Airstream into San Diego and beyond

San Diego region has year-round camping opportunities, excellent weather, and wonderful places to visit and, when coming here to do both, it’s good and more enjoyable to have a plan, a two-part plan.  Over the past eight years, we’ve enjoyed taking our Airstream Safari to our favorite San Diego beach, mountain, and desert camping spots, and while there, we frequently meet people new to the area who are interested in learning more about places to visit in the San Diego metropolitan area and where to stay while visiting friends and places there.

DSC_0268 Sail into San Diego

The first part of this suggested plan is to see the many attractions in the metropolitan San Diego area first, while staying at a nearby, local campground.  The second part is to move to your ideal camping location away from the city, where you can enjoy hiking, swimming or relaxing at a beachside, mountain, or desert campground, depending on the season.  To get your best camping locations and sites, it’s best to make your reservations as early as possible.  San Diego County’s Sweetwater Summit Regional Park is a good starting point because it is only 10 miles southeast of downtown San Diego and has 112 campsites and its Summit Campground has 63 new sites with full hookups.*  San Diego County Parks have a new look and feel.* The main advantage of this campground is that it’s just 20-25 minutes away from many local attractions such as the beaches, Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, Sea Port Village, and Old Town.

While in the metropolitan area, you could bring your own lunch and have a happy time in Old Town.*

SAMSUNG CSC

(Above photo credit: Charlie Chul Jung)

Or visit San Diego’s beautiful and historic Balboa Park* and its many museums, such as theNAT and see its permanent exhibition, “Coast to Cactus”, featuring an Airstream trailer!* (Parking is available in the park or nearby areas, including the San Diego Zoo parking lot.)

DSC_0420 Desert night show in back

Checkout the flamingos and what’s new at the San Diego Zoo, such as the Asian Leopards Habitat with Catwalks.*

DSC_0055 San Diego Zoo

Visit Cabrillo National Monument* with its Old Point Loma Lighthouse, hiking trails and tide pools.

HPIM2313 Old Pt Loma Lighthouse

Or take a 45-minute drive north to explore San Diego Zoo Safari Park* (formerly named San Diego Wild Animal Park).

DSC_0266 San Deigo Zoo Safari Park

After visiting the local San Diego attractions, you can then move to your preferred beach, mountain, or desert campground that you reserved ahead of time.  During the summer, the coolest place to enjoy camping is one of our California State beach campgrounds, such as South Carlsbad State Beach.  It is very popular and reservations for beachside camping often need to be made months in advance.  Our favorite time to go is in May before the summer crowds.

DSC_0013 South Carlsbad State Beach

Our favorite fall and spring campground is William Heise County Park in the mountains near Julian, California.  We prefer the wooded, non-hookup sites in Area 2.  Dogs on a leash are permitted on the scenic trails.

DSC_0089 Wm Heise County Park

The desert is a great place to camp during the late fall, winter and early spring months.  Anza-Borrego Desert State Park* is popular because of the resources of the nearby town of Borrego Springs.

DSC_0278 Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Our favorite desert campground is Agua Caliente County Park because there is less traffic and it is not so crowded, especially during the weekdays.  It has a therapeutic spa and pools, but dogs are not allowed on trails.

DSC_0084 Our new campsite

Explore San Diego, where every day is a new adventure!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Catfish by the sea, again

For the past eight years, we’ve rounded out our camping season by unhitching our Airstream Safari trailer on the bluffs of South Carlsbad State Beach.  Reservations for the popular beach side campsites need to be made up to  6 months in advance.  Our favorite site has windblown bushes (Melaleuca nesophila) that provide privacy, but California’s drought is now having an impact on them.  A ranger told me that the park is now limiting watering to three times per week and will be replacing the turf with drought tolerant plants.

DSC_0114 South Carlsbad State Beach

DSC_0128 Campsite on the bluff

Each year we enjoy listening to the continuous sound of the surf* and watching the shore birds soar by on the updraft of the sea breeze along the bluffs.

DSC_0068 Surf at Carlsbad

DSC_0337 Pelicans soaring

Nearby is The Flower Fields* 50-acre garden on the Carlsbad Ranch, featuring Giant Tecolote Ranuculus blooms* 10 weeks each spring sustained by reclaimed water from the City of Carlsbad and a drip irrigation system.

DSC_0035 The Flower Fields

DSC_0043 Giant Tecolote Ranunculus

On this trip I did  a photo shoot of a crow dive-bombing a squirrel hole in an attempt to capture young squirrels (See the dramatic photos and story in my post, “A crow and squirrel interlude,” History Safari Expresso).  I was also lucky to have the camera ready when a Great blue heron landed on our campsite fence.

DSC_0293 The crow and the squirrel

DSC_0225 Great blue heron

We decorated our outdoor camp kitchen with papel picado for celebrating Cinco de Mayo.*  Larry deep fried catfish.

DSC_0144 Cooking catfish, Cinco de Mayo

DSC_0157 Catfish by the sea

The last time we ate catfish by the sea, we enjoyed beautiful, glowing sunsets.  This time the sun silhouetted San Clemente Island.

DSC_0191 Flying solo at sunset

The ocean is a wonderful place to contemplate the mysteries and celebrations of life, as seen in my post, “Ocean gleanings,” History Safari Expresso.

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Ocean knight currents, part four

I cautiously passed the windmill facing the ocean, which I had originally and mistakenly perceived to be a giant with waving arms,* and sallied forth to find the museum housing musical instruments that are close to my heart, such as the lute.

DSC_0165-2 South Carlsbad windmill

While venturing eastward, I came upon a lovely field of flowers (The Flower Fields® at Carlsbad Ranch)* with a beautiful damsel (Dulcinea?)* in the middle beckoning visitors to enjoy the splendor of ten million Ranunculus flowers.

DSC_0163 Flower Fields of Carlsbad

Assured that the lady was safe behind a white picket fence, I continued on in search of stringed instruments and came upon a magnificent castle* on top of a hill with a commanding view of the countryside and the Pacific Ocean.  This is the home of the Museum of Making Music,* which displays hundreds of vintage instruments and presents special exhibitions twice a year along with concerts, workshops, and educational programs.  (I last made a pilgrimage here in 2008 to view a special exhibit of ukuleles.)  I was delighted that my quest was at an end as I experienced their current, special exhibit, “The Banjo: A New Day for an Old Instrument.”

DSC_0149 MOMM's banjo exhibit (1)

DSC_0150 MOMM's banjo exhibit (2)

The banjo’s roots are thought to go back to West Africa, where hide-covered gourd folk lutes, such as the akonting, were plucked.*  The concept was transported to Colonial America by Africans via the Atlantic slave trade.

DSC_0159 Banjo's roots

An early version of the banjo was played in degrading minstrel shows of the 1800s.  My favorite black banjo/guitar/singer of the folk song era of the 1960s was Elizabeth Cotten,* best known for her timeless song, “Freight Train.”*

DSC_0146 Recapturing the Banjo

Back at camp, Larry prepared lunch featuring pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish, fried masa pies filled with ham and cheese.

DSC_0176 Larry's pupusas

A couple strolled into the sunset as I reflected on our successful quests, the rebirth of the San Diego Opera, and why music is so important.*

DSC_0018 Stroll into the sunset

It’s nice to remember the sun’s gonna shine again.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Ocean knight currents, part three

Coming back up the bluff’s 50-foot high stairway, this knight paused to get his wind and got a bird’s eye view as the crow flies* of pelicans gliding by, sustained by onshore air currents.  Occasionally, Red-shouldered hawks also soared by as they looked for prey, such as the abundant California ground squirrels, and were harassed by spirited crows defending their territory.*

DSC_0330 Pelicans over Carlsbad bluff

Crows are now considered to be among the world’s most intelligent animals, as demonstrated by Dr. Alex Taylor in the BBC documentary, “Inside the Animal Mind.”*

DSC_0050 As the crow flies

On page 87 in the Spanish novel, Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, translated by Edith Grossman, HarperCollins Publishers, 2005, Don Quixote said this about the crow:

According to an ancient and widespread tradition throughout the kingdom of Great Britain, this king [King Arthur] did not die but, through the art of enchantment, was turned into a crow and in time will return to rule and recover his kingdom and scepter…

(I continue to enjoy the benefits of reading out loud a chapter at a time at bedtime of this very readable and enjoyable translation of this great work!)

California brown pelicans also seem right at home in this kingdom by the sea.

DSC_0231 Pelican gliding

The brown pelican, once shot at for millinery plumes, first received legal protection when Theodore Roosevelt* created sixteen federal bird refuges, starting with Pelican Island, Florida, in 1903.  The species is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and was placed on the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1970 due to the effects of DDT on its eggs.  Agricultural use of DDT in the U.S. was banned in 1972 and by 2009, brown pelicans made a comeback and were removed from the Endangered Species List.  They are now commonly seen flying along California’s coast* and diving into the ocean to capture food.*

DSC_0254 Two pelicans gliding

But a recent brown pelican population survey led by UC Davis professor emeritus and wildlife biologist Dan Anderson found a drastic decline in nesting pairs, which may be due to changes in ocean temperature and shifts in the pelicans’ food supply.

San Diego Audubon Society says, “Celebrate birds because they fly…” (Click on their beautiful video stream at the bottom of their website.)

DSC_0197 Pelican ballet

Watching this pelican ballet in the sky was mesmerizing, but by noon, it was time to take my usual midday shower in the campground’s facilities.  (We are very frugal with the use of water and electricity in the trailer.  By the fifth day of non-hookup camping, our 30-gallon freshwater tank is typically half full, which means we typically use 3 gallons/day!)  After showers, I always look forward to eating a sandwich made by Larry and then catching up on notes and reading.

DSC_0334 A knight's lunch

While eating my lunch, a squirrel tried to claw its way into a bag of potato chips!

DSC_0232 Squirrel looking for lunch

This drama played out while an old black crow* majestically swept by, perhaps on a quest for food, or the Holy Grail.*

DSC_0052 Crow over Carlsbad

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Ocean knight currents, part two

Stairways lead down to South Carlsbad State Beach, one of San Diego’s top beaches, where people enjoy swimming, surfing, sunbathing, walking, running, fishing, bird watching and listening to the sounds of the surf.*

DSC_0329 Stairway to the beach

Bluff and beach erosion continue to be ongoing issues.  The City of Carlsbad and the State of California work together with local agencies to replenish sand washed away by winter storms.*  While walking on the sand, I was surprised to step on one of the tar balls recently reported to be washing up on Carlsbad beaches, which may be naturally seeping from the ocean floor.

DSC_0322 Walking the shoreline

Abundant wildlife is seen along the beach, such as this Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus, a migratory bird species that breeds in subarctic North America and travels down the coast on the Pacific Flyway* to winter as far south as the tip of South America.

DSC_0276 Whimbrel

Seen below, the Marbled Godwit, Limosa fedoa, one of the dominant shorebirds along San Diego’s coast, has a long bill enabling them to probe deeply in the sand for aquatic insects and mollusks.

DSC_0300 Marbled Godwit

DSC_0304 Marbled Godwit foraging

We also enjoyed eating mollusks, such as the New Zealand Littleneck Clams that Larry steamed with butter, garlic, and wine and served over Shandong noodles.  The shells were saved for table decoration.

DSC_0209 New Zealand Littleneck Clams

One morning, I was looking down from the bluff and spotted a little boy picking up objects from the beach and throwing them into the sea.

DSC_0042 A boy picked up & threw something

I imagined the objects to be starfish that he was saving by tossing them back in the water, but they turned out to be flat stones and his father was showing him how to throw them to make them skip across the surface.  Still, this iconic image caused me to revisit the thought provoking and motivational “The Boy and the Starfish“* story, inspired by Loren Eiseley, which illustrates that individual actions can make a significant difference.

DSC_0043 Perhaps a star thrower

This knight-errant is currently happy as a clam at high tide regarding the good news this week that San Diego Opera will not close, due to the overwhelming support from the community and donors, and like the boy in the starfish story, every gift is significant and you can make a difference!*

*This is a YouTube video.