Fall 2022 Episode 3: To the Mountains and Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake fall season had arrived

Holloway’s Marina and RV Park

On October 6, trees flashed their flaming fall colors as we parked our trailer at Holloway’s Marina and RV Park, our home for seven nights. At Holloway’s, visitors can rent a pontoon boat, charter a fishing boat, buy marine parts, have service work done, or park an RV.

Big Bear Lake 17′ below normal in this photo

It would have been nice to rent a pontoon boat one afternoon, but the lady recommended not eating the fish due to Blue-Green algae, a bacterium that can be toxic. Shoot, no fishing for Jon and no trout dinner for us.

Plenty of boats to choose from

Then we eyed the Pirate Ship. Who doesn’t like an entertaining sail around the lake on a pirate ship? That didn’t work out either. The ship’s schedule didn’t match up with ours.

Ahoy, matey!

Although the boat rides would have been fun, the weather and nature entertained us with fog floating through the landscape and the sun kissing tops of trees and mountains.

Blue tarped figures are boats prepped for winter
Kissed by the sun

The main reason we chose Big Bear Lake for a visit was to meet up with our son, Kevin, and his better half, Bailey. They were attending the Adventure Van Expo over the weekend as vendors. While we waited for their arrival, the Big Bear Discovery Center and the Big Bear Alpine Zoo kept us busy.

Big Bear Discovery Center

The Big Bear Discovery Center in Fawnskin is mostly geared towards children ages 2–7 years of age, with its Nature Discovery Zone that serves as an outdoor classroom with interactive play areas. Their website describes different activities that are offered, but there were none during our visit. The center is a large building with lots of space inside, but it was mostly empty, except for four volunteers at a desk and display tables with T-shirts and stuffed animals for sale. Perhaps they were renovating? The volunteers gave us a pamphlet that listed 13 hikes ranging from an easy 1/2-mile path to a difficult 10-mile trek.

Big Bear Discovery Center building
Discovery Center grizzly bear statue

We selected the 5-mile out-and-back Alpine Pedal Path from the Discovery Center to Serrano Campground for its gentle slopes up and down on asphalt pavement. The elevation of 7,000 feet was enough for us to contend with on our first day without worrying about Jon wrenching his knee again on a rocky surface.

The path links to the Cougar Crest and Pacific Crest trails
Over the bridge and through the underpass we go
Typical tree seen along the path
Crumbling rock formation

Big Bear Alpine Zoo

A zoo in Big Bear? How did I ever miss it? The Big Bear Alpine Zoo (formerly named Moonridge Animal Park) was established in 1959 after a fire scattered wildlife and a group of people got together to rescue some of the animals. It is owned by the Big Bear Valley Recreation and Park District, a Special District of the County of San Bernardino.

Look! A zoo in Big Bear

The Friends of the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, created in 1989 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization raises funds and coordinates volunteers to support the zoo. The zoo is open daily from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. On snow days, they may open late or not at all.

Sturdy compounds house the animals

The zoo’s mission remains a 100% rescue facility. All of the animals on display came to the zoo for rescue, mended, but unable to live in the wild. Birds have missing or broken wings. A bear is missing a leg. And some of the animals have adapted too well to human contact, making it dangerous to release them into their natural habitat because they no longer know how to find food or hunt or protect themselves.

Wild Critters on the Playground

Animals currently on display include a bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, white pelican, great horned owl, grizzly bears, black bears, and a gray wolf. Due to the double fencing, it was difficult to get a good photo of the animals, but here are a few.

Sleeping fox
Bald Eagle
Gray Wolf

Adventure Van Expo

And now, on to the Adventure Van Expo. Camping in a van is nothing new. Could it possibly trace its roots back to the covered wagon days when families loaded their possession to travel thousands of miles across the country? I didn’t dare slide into that rabbit hole of research, so I leave the question for others to answer.

Vans showing off their builds

More recently it seems, converting vans for camping or even living purposes has gained in popularity for at least the past 10 years or maybe longer. And where popularity grows, so do expos and cons. The fifth 2022 Adventure Van Expo organized eight expos in 2022 and has scheduled eight more for 2023. Over a two-day period, the events draw 60-80 vendors and up to 6,000 attendees, according to their website. Attendees can browse the many van conversions on display and for sale, and purchase all the accessories needed to enhance their #VanLife.

No remaking the bed everyday in this one, just pull it down from the ceiling
A sink, stove top, and microwave. What more can you ask for in such a small space? Oh, yeah. A fridge. There’s one of those too.

So, back to the product Bailey designed and curated for display and purchase at the expo. The CampIt includes everything required for the preparation, serving, and cleanup of a meal around the campfire or grill. Contained within a wooden box the size of a banker’s box and weighing in at around 23 pounds, are a tablecloth, cutting board, knives, spatula, tongs, serving spoon, roasting sticks, bamboo eating utensils, scrubber, hand sanitizer, soap, can and bottle opener, reusable plates, bowls, and cups, and much more.

The CampIt vendor booth

On Sunday, Jon and I manned the booth while Bailey and Kevin walked the expo to make contact with potential vendors. Videographer Van Haulen made a video of Jon and me talking to the videographer. Click here to take a look. It’s a long video, and we don’t show up until the end at 15.18 minutes, so zip forward.

To see Bailey in action, check out this video where she’s a featured new vendor. She shows up at 2.56 minutes. Of course, she’s the expert, knows her product well, and did a much better presentation than Jon and I did. All of the items that fit in the box are displayed. Or go to thecampit.com to learn more.

Next up in our fall adventure, we head to the desert. Join us while we explore Joshua Tree.

Safe Travels

Fall 2022 Episode 2: Inland Empire and the Historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

Saturday, October 8, 2022, we drove out of town, pulling the fifth wheel and heading south on Interstate 5. Our first stop in Castaic didn’t turn out as planned. When I checked in at the office, I was told we didn’t have a reservation, but they showed we had been there on Monday. What?

Turns out I had made the reservation for the wrong day. There went $60 out the window flying in the wind. Castaic had no open spots, and neither did any other RV parks within 85 miles along our route. We ended up driving all the way to Jon’s brother’s house in Fontana after a stop in Glendora to eat and let the traffic pass. We flirted with staying overnight in a Walmart parking lot, but when I checked with the manager, she said they didn’t allow it. Jon wanted to stay anyway. I had visions of a security guard or policeman knocking on the door at 3:00 am to tell us to move, so I convinced my better half it wasn’t a good idea.

The next day, after a lunch trip to Vince’s Spaghetti in Rancho Cucamonga, we settled in at Rancho Jurupa Regional RV Park.

Hunter’s Moon hangs over Rancho Jurupa RV Park

Our goal while in Riverside was to check out the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, a National Historic Landmark. We both had grown up not too far from the hotel and watched it change hands and go through various renovations over the years.

Welcome to The Mission Inn

Plus, I had recently finished reading Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O’Brien. The book had mentioned the International Shrine of Aviators at the hotel, and I wanted to see it in person.

We found the atrium outside of the St. Francis of Assisi Chapel, where the plaques and the 10-inch copper wings are displayed and protected with a wrought-iron fence. The Flyer’s Wall was dedicated on December 15, 1932, and includes 160 names, including Amelia Earhart, James H. Doolittle, Chuck Yeager, and John Glenn.

Chapel door and stained-glass window. St. Francis of Assisi Chapel would be a lovely place to hold a wedding for up to 150 guests.

The shrine may seem small in comparison to statues and other monuments designed to honor historical figures, but I can’t help but think of the emotions that Amelia Earhart must have experienced as she signed her name on the wing. Finally, after risking her life for years and proving she could fly as well as any man, she stood in her rightfully earned place among them.

Flyer’s Wall
Amelia Earhart’s signed wings

The history of the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa begins in 1876, when a quaint 12-room adobe building served as a place for travelers to stay the night. Frank Miller is credited with expanding the humble beginnings into a full-service hotel with 200 guestrooms by 1903. Over the next 30 years, Miller expanded the hotel, incorporating elements from the 20 missions in California with historical architectural styles from around the world. He traveled extensively and brought back stained glassed windows, furnishings, artwork, and religious relics to decorate the inn.

After Miller’s death, the inn changed hands multiple times, was the subject of a bankruptcy or two, and closed in 1985. The current innkeepers, Duane and Keely Roberts, saved the property from the wrecking ball, bringing the Mission Inn back to life with a $55-million renovation and modernization project. The hotel reopened in 1992 to once again welcome guests to the iconic historic hotel.

Under the arches are seven of more than 800 bells Frank Miller collected

Since its reopening in 1992, the inn has received many awards from Condé Nast Traveler, USA Today’s 10 best historic hotels, and Historic Hotels of America. AAA has also honored the inn with a Four Diamond rating.

What is in the domed building?
Chandelier in the lobby area

Annually, nutcrackers and Christmas lights decorate the inn for the Festival of Lights Celebration that continues into the first week in January. On opening night, the day after Thanksgiving, they switch on the five million lights, animate 200 figures, and delight the city with fireworks. “Hey, Jon. We’ve got to go see this. Want to make another trip to SoCal over New Years?”

When researching the inn, I learned that during the opening ceremonies of the 30th anniversary of the Festival of Lights on November 25, 2022, a fire caused by fireworks broke out on a roof. It was a good thing the fire department stationed crews on the roof. The fire was under control within 10 minutes, without injuries sustained or evacuations needed. For a photo, click the Festival of Lights link above.

Saint Junipero Serra O.F.M. established the first nine of 21 California Spanish missions from San Diego to San Francisco when the Spanish occupied the land known as Alta California in the Province of Las California, New Spain. Now known as the State of California.

One of many statues in the hotel

The Clock Tower is home to a 1709 Anton clock in Nuremberg, Germany. The original clock face is housed in the museum for safety. What we see on the tower today is a replica. Four figures rotate every quarter of an hour: Father Serra Juan Bautista De Anza, St. Francis, the California Grizzly Bear, and a California Native American.

Anton clock with rotating figures
Six-story spiral staircase of the International Rotunda which was constructed in 1931.

The initials in the metal railing shown below honor figures in early California and Mission history. PJBS refers to Padre Jose Bernardo Sanchez (1778-1883), who served California for 30 years and was the father president from 1828-1831.

Metal railing around the spiral staircase
Rooftop gardens overlook downtown Riverside city buildings
Eclectic mix of architectural styles
The courtyard where we ate lunch
At the corner of 6th and Orange streets

Having visited the Mission Inn, I want to go back and spend a night or two in one of their uniquely appointed luxury rooms, or maybe in one of the 27 suites, should we choose to splurge. Hmmm! Something to think about.

Until then, we will continue our Fall 2022 adventures. Next up is Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Safe Travels

Hawaii June 2022: Episode 2

The fun continued in Kauai when we loaded up the cars and drove to Kōke‘e State Park for an easy to moderate hike. A hike our entire group could navigate and which held the promise of standing above the Waipoo Falls, and looking out over the Waimea Canyon.

Let’s take a hike

We enjoyed our walk along the well-marked trail through the forest. The flowers, of course, caught my photographic eye while the rest of the gang picked and tasted blackberries.

Lots of shrubs and shade to keep us cool
A tree stump nourishes fungi

Much of the trail was flat, with an occasional elevation gain or loss. At the fork, we took the Canyon Trail to the left. A few yards later, we encountered at least a 3-foot drop-off, requiring a jump or slide on our backsides. Sliding seemed the better choice for me.

A snack along the trail

A few people ahead of us struggled to navigate the drop but made it unscathed. Most of our group managed it without too much difficulty. Unfortunately, Jon’s trekking poles were of no use. Somehow, his foot and ankle got stuck in a tree root, and he couldn’t pull free. Our son, Kevin, and another hiker helped him get loose and on his feet. Whew! Disaster averted.

The falls were not too far ahead, so we continued until we encountered another drop. While we contemplated this new obstacle, someone coming toward us said there were three more drops—some worse than the last—so we turned back, not wanting to chance an injury.

Back at the fork, we took the trail on the right, which led to the Cliff Trail Lookout. This was more our speed, and the view of Waimea Canyon made it clear why it is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

Bringing up the rear
The Grand Canyon of the Pacific

While gawking at the view and taking photos, we heard goats bleating. We scanned the cliff on the other side of the canyon but weren’t sure the white specks we saw were actually goats. Jon zoomed in with his 300 mm camera lens and captured a few on the cliffs.

Did you hear that? It sounded like a goat.
Hang loose

These goats are the descendants of goats introduced by English sea captain George Vancouver in 1792. Since their arrival, they have sped up the erosion of the canyon walls. Not a good thing.

Goat across the canyon
I wonder what kind of tree this is

The ‘Ōhi’a tree is one of the most populous trees in the state. Whether grown as a small bush or trimmed into a tree, their gnarly growth pattern and colorful flowers are distinct and easy to spot. As a native of Hawaii, the tree has the honor of taking root first in fresh lava, even before the volcanic gasses dissipate nearby. They break down the rock and provide a more hospitable spot for other plants to grow.

When hiking around, be aware that the ‘Ōhi’a tree is under attack by two species of fungi. If you see leaves on limbs or the crown of the tree turn yellow or brown, notify the Kaua’i Invasive Species Committee at saveohia@hawaii.edu, or 808-821-1490. For more information and to learn how to prevent spreading the fungi, go to https://cms.ctahr.hawaii.edu/rod.

Lehua blossoms of the ‘Ōhi’a

So how did this tree come to be in the hostile volcanic rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? In one account, Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, plays the villain in the myth of the lovers ‘Ōhi’a and Lehua. Pele desired ‘Ōhi’a and offered her love to him. ‘Ōhi’a’s love for Lehua was so strong he rejected Pele’s advances.

In revenge, Pele turned ‘Ōhi’a into a tree. A distraught Lehua pleaded with Pele to return ‘Ōhi’a as he was. Understanding Lehua’s loss, Pele turned Lehua into a beautiful flower in the tree so that the lovers shall remain forever together. In another account, it was a group of gods, not Pele, that made Lehua into a flower.

Exploring Red Sand Falls

On the way up to Waimea Canyon, we had spotted the Red Sand Falls, or Red Dirt Waterfalls, so we stopped on our way back down to see this interesting scenery. Created by Mother Nature, the dirt is composed of oxidized iron-rich basalt rock that surrounds Waimea Canyon, and the falls carry it downstream.

Farmers love the rich red dirt

A few precautions when visiting this area:

  1. Don’t drink the water because it contains high levels of insoluble iron and aluminum oxides that may make a person sick.
  2. Be sure to wear proper shoes when walking on the rock because it can become slippery during wet conditions.
  3. Don’t jump into the water because it is too shallow and can cause an injury.
Grippy shoes are recommended especially after a recent rain

There’s a prettier spot below where we stopped, but we were all craving poke, so we didn’t bother to stop again. Ishikara Market in Waimea was the place to go for poke. Add on rice, seaweed salad, or other deli items for a satisfying lunch.

More Kauai adventure continues in our next post.

Safe Travels

Spring 2022: Family Campground at Anthony Chabot and Lake Chabot Regional Parks, Castro Valley, California

Anthony Chabot Family Campground was our destination on March 20, 2022, only 22 miles away, to explore another East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) property. We arrived early for our four-night stay, set up, and went for a walk.

The campground, set in a grove of eucalyptus trees, includes 12 full hookup sites, 53 drive-up sites that can accommodate tents and smaller RVs, and 10 walk-in sites. All the sites have plenty of space between them and are large enough for a party of eight. We found site 5 to be the best for us since it was one of only two pull-through sites in the RV section, and on the patio side, it looked out over the grassy grove of tall trees that sloped down into a valley.

Site 5 is a pull through with a view of the grove

Animals in the park include coyotes who howl late at night and early in the morning. Bevys of doves that hid in the grass and scared us when they took flight in mass, calling out warnings to their family and friends. Turkey gobbles echoed through the trees and hills. On one walk, we saw two toms, their tail feathers fanned out, arguing with each other, and doing breast bumps like football players do on the field. Not sure where their harem of hens was hiding. Usually, we see turkey flocks sticking together with one tom guarding his harem, jakes, and poults.

Wild turkeys everywhere in the Bay Area

Signs warn of mountain lions and rattlesnakes. They didn’t worry us because we stuck to the main roads and trails where more people were around making noise. I figured the mountain lions preferred the turkeys as easier prey. Of course, I sure wouldn’t want to tango with a tom in protective mode.

New poison oak shoots

On the flora side, warnings include poison oak. New green shoots poked through the ground and fall-colored leaves still clung to older shrubs.

Anthony Chabot Regional Park

The 3,304-acre Anthony Chabot Regional Park opened in 1952 as Grass Valley Regional Park. As noted in the park’s brochure, the park was renamed in 1965 to honor Anthony Chabot, who built the first public water system in San Francisco and Oakland. Lake Chabot, designed by Anthony Chabot and built in 1874, was added to the Regional Park system in 1966.

Shower and restroom building brought to you by the Land and Water Conservation Fund

The reservoir provides an emergency water source for east bay communities. Combined, the Anthony Chabot and Lake Chabot parks total 5,059 acres and sit within the ancestral home of Jalquin, an Ohlone- and Bay Miwok-speaking tribe.

Overlooking the east shore of Lake Chabot
Overlooking the Redwood Canyon Public Golf Course
On Huck’s Trail

Spanish settlers and Franciscans came to the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1700s. In the 1800s gold-seeking miners, loggers, and trains arrived. Before all of those people came, some estimates place a group of 10,000 to 20,000 indigenous people in the Bay Area, possibly dating back to 6,000 years ago. Scattered near the water, across the valleys, in the hills, and inland, the small tribes of hunters and gatherers lived off the land and sea.

California poppies in bloom
Boat rentals can be had at the marina
Edible miner’s lettuce
Bermuda buttercup

By the early 1900s, diseases had caused a severe drop in the population of Ohlone- and Miwok-speaking people. In addition, many of the tribes from the Contra Costa and Alameda counties lost out on Federal funding and land for their people.

Shedding bark drapes across limbs
Unable to find the name. Any guesses?
On the Towhee Trail
Braken fern perhaps?

Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park

The park district renamed the Redwood Regional Park to Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park in 2019 in honor of Dr. Aurelia Henry Reinhardt. Dr. Reinhardt was one of the first five directors on the District’s Board in 1934. Her contributions included the preservation of redwoods and public open space.

We parked near the Fishway Interpretive Site, which sounded interesting when I saw it on the map. A pair of information panels detail the life cycle of the native trout that spawn in the creek and live in the Upper San Leandro Reservoir.

California Registered Historical Landmark No. 970 plaque placed on April 29, 1987, marks the place where three fish taken from the creek in 1855 led to the naming of the rainbow trout species. The assigned scientific name is noted as salmo iridia rainbow trout.

Historic Landmark No. 970

After reading about the life cycle of the trout, we crossed a stone bridge to Bridle Trail and made a loop for about 2-1/2 miles. Parallel to the Bridle Trail is the Stream Trail that spans from one end of the park to the other. In addition, the Anza Historic Trail, Skyline National Trail, and Bay Area Ridge Trail pass through the 1,833-acre park, which opened in 1939.

A bit of water flows in the creek
On the Bridle Trail

Our hike meandered through a redwood forest of third-generation growth. Giant redwoods once stood there, probably for one or two thousand years or more. By the mid-1860s, loggers had felled most of the magnificent trees, often taking the stumps as well. The redwood groves destroyed became the wood used to build homes and businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Ferns and plenty of shade
Trillium perhaps?

The trees that populate the forest today grew in clusters from any stumps left behind. It’s easy to spot where the giants once stood, just look for the circle of trees surrounding a hole.

Find a circle of trees you’ll find where a giant once grew
Yes, it’s okay to look up
Site of old church where a cross-shaped foundation is still intact
Barbecue pit at Old Church

Work is in progress to restore Redwood Creek the rainbow trout to migrate. The park district placed fence barriers along the creek to protect the ponds and banks from damage caused by people and dogs.

Wrap Up

Research on this post left me burdened with sadness as I read about the loss of the magnificent Redwood trees and the indigenous people. The devastation caused by selfishness, greed, and power in the name of progress is a common story that spans all the states we have visited. No matter how many times I read similar stories, I’ll always weep.

On the bright side, we also learn of the people who stepped up to say, “No more,” and worked tirelessly to preserve and restore what had previously come to disastrous results. So, we give thanks to the East Bay Regional Park District, their employees, and volunteers as they carry on the mission set forth in the 1934 ballot measure that created the district. May they continue to save more land for recreational purposes so we may immerse ourselves in nature, away from the noise and chaos of the cities and suburbs.

Long-term travel is out of the question for us for the next two months as we await our Hawaii trip in early June. In the meantime, we hope to visit more parks within the East Bay Regional Park District and other locations while we keep our adventures close to home. We’ll publish a post now and then as we do.

Safe Travels