Salinas River State Beach

The smoke is finally starting to clear here in California’s vast Central Valley but at the peak of the smoke problem Cristy and I just had to go find some clean air.  We decided to head to the beach!  Our favorite beaches are near Monterey.    Monterey Bay has numerous beaches and wildlife so is one of our favorites.  Plus it’s fairly close to us.

We trekked down I-5 to Highway 156 and over the hills.  The Diablo Range specifically.  On the way we stopped at Casa De Fruta for some snacks to take with us to the beach.  It’s a good bathroom stop along the way too.  If you have kids its a great stop with a small train, petting zoo, and lots of stuff to help the kids expend their energy.

We continued on to the coast and stopped at Sand City Beach near, you guessed it, Sand City.  We actually park in a large shopping center just before Sand City.  We got on the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail and walked the short distance to the beach.   We walked up the beach a bit and then set up our chairs in a spot next to the cliffs that was sheltered from the wind.  Although it was forecast to be 104F back at our home, the high temperature in Monterey was forecast to be 69F.  At the moment it was only 59F!   But we had brought our jackets and the view under the coastal fog was wonderful.  And the air was spectacular.  It was the first non-smokey air we’d had in weeks.  We just kicked back, watched the little ground squirrels (beach squirrels I guess) scurry around us looking for scraps.  I tossed them a couple of raw almonds.  SCORE!  We also watched the paragliders silently soar along the cliff sides.

The ONLY thing we don’t about this beach is it tends to have a lot of seaweed and associated seaweed smells.  So we decided to move along.  We drove north towards Moss Landing to see we we could find a better beach.  Just as I was approaching the Moss Landing city limits I saw a sign for Salinas River State Beach so I decided to turn off and check it out.   To our surprise the parking lot only had 7 or 8 cars in it.  We unpacked our chairs and walked down the sandy trail over the hill to the beach.  We walked a short distance along the beach and set up our chairs.  At this point the fog was starting to break up and the warm sunshine felt good.

We decided we had sat enough for the day and took our chairs back to the car.  I noticed a sign for a nature trail so we decided to walk down it to see what that was all about.  So glad we did the views of the backside of the dunes were stunning.  Dozens of varieties of flowers, sea grasses, and succulents lined the trail.  We walked down it for about a mile before taking a side trail that lead over the dunes back to the beach.  This section of the beach was entirely deserted except for one jogger and later a train of horses and riders.  It was absolutely wonderful and we’ll definitely be back to this beach.

We walked back down the beach to where we first entered the beach earlier and headed back to the truck.  We then drove up across Elkhorn Slough to a small marina and had dinner at the Pacific Grill.  We had lovely views of the slough and the sea otters and kayakers that were out on it as we had dinner.  After dinner we just sat in the truck and watched the otters and kayakers on the slough until the sun sunk into the re-forming fog.  All in all a wonderful day!

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Union Valley Reservoir

Last weekend Cristy and I took a day trip up to Union Valley Reservoir in the Crystal Basin area of the El Dorado National Forest.  It’s located just southwest of Lake Tahoe at about 4000 foot elevation in the Sierra Nevada mountains.   We wanted to hike, stroll really, a bike path that runs along the shoreline of the reservoir.  More info on the path is located on Trailink.com.

We stopped for lunch first at a pho restaurant in Pollack Pines (this was nothing to write home about).  The atmosphere and wait staff was great but the food was just a little bland for our tastes.  Maybe they tone it down for their clientele, I don’t know.  There are better options in the area for food so I won’t say much more about this place.

After lunch we made our way down the winding road that leads to the trail head at Jones Fork Campground.  All the day use parking was taken up but I was able to squeeze my truck onto the side of the road.  We walked through the small campground and started down the bike path.  It was really a gorgeous walk.  The path is paved asphalt so walking was really easy.  There are interpretive signs along the way that explain what Union Valley Reservoir is for, why it was built, why it’s called that etc.  (If you really want to know, ask me!)

We walked down to the boat launch area at Fashoda Campground and then crossed over to the beach on the other side of the peninsula.  This was a large sandy beach set aside for swimming.  There are lots of rocks in the sand on the edges of the beach so watch your toes!  It was too tempting to just sit in the shade in the sand rather than hike on so we just kicked back, watched the boats on the lake and talked.  After an hour or so we decided we better head back.  After we still have to drive 2.5 hours to get home.

Union Valley Reservoir is a gem in the Sierras.  We were there on a Saturday and while all the camgrounds were full, there was not a lot of people there.  We never saw another soul on the bike path when we were walking it.  I’d really love to go back here and camp some time.

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Birthday Hike at Point Lobos

Technically my birthday isn’t until next week.  My wife’s birthday was last week.  But I’m on call next week, and my wife was sick last week.  So…  I took this past Friday off and we drove out to Point Lobos State Natural Preserve.  It’s about a 2.5 hour drive to the coast but Pt Lobos is well worth it.

First we stopped off for lunch at Flaherty’s Seafood Grill in Carmel for some lunch.  It was very tempting to stroll the streets and look at the shops but I tried my best to keep us on task; a hike at Pt Lobos.

Traffic was already getting pretty bad at 1pm in Carmel.  The road construction did not help.  But once we got south of Carmel traffic dropped to practically nothing.  We pulled into Pt Lobos around 1:30pm and after paying our $10 fee drove to the south shore.  The north shore of Pt Lobos is defined by cliffs and stunning views of town.  The south shore is much lower and is dotted with tidepools and hidden pebble beaches.  We spent some time hiking the south shore trail and exporing the tidepools.  Then as it got later in the afternoon parking became more abundant so we parked at the west side of the park and hiked through the cypress groves enjoying the colorful wildflowers and poison oak. 🙂

Point Lobos is a stunning place and if you ever get the chance, take a visit midweek during the Spring.  I’ll leave you with some of the pictures we took there.

 

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Red Hills Fly-In 2018

I can’t believe another year has come and gone and we’ve had another Red Hills Fly-In!  The Red Hills Fly-In is held at Jack and Myrna Moyle’s Ranch, nicknamed Back To The Future Two Ranch because numerous scenes from the movie were filmed there.  When I had my airplane I would load it up with my camping gear and fly in.  Now that I have my powered parachute I load all my camping gear into my trailer and basically camp in the trailer.  The Moyles’ ranch is located in prime territory; completely surrounded by the Red Hills BLM Area of Critical Environmental Concern.  As such, no hunting or motorized vehicles are allowed in the area.  Other than the sawmill on the other side of highway 120 it is completely serene and peaceful… except for the airplane noise!

Most people fly in.

But others like me have to take the winding dirt road through the BLM land to get to the Moyles’ ranch.  But that’s really not a problem as it’s such a scenic drive.

Once there we pretty much just chill, relax, and catch up with old friends.  Many of us only see each other once a year but when we get together it’s as if no time has passed.  We talk and eat late into the evening and when the chill hits we keep talking and eating around the campfire.

This year was notable for me as it was the first time I had the confidence in my skills and ENGINE to fly my powered parachute from the field.  Well, and the wind was cooperating this year too.  My flights weren’t long because I’m still tweaking on the engine and learning to trust it.  But they were beautiful.  I’ve flown my fixed wing through the area for years but there’s something about seeing it from an open cockpit 300 feet up.  You can smell the smells and really see what you’re flying over.

Jordan Langley caught my take-off and landing on video.  He also got a great shot of Joey Meyers and I flying by in (very) loose formation.

All in all a VERY enjoyable weekend and I can’t wait to go back next year!

El Dorado Trail – Missouri Flat Segment

This past Saturday Cristy and I decided to take another Rails to Trails walk.  We headed up to Placerville, CA to walk a small segment of the El Dorado Trail.  We began our walk at the Missouri Flat trailhead which is just east of Placerville.  This section of the trail is paved and is geared for bikers and walkers.  It also has a Par Course alongside the trail so you can exercise more than just your feet.

Cristy and I tried a few of these out but primarily just enjoyed the walk  At one point you cross a 100 foot high trestle that has been converted into a foot bridge.  Romantics have placed locks with special engravings on the sides of the bridge.  No doubt inspired by the stunning views.

We continued to enjoy our walk enjoying the beautiful scenery.  It was hard to believe we were still in a suburban area.

We started to get hungry so we headed back to the truck and drove into Placerville just a few miles up Highway 50.  We stopped into the old downtown area and had some delicious farm fresh food at Our Farm Table on Main St.  The food was delicious and the views from their second floor were wonderful.

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We spent another few hours browsing the shops downtown.

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If you’re not up to hiking in the wilderness and indoor hunting is more your thing then I highly suggest taking a walk on the El Dorado Trail.

Sugar Pine Railway – Strawberry Branch

Cristy and I decided to explore another railroad right of way that’s been converted to a hiking trail. Since Cristy really enjoyed hiking along the Merced River on the Merced River Trail I wanted to find another trail that ran along a river. We decided to try out the Sugar Pine Railway Strawberry Branch. We drove up Highway 108 up to Cold Springs where we had lunch first at Mia’s. Great place by the way.

The trailhead is just a mile back down 108 from Mia’s. After heading down Fraser Flat Rd, you will come to a small bridge that crosses the Stanislaus River. Park at the bridge. The trailhead is on the south east side of the bridge. It is an easy uphill hike. It’s a railroad grade so nothing too steep. There were several springs that were flowing across the trail but the Forest Service actively maintains this trail and they do a wonderful job of it. We actually ran into one of the forest rangers with a crew of volunteers who were working on diverting the springs so they wouldn’t cross the trail.

The scenery is beautiful and the sound of the river very relaxing. There were not as many wildflowers on this trail as the lower elevation trails but we did see some interesting mushrooms and the smell of the pines and firs was amazing. We only hiked up about a mile and a half of the trail. Having a full stomach from lunch may have had something to do with that. Walking back was much faster and easier as it was downhill.

I have to say we’ve enjoyed each of the Rails to Trails hikes we’ve been on. This is a wonderful program and I hope you check out one of your local trails. I’ll leave you with some photos of our hike.

West Side Rails Trail

Cristy and I decided to hike another trail made from old railroad rights of way.  Today’s hike was on the West Side Rails trail which starts in Tuolumne City near Sonora, CA.  The parking area is just a dirt pullout along side the road.  The access to the trail is kind of hard to find; it’s a set of wooden stairs midway at the dirt parking area.  The walk down the trail is beautiful.  Wildflowers are still in full bloom and bush lupine makes the trail smell wonderful.  I can’t normally smell flowers but this lupine is amazingly fragrant.  The first half mile is wooded but then it opens up to a sparsely wooded hillside with sweeping views of the canyon and river below.

The trail is all basically downhill so the walk out is super easy.  The walk back is uphill so you have to keep that in mind in deciding how far to go down the trail.  Luckily the trail is graded for trains so the climb is very easy.  Many sections of the track are still visible.  There are signs along the trail that tell the history of the railroad and stories of the men that ran this route. Here is what Trail Link has to say about this railroad:

The timber industry in the county was in full gear at the turn of the 20th century. An impressive sawmill was built at that time, and the West Side Lumber Company constructed its own narrow gauge railroad, called the Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite Valley Railway, to bring timber to the mill. In total, more than 70 miles of mainline track were constructed in the area. The initial stretch of the mainline grade, constructed without the benefit of bulldozers and loaders, was blasted into an extremely steep and rocky canyon.

If you’re in the Sonora, CA area and are looking for a nice walk and a nice way to spend a morning stop by the West Side Rails trail.  Here are some of the photos we took on the trail…