Beer Sommeliers Invade Jojoba Hills!

We have begun winding down our time at Jojoba Hills, turning our attention to organizing our 5th-wheel and preparing to wedge, cram, and squeeze all “travel must-haves” into our truck camper, so we weren’t expecting to meet any full-timers until we hit the road again.  Much to my surprise and pleasure, a female solo traveler whose blog I have followed for some time dropped me an email.  She had remembered that we were wintering at Jojoba Hills and let me know she was heading our way…yes!  It was none other than the lovely Suzanne from Take to the Highway!  Before we knew it a few of her other friends also descended on the park, and we had ourselves a regular mini bloggerfest goin’ down at happy hour.

L-R: Terry, Judy, Debbie, Suzanne, Jim, Gayle.  Note that Jim’s sole focus is on the beer!

Judy from Travels with Emma is also a solo wanderer, traveling with doggie Emma and Jim and Gayle write the engaging blog Life’s Little Adventures.  Terry and Debbie live the leisurely life reading other bloggers’ musings.  My apologies to Suzanne as I snapped the photo above when she was enjoying some yummy snacks, but that’s the way it goes sometimes when candid shots are taken.  In fairness I have posted a lovely image of her below enjoying a few of her favorite craft brews.

As the number of brews continued to grow, I felt I was watching beer sommeliers in action, with words like full-bodied, caramelly, and creamy mouth feel being tossed around.  Beer drinking just got elevated to another level!  Unfortunately I was on a restricted diet at the time and beer wasn’t on the list but you can bet I was taking copious notes for a later date.

 Suzanne and her many friends

After our little gathering Terry headed east to assist his mother with moving into new living  arrangements and I was entrusted with preparing our rigs for departure, a daunting task but I was up to the challenge.  First item on the agency was to take a break from all this planning and head for the hills to hike with the gang.  A girl needs exercise too, right?

Jim and Gayle’s friends George and Tina, who have a beautiful home nestled into a canyon outside Hemet, invited the group for a hike in Simpson Park.  We enjoyed a rolling 7-mile hike on the Fireman Trail, with lovely views of Diamond Valley Reservoir and citrus orchards providing a brilliant verdant backdrop to the surrounding mountains.

Fireman Trail with Diamond Valley Reservoir in the distance

L-R: George, Jim, Tina, Gayle, & Suzanne

Suzanne happily capturing wildflowers still clinging to the trail’s edge

A brilliant splash of green provided some captivating views

A couple more happy hours rounded out our time with the gang.  We are thankful they included us in their little group and feel certain we will all meet up again somewhere down the road.  When we do, I better have a notebook handy as I’m sure there will be brews to add to the list.  I see some homework in my future. :)

The past several months have sped by for us while we were busy establishing a new winter base, making new friends, and developing new interests.  Although it is difficult to say goodbye to such great folks, we leave with the knowledge that we will all gather back at Jojoba Hills next winter with lots of tales to share.  Our travels will take us to the Northwest this summer and we’re looking forward to reconnecting with many friends who are heading the same direction.  It’s shaping up to be a great summer.  Hope yours is too!

Spring brings new life to the ponds at Jojoba Hills

We are heading up the 395, something we have not done in the spring.  Tips for places to stay, things to do, and trails to hike are always welcome.

Next Stop:  Lone Pine, CA, where the Alabama Hills are calling.

Making Connections ~ San Diego, CA

The beauty of being a full-time RVer is the ability to balance a healthy dose of solitude with lots of social gatherings.  Winter seems to be best for the latter, as many of us are stationary for longer stretches, giving ample time to catch up with those taking a respite from the road.  There are a handful of states where many RVers go to escape winter’s frigid nature:  California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida most notable.  So it should have come as no surprise that several couples we knew, via blog or previously met on the road, flocked to San Diego to bask in the sun and let the cool ocean breezes wash over them.

Being just a short distance away from the big city, we have been fortunate to visit several friends the past few weeks who were grooving to San Diego’s vibe.  I have spent many a summer vacation in San Diego so I was content to just spend time catching up with old friends and reveling in their exploits.

Balboa Park

After a few days of exploring Anza Borrego State Park with Eric and Laurel (Raven and Chickadee) in late February, we weren’t expecting to see them again so soon, but their travels took them to the North Park neighborhood of San Diego so we got together and wandered cultural Balboa Park with them.  If you have not been, this park is 1,200 acres of stunning architecture, graceful gardens, interesting museums, and a great artist colony.  Lunch on the patio at Prado was quite tasty and, as you can see below, Eric got his money’s worth.

We extended our visit into the evening over a yummy salad created  by Laurel from what we had scored at the farmers’ market earlier that day. What a lovely couple and how lucky we are to be seeing them again later this summer.

Tasty little flight

The infamous Nina and Paul (Wheelingit) also breezed into San Diego, landing at the popular Mission Bay RV Resort.  For those who follow Nina’s blog, and who doesn’t, they were on a mission to taste test their way through as many San Diego breweries as they could. So, where else would be meet them for lunch than a craft beer establishment, Stone Brewery at Liberty Station.  Although we did not have much time to catch up, as they had family in town, it was wonderful to see them again.  Mission Bay is where our paths first crossed three years ago and it is always a delight to see them again.

Terry, me, Paul, Nina & sweet pooch Polly

I’m sure we can all agree that Nina’s blog posts have enriched our lives and given us adventures we may not have anticipated.

Next up was Jim and Barb (Bounding the Borders), a charming couple we were introduced to last winter in Cedar Key, Florida, two whom we felt comfortable with from the moment we met.  They came to Jojoba Hills for a week this winter, after spending time at Mission Bay, giving us ample time to share good food, drink, and great conversation.  I can’t tell you how pleased we were to reconnect with them, and knowing we are planning to meet up again later this year puts a smile on my face.

I have found there is a sense of serendipity to this lifestyle.  We learned over a homemade meal that Jim and Barb had met the very couple we were planning to join for lunch later that week.  So the four of us wheeled our way back to San Diego to meet Hector and Brenda (Island Girl Walkabout) for lunch at the Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill, a knock-your-socks-off place to go for fish tacos.  We had lunched here with Hector and Brenda once already this winter but everyone seemed to need a taco fix so back to Blue Water.  With any luck we may see the Island Girl dwellers later this year as well.

The breeze off the ocean seemed just right for a stopover at Torrey Pines Gliderport, and by the looks of the skies, everyone with a passion for the sport thought so too.

When we began this nomadic adventure, I dreamt of all the magnificent vistas that awaited us.  What I have discovered is that this journey is made much more satisfying by the extraordinary people connections we’ve made along the way, those on the road, those whom we have met only through blogs, and those at our Jojoba Hills’ winter base.

I toast all who have enriched our lives and look forward to meeting many more of you as we renew our wandering ways in a couple of weeks.  I am eagerly counting down the days. :)

Desolate, Dramatic Anza Borrego Desert State Park, CA

I find the desert intoxicating in the spring, like experiencing a fine wine for the first time.  If you have ever done a wine tasting away from the crowds, your entire focus is on the depth of colors, the aroma of flowers, leaves, herbs and spices, the tastes you experience as you roll that first sip around your tongue.  A good wine seems to dance in your mouth.  I believe the desert in spring in many ways is synonymous to this.  There is a harmonious balance amidst the complexity of all the desert sights and smells.  It speaks to us on a cellular level, engaging all of our senses.  On a cool, clear morning, standing at a trailhead not often traversed, looking out over the vastness of an open desert or a winding canyon, the colors and textures dance before your eyes and if you take a deep breath, the sweet smell of sage, acacia, and palo verde beckon you to move deeper into the wilderness. Hover near a creosote bush and you will remember why you love the smell of rain in the desert.

Recently we returned to Anza Borrego Desert State Park to spend five days with the Jojoba Hills hiking club.  You could spend five weeks here and not experience everything this park has to offer.  Covering 600,000 acres, with 500 miles of dirt roads and 110 miles of hiking trails (many only available with high-clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicles), this park draws you back time and again.  It even has a Sky Trail, which has been described in the Pilots Getaway magazine, and 50 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail meander in and out of the park.

We had been here a few weeks back when the desert was just beginning to awaken from its winter slumber and although the wildflowers were lovely, they were not yet at their peak.  This visit they were beyond their peak in many areas we visited, thanks to the hot desert winds and this big fella.

Soon to be a lovely moth.  Photo credit Doris Potter at www.dbase.com

Soon to be a lovely moth. Photo credit Doris Potter at http://www.dbase.com

Like an army on the move, he and tens of thousands of his best buddies have chomped through entire fields of wildflowers these past few weeks, leaving barren desert in their wake.  These colorful but rather creepy (at least to me) caterpillars are the white-lined sphinx moth, aka hummingbird moth, who lay their eggs on the leaves of young plants.  When the eggs hatch, the larvae burrow underground, where they pupate and emerge as moths and the cycle continues.

While the desert wildflowers were vanishing the cacti decided to step up and create beautiful splashes of color across the landscape.  Here are just a few of the lovelies that we found while hiking:

Each day was filled with hiking and gatherings at the end of the day to share our adventures with the rest of the group.  Some of the hikes that we tackled during our stay were:

L-R, Cj, Art, Nancy, Frank, Terry & Margee on the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail

L-R, Cj, Art, Nancy, Frank, Terry & Margee on the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail

Borrego Palm Canyon Trail

Nancy heading into the mud cave, flashlight at the ready.

Nancy heading into the mud cave, flashlight at the ready.

Mud Caves at Arroyo Tapiado

Margee and Terry in the slots

Margee and Terry in the slots

Big Mud Cave, now a slot canyon after part of the roof collapsed.

Big Mud Cave, now a slot canyon after part of the roof collapsed.

Big Mud Cave (now a slot canyon) at Arroyo Tapiado

The gang ready to head into Glorietta Canyon, where we found many of our flowering cacti.

The gang ready to head into Glorietta Canyon, where we found many of our flowering cacti.

Glorietta Canyon

Frank getting cozy with a barrel cactus while the teddy bear cholla close in.

Frank getting cozy with a barrel cactus while the teddy bear cholla close in.

Cactus Loop Nature Trail

The Slot at West Butte was enjoyed by the rest of the group while I headed back to Jojoba Hills to attend an art journaling workshop.  Someone (who will remain nameless) was responsible for photos but forgot the camera.  Hmmm, wonder who that could be? ;)

Anza Borrego is a hiker’s paradise and a photographer’s dream.  The topography can change at a moment’s notice, from soaring mountains, to barren desert, claustrophobic slot canyons, rippling badlands, to fields of wildflowers and brilliant blooming cacti.  For those who love the desert there can be few better.  I can think of no other place an hour away from our winter base to better spend time with our Jojoba friends.

A barren yet dramatic landscape

A barren yet dramatic landscape

Wildflowers, Desert Vistas, & New Friends ~ Anza Borrego Desert State Park, CA

The desert is waking from her deep winter slumber, the time of year when Mother Nature playfully splashes every color in her palette across the barren landscape. Winter is not quite ready to relinquish her hold, as cold winds and rain still find their way down the mountains, scuttling across the desert floor of Anza Borrego State Park.  But spring is gaining ground and the colors, textures and smells of the desert are wonderful!

We would find it shameful if we did not experience Anza’s wildflowers, given we are just an hour away from California’s largest state park.  Actually they are just now beginning to burst open from their underground rest, so the next few weeks should prove to be quite spectacular.

Just a few of the wildflowers making their colorful debut:

We had only a few days to spend so we wasted no time in setting up camp near Coyote Mountain, at Clark’s Dry Lake, one of the more popular boondocking spots in Anza Borrego.  We ventured down Rockhouse Road until we found a spot away from everyone else, with nothing to break the silence except the howling wind and coyotes late at night.  Once settled we headed over to the trailhead for our first hike.

Hellhole Canyon

Anza Borrego is known as one of the hottest and driest deserts in the U.S., so it might be surprising to learn that there is a place where palm trees, sycamores, and cottonwoods flourish.   And if you are persistent, don’t mind a bit of boulder-hopping and bushwhacking, and listen intently, you might stumble upon the tiny cascading waterfall known as Maidenhair Falls, for the lush ferns and moss lining the canyon wall. Welcome to Hellhole Canyon, a 5-mile trail out-and-back that keeps you on your toes as you try to determine which way the trail went, as it has a tendency to disappear within the vegetation-choked canyon floor.

Beyond the tantalizing images of the desert awash with color, we were looking forward to our visit with the birders Raven and Chickadeebetter known as Eric and Laurel. One of the perks of following other RV bloggers is finding out who is circling in the area. These two little birdies were not only circling but they had landed and we feel grateful to have spent two fun-filled days with them and their Ashland friends.  And, of course, another hike was on the agenda, this time an afternoon trek into Palm Canyon in search of the bighorn sheep.

Palm Canyon

Palm Canyon was once the most beautiful and lushest of the 25 palm canyons within Anza Borrego but a freak summer thunderstorm in 2004 brought a 20-foot wall of water rushing down the canyon, carrying with it hundreds of uprooted fan palm trees. These displaced palms, carried along by a massive mudflow, hit the state park campground, causing considerable damage and what some have dubbed a “thousand-year flash flood”.  This 3-mile out-and-back trail is still quite lovely, despite what she has endured.  We did not find the elusive bighorn sheep on our hike but when we returned to camp the Ashland crowd who stayed behind had seen them on the ridge above the campground…bummer for the hikers!

Although our time at Anza Borrego was short, our days and nights were packed with interesting conversation, lovely hikes, great food and drink, and entertainment.  It seems this Ashland bunch are very talented.  We can’t thank them enough for including us in their intimate group.  We had a blast and look forward to meeting up with them again later this summer. :)

Not Your Ordinary “Chip” ~ Mt. Woodson, Poway, CA

Recently our hiking club decided to tackle the Mt. Woodson trail, a hike that I suggested they add to their list.  This is a hike I had hoped to do with a blogger friend, but divergent schedules and car troubles resulted in a missed opportunity.  Soon after said friend boarded a plane and jet-set off to faraway lands.  I am dedicating this short post to that zany guy who is the talented author of The Sophomore Slump blog. Rommel, I carried you along in spirit up the trail. :)

Mt. Woodson has two approaches to the summit, the western approach a 5.5 mile loop with a 1500 foot elevation gain and the eastern approach, somewhat more aggressive at 6.8 miles and 2300 feet up the mountain.  Our hiking group chose the western approach but I must admit the eastern approach, which has its beginnings at Lake Poway, seems it might have the more diverse views along the way.  However, either approach has huge boulders strewn across the mountainside, making for an interesting hike.

And both approaches are steep climbing, but if you keep your focus on the reason you chose this hike, the journey becomes less arduous (mind over matter, yes?).  And the reason most choose this hike is to get their photo taken on the cantilevered flake of rock near the top known as Potato Chip Rock.  Many a hiker has stood in a long line to have their picture taken on the Chip, some testing fate with handstands, jumps, and yoga poses near the edge.  For me the bigger challenge was climbing the boulder to get to Potato Chip Rock.

If you decide you gotta have that photo of yourself doing stunts on a rock seemingly suspended in mid-air, plan a visit during the week, unless standing in line for an hour is your thing.  Your reward once down the mountain should be lunch at The Yellow Deli imho. ;)