Desert, Mountains and Ocean Beaches “San Diego County has it All”

As the title of this posting implies San Diego County has a lot to offer, within a 2 Hour drive of San Diego you can go from the coast, through the mountains and out to the vast desert. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, a couple of my days off, I decided to go for some rides and check out some of the nearby campgrounds and parks. On Tuesday Maxine insisted that I take her swimming she hasn’t been for a couple months now. From my location here at the park I’m a little over an hour from the ocean to the west, so more on that in a little bit. About an hour to the East to is the start of the vast desert of the Southwest US. So on Monday we jumped in the car and started heading east to make stops at a few parks along the way. We took Highway 94 which wonders its way through the hills and then connected up with Interstate 8, heading east for a ways and then I got on Highway S2 and headed north. By taking this route you wanting through the mountains at an elevation of around 2700 feet this area is considered high desert (it has a more moderate climate year-round because of the elevation), but just a little to the north of here the mountains reach close to 5000 feet. You come down the mountains passing through very rugged barren boulder infested hills (breathtaking in its own right) onto the planes and connect up with highway S2. As you head north this route takes you through parts of the open lower planes desert. There are parts of this area that are irrigated and they grow a lot of vegetable crops. We headed north and passed through a part of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This is a huge state park that spread out over many acres of open desert area.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped so Maxine could get out and stretch her legs and check things out. In this photo facing east you can see the open sandy desert.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn this photo facing to the West from the same spot you can see the mountains that we just came from which are a little greener.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom there we continued north stopping at a few San Diego County parks. Just to drive through them and see what they were like. The first one was Agua Caliente Park, this park has 140 campsites and seven camping cottages for rent. But the big attraction here are the three swimming pools fed by the natural mineral springs in the area. There are two outdoor pools and one indoor they are all heated, the indoor one like a sauna. Thirty-five of the campsites are tent only, but many of the other hundred and five will accommodate fairly large rigs with 52 of these having full hookups. This park is quite and secluded about 35 miles from any town, but attracts lots of snowbirds for its quietness and the mineral springs. Just 4 miles up the road you come to Vallecito County Park, it’s a little desert oasis. Its Spanish name translates to “little village”. This 71 acre County Park was built around the reconstructed of the historical Butterfield Stage Station. Here are a few photos of the Stage Station it definitely makes you feel like you’re in the Old Wild West.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 44 sites in this primitive campground are a little on the small side, and will be tight for big rigs but a few of them would accommodate a 40 footer. There are no hookups but there is water available at the park. There are also eight equestrian campsites with corrals these were a little larger and more open. From there we continued north towards the town of Julian higher in the mountains. The town of Julian sits at an elevation of about 4800 feet. When we left our home base in the morning they were predicting rain for later in the day and as we headed back towards the mountain from these photos you can see the rain off in the distance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs you start to climb the hills get much greener with live oaks, pines and other bushes growing on the hillsides. As you start to head up the mountains the terrain changes drastically as you can see in these photos.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy the time we got to our next destination and the town of Julian. It was raining hard off-and-on, with very low cloud cover and heavy fog, so I did not get any pictures. I’m sure I’ll be making my way back up there again this winter, because the town is cool and picturesque little tourist attraction. With many shops and restaurants to explore and enjoy. The destination that I was seeking here the San Diego County Park named William Heise County Park. This is a beautiful green forest park of Oaks and Pines consisting of 920 acres of land at about 4200 feet above sea level. It is one of the few San Diego County Park that gets snowfall every year. The campground offers 81 campsites of assorted sizes, nestled amongst the trees. Some of which will accommodate larger rigs about half of the sites have electric and water. There is also 14 very nice camping cabins some of which have wood-burning stoves, for a nice romantic feel. As you can tell from this short ride, within a couple hours you can go from being out in the hot dry desert to the snowy mountains (making for a nice winter destination). After this ride we headed back home. But the next day Tuesday we headed west towards the coast. From my home base it’s less than an hour and a half to the coast. You take Highway 94 winding westward through the hills and descending towards the ocean, after about 45 minutes you will arrive in Chula Vista one of the southern suburbs of San Diego. From there it’s a short drive winding your way through the city making your way to Imperial Beach (a beach community on the far southwest corner of San Diego County and the US). Imperial Beach is the most Southerly and Western community in California with the Great Pacific off to the west and Tijuana Mexico to the south. Here’s a photo of the bay side from the southern end of the peninsula with the city of San Diego off in the distance and part of the wildlife refuge in the foreground.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s a photo and the coast side of Imperial Beach with its long vast beach areas. These beaches attract many surfers and swimmers (not many out today being a weekday and it was cold and windy). This photo was taken, facing north near where the Tijuana River flows into the ocean and close to the Mexican border.20161129_133201From there we headed north along this narrow peninsula stopping to check out Silver Strand State Beach. This is a very nice beach that is ran by the state of California. It does offer campsites that will accommodate rigs up to 40 feet. They are nothing fancy it’s just a big parking lot and you have electric hookup only. But you’re right on the beach and if you’re willing to pay $65 a night you can park which the back of your rig facing the ocean.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADogs are allowed in the campground but not anywhere on the beaches or in the day use area. And if you’re willing to take a site that’s not right on the beach you can stay for a mere $50 a night, once again these only have electric hookup, but there is a place to take on water and dump your holding tanks. Also you’re very close to a heavy populated area.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI found out from the nice Park attendant at the state beach, that near the Navy base about 6 miles up the road, there is a nice dog beach. So off we went heading north to the city of Coronado. Coronado is a nice beach community consisting of hotels and rental properties right across the bay from San Diego. On the northernmost tip of the peninsula sits the North Island Navy Air Station Base (Halsey Field). Right next to the Navy base there is a beautiful stretch of beach where dogs are allowed to run freely off leash. Maxine couldn’t wait to get to the water.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs soon as I got her off the leash she took off running full speed for the waves. It’s been several months since the last time she got to go swimming.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce she got in, she didn’t want to get out, and we were there over an hour we both had a great time enjoying the beach. She got to play with a lot of the other dogs and I met some nice people to.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a fun day at the beach we headed back to the park, and got back home around dusk. Which is still pretty early since it gets dark so early at this time of year. One other nice thing that happened last week, was on Monday just before Thanksgiving. I got a call from my friend Mike Johnson who lives in Lake Havasu Arizona. He was checking to see if I was going to be around on Tuesday, because he and his wife Sharon were thinking about jumping on their bikes and coming down to see me. I said was free so they made plans to come down. It’s about a five hour ride from Lake Havasu to Potrero and they headed out late morning and got here close to suppertime. By the time they got here the temperature had dropped quite a bit and they were more than happy to spend the night and sit by the campfire. Here’s a picture of their bikes.20161122_162227And here they are with Maxine trying to stay warm and waiting for the brats to get done on the grill as we visited.20161122_161208Sharon is originally from Southern California, just north a ways from San Diego and they both lived out here for quite a few years before moving back to Wisconsin for a period of time. And then a few years back they moved back to Lake Havasu along with their two grown boys. They really like it out here year round. As you might remember last year when I was out in Quartzsite, I did a day trip to visit them up in Lake Havasu. Another reference, Mike is the younger brother of my brother-in-law “Tom” (who is married to my sister Jean). And many years ago they lived right next to my sister Jean and Tom in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. This is when and where I got to first meet them and become friends. We’ve seen each other time and again over the years and it’s always nice to spend time catching up with them. 🙂

A quick update on my duties here at the park. I have been helping with cleaning, both the bathrooms and the campsites, and starting some fix up projects. Working Wednesday through Saturday five hours a day or thereabouts with Sunday, Monday and Tuesday off. I started at 6:30 in the morning and therefore I am done before noon, so this gives me plenty of time to enjoy the area and relax. There are several projects planned that I will be working on through the season. But the one I’m working on right now and have an incentive to get done. There’s this little shed that were are going to turn into a laundry room for the Camphost (sweet). It’s a shed about 8’ x 12’, and if it were back in Wisconsin, it would more than likely be uses as an ice shanty (but here it will make a great laundry room).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe previous host got started by putting up some sheet rock, putting on a new roof and starting the wiring and hooking up the sewer. But it hasn’t been worked on in a while. So the first thing I did was clean it out and get ready to do the rest of the finishing work.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I finished the sheet rocking and did the muddying of the joints.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGot some paint on the walls and trim on the windows.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABuilt the laundry bench and got it painted.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUp next I will be getting the wiring hooked up, and the water hooked up. As you can see it’s coming along and I can’t wait to get it done and get a washer and dryer here. Because the closest Laundromat is over 20 miles away. So it gives me real incentive to get it done. I’ll be sending updates on this as it moves along. Well that’s it for now more to come as my adventures here in San Diego County continue this winter. Take care and best wishes to all and I hope you all had a great “Thanksgiving”, Rick






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