Waterfalls and Big Trees

Our move to Three Rivers in the foothills of the Sierras happened to coincide with Spring Break and Easter Weekend. This meant camp spots were at a premium. We booked a spot at a private park 25 minutes from the south entrance of Sequoia NP. We arrived on a Thursday and by Friday this was our view.

But at the end of the weekend the park emptied out.

The appeal of this spot is its proximity to the southern entrance to Sequoia NP. The park is massive and includes Kings Canyon at the northern end. The park elevation ranges from 2080ft to around 7000ft. The southern entrance allows for easy access to some wonderful hiking in the foothills.

Spring is in full bloom with fast flowing rivers and flower filled hillsides. We enjoyed a couple of waterfall hikes. The first was along Paradise Creek.

With such an amazing display of wildflowers, you’d expect to see pollinators.There were lots of bees but these little blue butterflies stole the show.

We shared the trail with this guy.

The hike to Marble Falls came highly recommended from a Ranger working the Foothills Visitor Center. This is a 7 mile round trip hike along the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River. It’s an uphill hike that takes you high above the Marble Fork. You can hear the river roaring for the entire hike.

The trail is narrow and zig-zags it’s way up to the falls.

Wildflowers greeted us around every corner.

The trail passed through a fragrant grove of Bay Laurel.

The hike culminates at series of rapids at Marble Falls.

As we walked back down, the wildflowers continued to delight.

The draw for most people coming to Sequoia/Kings Canyon NP are the BIG trees and of course we wanted to walk among the Giant Sequoias. These trees grow at altitudes between 4000 and 7000ft. It was a very snowy winter and most of the campgrounds were still closed as well as many of the hiking trails. Route 198 through the park twists and winds up to the Sequoia Groves.

In spite of the snow the Park Service made it possible to hike and get to the big trees.

This is the General Sherman tree- the biggest tree in the world. This designation comes from the volume of its trunk. The tree is 109ft around at the ground. The top of the tree is dead and won’t get any taller but each year the trunk gets wider.

There are a lot of downed limbs and trees throughout the park. Some of these limbs are large and in their shattered state reveal the inner beauty of these trees.

The leaves of the Giant Sequoia

These Giants start life as seeds the size of a rolled oat that develop in cones like this.

The Tunnel Tree

Pat is always on the lookout for our next adventure.

The San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles Express

We dragged the Tincan from Pismo Beach State Park up to the El Chorro Regional Park just north of San Luis Obispo.

A short walk from our campsite is the trail up to Eagle Rock with panoramic views of the surrounding “Irish” Hills.

All this talk of the wildflower “super bloom ” made us eager to find a place we’re we could do some flower peeping. We were not disappointed.

El Chorro Regional Park is located on CA Highway 1. Highway 1 runs up the coast of California and we used our proximity to checkout the many vista points and beaches near us.

Elephant Seal Point

After a long winter at sea the seals return to this rookery in the spring to molt and rest up. These mammals are huge, males are 3,000 to 5,000 lbs. and females weighing in at up to 1,800 lbs..

If you time the tides right you can explore the numerous tide pool along the highway.

Morro Bay was a short drive up Highway 1 from El Chorro. The Morro Strand and Morro Rock Beach were too enticing to ignore.

The Strand offered lots of shore birds for watching and sand dollars for the taking.

The Morro Rock is a dominating landmark on Morro Bay. The rock is actually a volcanic plug and one of nine extinct volcanic peaks in the area.

Morro Bay is also home to an Elfin Forest.

The forest preserve protects a group of Pygmy Oaks which can range in height from seven to twelve feet tall.

The boardwalk through the forest offers great views of Morrow Bay and the surrounding mountains.

The town of Cambria is located off Highway 1 and is home to the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve with its scenic Bluff Trail.

We had a great time exploring the area around El Chorro Regional Park and we are sure to return. It’s time to move inland for a few days and checkout the Paso Robles wine country. We opted for a private RV park that put us close to the action.

Those are vineyards behind the Tincan.

Wineries in Paso Robles are abundant. We spent an afternoon cruising the back roads to checkout the local offerings.

This is a beautiful grape growing area.

Dilecta is one of the smallest producers in the area, 800 cases annually. The owner-vintner conducted the tasting and his Mom did the label art work.

A rare sighting of us together at the Tablas Creek Vineyards which produces excellent Rhône style wines.

Paso Robles isn’t just about wine. Beer culture has made some serious inroads. We visited Firestone Waker, Barrel House Brewing and Silva Brewing. All three are offering up some tasty brews but to our taste Silva was the best of the group.

Of course, all the beer gardens are family friendly.

The sun has set on Paso Robles and the Sierras are calling.

Going Coastal

The past two months traveling in Arizona have been great. However, it’s time to move West to the mid coast of California. We mapped out a leisurely pace and planned on checking out some new places.

Our first stop was the Needles CA KOA on old Route 66. Not every stop is scenic. Remember, it’s not the destination but the journey that’s important.

After a night in Needles we moved on to Tehachapi CA and a small private RV Park next to the Mountain View Airport. The Skylark North glider school is located there and provided us with morning entertainment as we drank our coffee.

Tehachapi is a small mountain town without many attractions. After a bit of digging Pat found out about the Tehachapi Loop, one of the civil engineering wonders of the world. Completed in 1876, the Loop is a .73 mile spiral through the Tehachapi Pass. Any train of sufficient length will pass over the end of itself as it emerges from a tunnel 75 feet below the upper tracks of the Loop.

After a scenic drive through the San Joaquin Valley and over the mountains on CA 166 we arrived in Pismo Beach, a place we last visited in 1978.

We set up camp in Pismo Beach State Park. There are many Eucalyptus Trees in bloom throughout the campground providing a wonderful aroma as well as home to nesting Black-Crowned Night-Herons. A short walk over the dunes takes you to the Pacific Ocean.

The sand on the beach is firm enough for bike riding which we took advantage of.

Ice Plants

Pismo Beach Pier

A mornings haul of Sand Dollars

About 40 minutes up the coast from Pismo Beach is Montana de Oro State Park. This park features a dramatic bluff trail, tide pools and a Eucalyptus grove.

Tide Pools


We encountered a wide variety of wildlife.

Turkey Vulture

Western Alligator Lizard

Great Blue Heron


After four days on Pismo Beach it’s time to move a short distance north to San Luis Obispo to explore another section of California’s Central Coast.

Red Rock Fever-Weeks 2 & 3

Our time in Sedona hit a snag at the start of our second week. The weather turned cold and wet and we developed head colds. Nothing major but we stayed in and read a lot. When we started feeling better we decided to take it easy and confine our explorations to easy hikes and indoor attractions.

The Arizona Copper Art Museum in Clarkdale pays homage to the copper mining heritage of the area.

The museum is located in the town’s former High School. The building is crammed with all things copper.

These are artillery shell casings from the First World War that have been fashioned into vessels by soldiers. The shells are brass, an alloy composed of copper and zinc.

The town of Clarkdale was built in 1912 as a company smelter town for the workers at the nearby copper mine.

We took a few easy walks along Oak Creek.

Walnut Canyon National Monument is located southeast of Flagstaff. The last time we were in the area we missed checking out the 700 year old ruins of the Sinagua people, ancestors to the Hopi.

The canyon is loaded with ruins but the public has access to a only a small number of them.

By week three we had shaken our colds and were ready for the arrival of Pat’s brother and sister in-law.

This was the first time Mike and Donna had explored the area. Of course we had to take them on some of our favorite hikes.

Devil’s Bridge

Sedona is known for its extensive Jeep trails. Mike decided he needed a Jeep to explore them.

While out with the Jeep we stopped by the Honanki cliff dwellings of the Sinagua people.

We also explored the nearby town of Cottonwood.

We then continued our explorations of Sinagua ruins at Montezuma’s Well.

The water level in this sink hole has remained constant even during Arizona’s recent droughts.

Nineteenth century graffiti is in evidence at the Well.

We stopped by the nearby V Bar V ranch to checkout the impressive wall of petroglyphs located there. As an extra treat we saw our first Coatimundi. Sorry no photos.

This is only a small sampling of the petroglyphs.

All too soon Mike and Donna returned home and we got ready to fly to Chicago to meet our new grandson Max…

and play with his big sister Rebekah.

After a great week in Chicago we returned to Arizona to continue our journey.

Red Rock Fever- Week 1

We’ve moved north of Phoenix to the Sedona area. We set up camp in Lo Lo Mai Springs RV Park 10 miles south of town in Page Springs AZ. The RV park is a family run operation along Oak Creek and has a laid back country atmosphere.

Our neighbor

With all the snowmelt up north in Flagstaff the creek was raging.

We’ve visited the area a few times and are always drawn back for the vistas and numerous hiking opportunities. In an effort to explore more trails we booked three weeks in the area.

Little Horse Trail to Chicken Point

We started our week of hiking with a relatively mellow walk in the popular Bell Rock hiking area. This trail is popular with both hikers and bikers.


Doe Mesa

Doe Mesa is a short steep climb to a remote Mesa with 360 degree views of the surrounding area. It shares a parking lot with the more popular and challenging trail to Bear Mountain. The parking lot fills early with people hiking the mountain but Doe Mesa is usually a quiet oasis.

Transept Trail

This trail has been officially recognized for only one year. Consequently it is not well known and is lightly traveled. It took two attempts to complete this hike. On the first go around-the thunder and lightning sent us scurrying back to the trail head before we reached the high point.

We came back a couple of days later to hike the complete trail. Only a few people shared the trail with us and the quiet was unique among the many trails in Sedona.

Jacob’s Ladder

Hedgehog Cactus

This trail is not just for hiking. For a few skilled riders it is a Double Diamond bike trail.

This trail is gnarly to the extreme. For us it’s not rideable but the hike was pure joy.

The trail ends at its intersection with the popular Hiline Trail with great views of Cathedral Rock.

Brins Mesa/Soldier Pass/Cibola Pass Loop

This was our longest hike. It took us five hours to walk the seven mile loop. This included a one mile detour to the high point of Brins Mesa. We got an early start and hiked alone for most of the morning.

The top of Brins Mesa

Can you spot Shelly on the mesa’s highpoint which offers terrific vistas.

Heading down through Soldier Pass

The massive sink hole that makes up Devil’s Kitchen at the intersection of Soldier Pass Trail and Cibola Pass Trail.

The “Sacred” Pools along Soldier Pass Trail

The hiking has been epic so far. We can’t wait to see what comes our way in the coming weeks.

Heading North in Arizona

When we booked four more days at Catalina State Park, we were closed out of the main camp grounds but found a home in overflow. This is really just a open parking lot with assigned spots along the perimeter.

We’re not sure why but the campers in overflow are a much more social group. We spent a pleasant four days here hiking, biking and meeting new people.

Since our stay in January the Catalina Mountains have received a bit of snow and it was melting during this stay.

What was usually a dry wash had become a broad expanse of flowing water.

Reaching the hiking trails required wading across. No problem.

Pat met up with some fellow bird nerds for some comradely bird watching. Pat’s favorite sighting that day was a Broad Billed Hummingbird.

After a lovely sunset we headed north to Lake Pleasant Regional Park on the northwest side of Phoenix.

Our new backyard view

Lake Pleasant is a large lake with 114 miles of shoreline. It was federally constructed as part of the Central Arizona Project. Most of the water comes from the Colorado River and supplies the needs of Phoenix and Tucson.

The park provides lots of opportunities for boating, fishing, hiking and biking.



Down On the Border

We moved the Tincan out of the Phoenix area and headed south to Patagonia Lake State Park. The Park is located 20 miles north of Nogales and is known for its excellent bird watching.

The Park is located a short distance from the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area. The 2.75 mile Sonoita Creek-Blackhawk Trail Loop is a moderate hike that gives you a good overview of the topography of the area. The trail starts on a dry ridge and drops down to the riparian woods along Sonoita Creek.

The loop ends at the dam that created Patagonia Lake.

A short walk from our camp spot is the start of the Bird Watching Trail. The trail gives you many opportunities to watch a wide variety of birds.

The trail follows Sonoita Creek and traverses open pasture land. As a result you share the trail with these guys.

One day we ventured into Nogales to find a tortilla factory we liked from a previous visit. Sadly Linda’s Tortillas was no longer in business. Nogales is a historic town that was established in 1841 as a land grant when the area was still part of Mexico. It became part of the US in 1853. Today it is a major border crossing for fresh produce. We decided to stop and take a look at this section of our porous southern border.

Chilly wet weather has been dogging us for a while now. However, we were not expecting this.

In spite of the snow and overcast sky at the end of our stay here we did experience and abundance of sunshine. Hopefully that sunshine returns as we continue our travels.