of geothermal activity with geothermal power plants all around. The mud volcanoes look and act like miniature lava volcanoes. They bubble, vent steam and erupt hot mud. When we last visited, we could walk up to the mud volcanoes. You can’t walk up to them anymore. I suspect someone did something stupid and now the area is not accessible to the public, but you can still see and hear the volcanoes from the street, about 100 feet away. Salvation Mountain was built by a man who wanted to share his vision of religion. He started building it in 1984 and it’s huge. Don’t look at the construction very closely when you walk through it because it’s obviously not safe, in my opinion. Slab city is just up the road from Salvation Mountain. It’s a community of “off the grid” folks who live out in the desert in hand made “structures” and RV’s in all sorts of conditions. A lot of the permanent residents are here because of poverty while others want to live off the grid and be left alone. There are no utilities or services of any kind including law enforcement. You are on your own in Slab City. We didn’t take any pictures in Slab City. And just up the road from Slab City is the art community of East Jesus. East Jesus is an experimental, sustainable and habitable art installation. The art is made of discarded material that has been reused, recycled or repurposed. East Jesus is supported and guided by the Chasterus Foundation. The folks that live here are artists and are certainly unique.
There were a couple of other things we wanted to see but we ran out of time. One place is Bat Cave Buttes. You hike to the caves at sunset and, if you are lucky, see bats leave the caves to feed on insects. It’s supposed to be quite a site. The other thing we tried to find, but didn’t, is a moving mud volcano/mud pot. This mud pot began to move sometime between 2015 and 2016 at a rate of about 20 feet a year. The problem is it’s moving toward Union Pacific Railroad tracks and buried optical cables and will damage both if it moves under them. No one knows what’s causing it to move and efforts to stop it have failed. Maybe we’ll find it next time.
We investigated four state park campgrounds for possible future camping, all located on the east shore of the lake. In order from north to south were the Visitor Center main headquarters campground, Mecca Beach Campground, Corvina beach RV Park and Campground and Salt Creek Beach Campground. Surprisingly, to us anyway, they were all quite nice with the exception of Salt Creek Beach, which had a creepy feel to it. We will probably stay at one or two of them in the fall or spring months when it’s not blazing hot.
Anza Borrego State Park, Palm Canyon Campground
Borrego Springs, California – March 2019 (post by Jim)
In March 2019, we spent several days camping at Anza Borrego State Park, Palm Canyon Campground, which is one of our favorite desert campgrounds, to view the wildflower bloom. When Southern California deserts gets rain, they come alive with wildflowers. But, the flowers only last for a short time, so one has to move quickly to see them. We missed peak bloom by about a week, according to a campground ranger, but you could have fooled us because the display of flowers was absolutely beautiful.
We did a lot of hiking and took LOTS of pictures. It was tough picking out a few for this post because it was almost impossible to take a bad photo. There is one video attached to this post. It’s a video of a sidewinder rattlesnake that crossed our path during one of our hikes. It was fun watching it cross the trail from about 15 feet until it stopped and started moving at us. That wasn’t fun at all and we were forced to move away quickly.
Everywhere we went we saw gobs of painted lady butterflies as well as thousands and thousands of BIG, fat juicy caterpillars. These caterpillars turn into white-lined sphinx (hummingbird) moths. They are called hummingbird moths because they are almost the size of a hummingbird and fly like a hummingbird. We also went to a hawk viewing area to see a migrating flock of Swainson’s Hawks feed on the caterpillars. These hawks winter in Mexico and South America and start migrating north in February. In the past there have been hundreds, but we only saw one. That’s because there is so much food available over a wide area, due to the rains, that the hawks don’t have to come to this particular spot to feed, like they generally do.
The night sky was nice. Even though I only took a small refractor telescope, we were able to view several objects that would not be viewable from the light polluted sky at home. We also had fun using my wife’s night vision binoculars. It’s amazing what you can see in the desert at night with those things.
This is a great state park, but only visit in non-summer months because it gets hellishly hot.
Refugio State Beach
Goleta, California – March 2019 (post by Jim)
We spent several days of camping with the Greater Los Angeles Airstream Club at Refugio State Beach Group Campground. The weather was perfect and the night sky was very nice considering the moon was just past 1st quarter and very bright. We hiked the beach at our campground, explored neighboring beach campgrounds and went inland for a short hike around a lake. With all the rain we have had this year, there were a lot of wildflowers.
It was amazing how many animals we saw at and near our campground. We saw whales, a small pod of orca (killer whales), dolphins, seals, hawks, water birds and all kinds of little things that live under and on rocks in tide pools. We only saw a total of 6 pelicans and that’s strange. There are usually an endless number flying around, so something must have happened to them.
It’s a good thing we hiked as much as we did because there was a ton of great food and a happy hour every night. One day, a few members gave a cast iron Dutch oven cooking class. That was some good eating for sure. We also squeezed in a little stargazing since a couple of campers brought telescopes.
Beach campgrounds can be less than clean and noisy, but this one was not. Maybe we got lucky because it was the off-season. We’ll certainly camp here again.
Chino Hills State Park
Chino Hills, California – April 2019 (post by Jim)
We co-hosted an Airstream club rally at Chino Hills State Park in April 2019. This is a great, local state park and few people know it exists. Even though peak wildflower blooming had passed, it was very picturesque with plenty of wild mustard and occasional patches of colorful wild flowers.
There is a lot of wildlife in this park. It’s a great park for bird watching that features many rare species. There are coyotes, a resident cougar and bobcats, foxes, snakes (especially rattlesnakes), rabbits, mule deer, and lots of lizards. There’s about 95 miles of hiking trails, 90 miles of which can be ridden on mountain bikes. We rode our bikes on one of the trails and I quickly found out what kind of shape I’m in and I’ll leave it at that.
Everyone did what he or she wanted during the day and we all met for happy hour at 5 pm. On Saturday night our co-hosts and we cooked an All American BBQ for club members that was really good. Some of the day activities folks took part in were a trip to a local Air Museum, a tour of the Red Bucket Equine Rescue Ranch (my wife volunteers there), a trip to the Pomona Fair Grounds to see a working display of miniature trains, a ranger led wildflower hike and mountain biking. Some folks just hung out and relaxed.
The “star” Airstream at our rally was a meticulously restored 1952 Airstream Cruisette. There were only around 75 of these built and only 10 are known to exist now. The “star” tow vehicle (although it wasn’t towing) was a blue 1956 Dodge truck. It was totally original except for the big V8, glasspackmufflers, and fat tires. The two were paired up for a nice picture.
Even though this park is located in a populated area, when inside the park, it feels like you are far away from the city. This park is a hidden gem in the middle of civilization.
Well, that’s what we’ve been up to for the last 6 months. Hopefully we will keep this blog up to date so we don’t have to go through a catch-up process again.
Happy travels to you all!