18 November 2015

San Diego Sunshine

Lighthouse on Point Lomas

San Diego is touted as having the best weather in America, so I looked forward to going there. It didn’t disappoint, the days were warm and sunny. I found a lovely county park in Bonita, near Chula Vista just south of San Diego which I booked thinking that it would be busy. It wasn’t, in fact there were many places vacant.

Our first trip out was to Point Loma. Cabrillo National Monument is there as some explorer arrived back in the 1700’s, a lighthouse, in fact two because the first one was in the wrong spot, and a military base as this land was very vulnerable during WWII and was a way of protecting San Diego bay. I had wondered why some of the most sought after land was a park and not residential, now I know. There are some rock pools there also which you can access at low tide but of course we weren’t there at the correct time. What you do get though, is a fantastic view of San Diego from the water.
Looking over San Diego Bay

A number of people had told us that we must go to San Diego Zoo. I wasn’t convinced seeing as we see many animals in their natural habitat but Lindsay still wanted to go, so go we went. We concentrated on photographing animals that we don’t normally see in the wild. The Toucan, some South American birds, and the Giant Panda. With our ticket, we also got admission to the Safari Park which is about an hour north of the city. We had heard that they have a cheetah run which excited Lindsay enough to carry his tripod around all day in the heat. The animals that interested us here were the tigers and the gorillas. The gorillas in the zoo were behind perspex and sat with their backs to us, so it was nice to see them out in the open.

Siberian Tiger
Giant Panda

USS Midway museum is an aircraft carrier built in 1945, which you can now go aboard and see how it operated. You could spend all day there going around to all the different areas with the self-guided audio tour. We just visited the bridge and the planes.

USS Midway

The ship needs to be going 30 miles an hour for the planes to land and take off safely. They take off in quite a short distance at the front so that they use the speed of the carrier to help them get up in the air. Coming back, the speed of the carrier going in the opposite direction to the planes helps them stop.

It took $90m and 18 months to build in 1945, and it had a $260m overhaul in 1966.

It had a crew of 4,500, and unlike today, they were all men.
Hotel de Coronado

Hotel del Coronado is a historic beachfront hotel just across the San Diego Bay from San Diego.
When it opened in 1888, it was the largest resort hotel in the world

Beachfront at Coronado

Campground Review - Near San Diego CA

Site 31

Sweetwater County Park Campground

3218 Summit Meadow Road, Bonita CA

Location: South East of San Diego, near Chula Vista

Why we chose here? Near San Diego

Sites: 150, The South loop has partial shade sites with gravel pads. Number of: 7 FHU, 41 W&E, 12 W&E Equestrian. Pull throughs on the inside of the loop, back-in on the outside. The North Loop has no shade but with concrete pads, nearly all pull throughs. Number of sites: 51 FHU

Facilities: Dump, Community Center, Trailheads, Restrooms, Showers

Groceries: Chula Vista

Reservations: Yes $5 fee. It was less than half full when we were there, we did not need to register after all, but you never know. Even on the weekend, it was only half full.

Cell Coverage / WiFi: Verizon works here, but there is a free wifi at the office near site 32

Price Paid: $33 FHU, $29 W&E

Date of visit: Mid November 2015

Would we come here again? Yes. This is a lovely campground. Our site #31 FHU was huge and we could access their wifi.

looking across the road from our site to the central sites

13 November 2015

Campground Review - Boondocking in Anza-Borrego Desert CA

Rockhouse Trail 

A campsite on the right hand side of the trail

Why we chose here? We were on our way to San Diego

Location: Rockhouse trail is off the SR22 in the Anza Borrego Desert CA. Two hours east of San Diego, west of Salton City, near the Salton Sea. There is a green street sign, so you shouldn’t miss it. More than likely there will be other RV's there as it's a well known boondocking area.

Sites: Quit a few, look for the rock ringed fire pits

Facilities: None, it’s primitive camping

Groceries: 7 miles to Borrego Springs

Reservations: No

Cell Coverage / WiFi: Both Verizon and AT&T work here. The further you go from the SR22, the weaker the signal

Price Paid: $0

Date of visit: Mid November 2015

It's just a big open space


This is a low desert so has the same temperature as say Palm Springs. There can be high winds as this is a desert.

Fuel and food are available in Borrego Springs 7 miles away

The road at the Salton Sea end is extremely bumpy (warped) until you get into the State Park area, so you will have to travel slowly if you are towing.

Friday is market day at the Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs

There is a one-page list of do’s and don’ts stapled to a post when you come in – don’t leave pets unattended, take your rubbish out with you, do not collect firewood (no trees anyway!), BYO firewood, fires in metal containers only, do not trample on vegetation and you can’t stay more than 30 days in a calendar year.

There are many other places to boondock off the SR22 such as Peg Leg.

ATV’s are restricted to the opposite side of Rockhouse, so you don’t have them camping here.

Would we come here again? Yes 

12 November 2015

Land of the Giants, Past and Present

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

6am outside our Trailer

After spending some time in Yucca Valley catching up with friends and getting a few maintenance issues done such as brakes and wheel bearings on the trailer, brakes, tyre balancing and front end alignment on the truck. It was time to find somewhere warmer. Winter had come early and being in the high desert it was starting to get cold. Day light saving ended and it was getting dark around five. We had five days before we were due at the state park near San Diego in mid November, so we didn’t want to go too far afield. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a low desert east of San Diego and west of the Salton Sea. There is a difference of 10°F between the low and high desert, and the difference between 60° and 70° can mean that you are a bit cold or nice and warm. Low desert sounded good.

We are boondocking here in ABDSP, one of the few State Parks that allows primitive camping for free. Our neighbours are a few hundred yards away; it’s really quiet and pitch black at night. If we need a town, Borrego Springs is only 7 miles away. Our days started out in the mid 70’s with just a slight breeze, which meant we could get back into t-shirts. It was very relaxing.

Eons ago the park used to be part of the Californian Gulf, that is, under the water. Over the years the sediment from the Grand Canyon filled up this part of the sea and a desert was formed. They have found bones from numerous prehistoric animals such as mammoths, elephants and camels.

The park has 180 miles of walking tracks but we only intended to do a select few. The visitors centre’s guide gives you details of 20 walks to get you going.

Some trails are all uphill

Ghost Mountain Walk

Our first walk was to Ghost Mountain where a family called the Marshal-Souths decided to live off the land during the Great Depression. They built a home, called Yaquitepec on the top of a hill, which is not visible from down below. They raised their children there, growing vegetables and writing articles for magazines. It would have been a very hard life and after sixteen years the wife finally had enough and the family broke up. The house is now in ruins with only parts of a few walls remaining. It’s a mile up a steep rocky trail to get there, so I guess you would really plan your trips to town.

South House, there's not much left

Giant Sculptures

Borrego Springs Road has some very large freestanding sculptures made out of tin placed out in the desert; the visitor centre gave us a map as they are spread out, but mainly in two areas. There are dinosaurs, wild horses, sloths, elephants, a serpent, camels, sabretooth tigers, wild pigs, tortoises, scorpions, birds, a grasshopper, farm workers, a saguaro and a Spanish padre. It took quite a while to see them all so we spread it over two days.


Fighting Horses
The town of Julian is renowned for its pies. It wasn’t far from here so we went out there to check out what all the fuss was about. The road was very windy and narrow, so instead of taking Yaqui Pass back to camp, we went up Highway 78. The town is quite high and the temperature gauge dropped 15-20°, not t-shirt weather! We went to our first American diner, sat at the counter and Lindsay ordered for a milkshake. They didn’t understand him, so I had to translate. It turned out to be a thickshake, more ice cream than milk, but that’s okay as it’s the way I like it anyway. They asked if we wanted it in two glasses, we agreed. Good call. There is no way either of us could have drunk one each. So many shops were serving apple pies that we just had to choose one and we ordered our favourite - apple crumble. Even with cream, it was way too sweet for me, and I have a sweet tooth.

The Slot Canyon

The second walk we did was to The Slot – the slot canyons. Unlike Antelope Canyon in Arizona, you don’t need to do a tour to see these ones, but then nor are they as pretty. The canyon is very narrow in places so if there were other people there you wouldn’t be able to pass them. Most of the tourists start coming after 10am, so I was glad we came earlier and more rolled up as we were leaving. You can just imagine the force of the water, as it would rush through here during a flood.

Our last walk was to be to the palm grove in Borrego Palm Canyon but high winds on our last two days squashed that idea; we couldn’t go outside without being blown over. That’s the desert for you. We never quite got to Fonts Point for sunset either. So a few things to keep for another time.

You can download a PDF map of the park from their website and/or you can buy a paper map from the Parks office. There is no entrance fee to the park.

Related Post:

Boondocking at Rockhouse Track, Anza-Borrego Desert