Fall 2022 Episode 7: Pismo Beach, California

We didn’t begin our fall 2022 journey intending to explore four major California macro climates, but once we visited big cities (San Francisco and Riverside), a lake in the mountains (Big Bear), and a lake in the desert (Part 1 Lake Havasu and Part 2 Lake Havasu), the only logical location to end our trip was the beach. So after a one-night stop at Mountain Valley RV in Tehachapi, it was on to Pismo Beach.

On November 5, we drove to Pismo Coast Village RV Resort where we had enjoyed staying in February 2020. Fortunately, they had a spot to accommodate us for a week. A storm was brewing offshore, so we spent the first few days of our stay cleaning the trailer, washing clothes, and stocking the pantry to prepare for rainy days ahead.

Beyond Pismo Creek and a strip of more dunes is the ocean
Watch your step

Once the rain cleared, we went hunting for a vegetable and fruit stand where we picked up fresh-from-the-fields produce. Then we ate at Old Juan’s Cantina. They served one of the best mole chicken enchiladas I had ever tasted. We’ll stop there again if we ever get a chance.

It had been a long time since we had seen rain, so we settled in the fifth wheel with our blankets and turned on the tube. The Long, Long, Long Trailer starring Desi and Lucy Arnez was only a few minutes into the beginning. This was perfect timing since the resort was hosting a Vintage Trailer Rally, filling the resort with restored old-time travel trailers of all sizes and shapes. Someone even had the kind of trailer featured in the movie with posters of Lucy and Desi. As we walked the lanes gawking at the rustic and newly refurbished rigs, we thought the first trailer we had purchased in the early 1980s would have fit right in. Our rig included a 1977 Dodge pickup with a 1954 Kenskill painted to match. We had good times in that trailer with our kids.

Pismo Beach Pier

Walking distance from Pismo Beach Pier is a benefit of staying at Pismo Coast Village RV Park. Not too many people out and about walking the length of the pier. Fishing, surfing, swimming, playing in the sand, or setting up chairs near the busker to hear the tunes were some activities enjoyed by other visitors.

Storms in 1884 damaged the first pier built in 1881. It was rebuilt with an additional 100 feet in 1884. In January 1904, a storm took 100 feet of the wharf, and by 1905 only a row of pilings remained across the beach. The current pier, originally constructed in 1924 and the victim of additional storm damage over decades, reopened in October 2018 after a full rehabilitation project that took 18 months.

From the information panels on the boardwalk, we learned the commercial harvest industry hauled out an estimated 6.25 million pounds of Pismo Clams along the coast between 1916 and 1947. Today, regulations permit only recreational clammers. Be sure to follow the licensing, size, and limit amounts designated by California Fish and Wildlife. It takes Pismo clams five to eight years to reach the harvesting size of 4.5 to 5 inches. Any clams found on the beach that measure less than 4.5 inches are required to be reburied at the site found. This will help the recovery of the Pismo clam population.

A few blocks up the street, we found Brad’s Restaurant and lucked out, getting a table right away. A bowl of clam chowder, sourdough bread, and a glass of wine was all we needed to satisfy our hunger.

Pismo Beach State Park Monarch Butterfly Grove and Dunes

The Pismo Beach State Park Monarch Butterfly Grove was also only a walk away. The Western Monarchs arrive in Pismo in late October and early November, migrating from parts west of the Rocky Mountains and as far north as Canada. How is it possible for such delicate creatures to travel up to 2,000 miles a day at a 10,000-foot elevation? Imagine the strength and endurance they possess to accomplish such a feat. They’re definitely hardier than me.

When the storms blow in with strong winds and rain, the butterflies cluster together on the eucalyptus tree branches to protect the individuals from blowing away. The temps were cool during our visit, so it was hard to locate the clusters. They looked like brownish leaves.

The Monarch Grove butterfly count in January 2022 was 22,000 and in 2016 28,000. Between 2016 and 2022, the low count was 1,995 in 2020 and the high count was 12,075 in 2017. It will be interesting to see what the numbers show in late January 2023. It sure seemed like a good turnout to us.

We finished our stay at the butterfly grove by crossing the bridge spanning Carpenter Creek and into the campground area to access the dunes. The crisscrossed trails took us over and around the sandy peaks.

Oso Flacko State Park

The boardwalk over Oso Flack Lake was our first time walking across a lake. But first, the trail took us through a tunnel of arroyo willows, wax myrtles, and Spanish moss. It was easy to spot the poison oak that was flashing its fall colors.

On the other side of the lake, the dunes took shape. Clumps of silver dune lupin, coyote bush, deer weed, and dunes paintbrush dotted the landscape.

We stopped at the viewing platform to enjoy the views and warily eyed the steep sandy hill that led down to the beach. We passed on going farther. This was a leisure walk on mostly flat surfaces, after all. Climbing back up a steep sandy hill would have turned it into a workout for which we were unprepared.

And so, our Fall 2022 adventure came to an end after our week at Pismo Beach. The holidays, doctor visits, house upgrades, and a backyard landscaping project have kept the fifth wheel parked beside the house since November. We’re not yet sure when we’ll load up and drive off for another adventure, so this will be our last post for a while.

Safe Travels

3 thoughts on “Fall 2022 Episode 7: Pismo Beach, California

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