After leaving the Oregon coast, we headed east to I-5, then started the long trip south to Southern California to spend Thanksgiving with our daughter and husband. We spent a day in Redding, California, to catch up on shopping and rest for a day. Redding is an interesting town; it lies at the northern edge of the central valley and is surrounded by mountains to the west, north, and east. To the south, the terrain flattens out and becomes the central valley, stretching for 400 miles to just north of the Los Angeles basin. Leaving Redding, the drive southward is not very picturesque; miles and miles of flat highway through dusty, sometimes depressed farm towns and past orchards of nut and fruit trees. We turned east near Fresno to visit Tom and Cara, friends and co-volunteers from our last stint in Montana. They’ve settled into their new winter RV home in the Escapees “Park of the Sierras”, a wonderful place nestled in the Sierra foothills just outside of Coarsegold. The park is a beautiful area of winding roads though tree-covered rolling hills, outstanding amenities, and of course, as an Escapees park, friendly people. We enjoyed our visit, and with time for only one day trip, decided to visit what to us is one of this country’s true treasures, Yosemite Valley. We had hoped to visit Glacier Point, which provides one of the great overlook views you’ll ever experience, but the road was closed for the winter due to snow. No matter how many times we visit Yosemite, we’re surprised and amazed at the magnificent beauty. Driving into the valley, the unique sight of Half-dome, the most recognizable feature of any national park, reminded us of all of the good times we had visiting the area when we were stationed near here in Merced, at the now-closed Castle Air Force Base. Then again, visiting anyplace away from Merced was a good time.
Late fall/early winter is a great time to visit Yosemite; with kids back in school and the cool, often cold weather, the tourist crush is gone and we could park anywhere and walk to the various viewpoints without seeing hardly anyone else. Deer were everywhere, and coyote were wandering around like domestic dogs. Surprisingly, the major waterfalls, both Yosemite and Bridal Veil, were active, the result of snow melt on the higher peaks. But mostly it was just the quiet beauty of the valley and stunning views of the meadows and river that made our visit so memorable. This is truly a magical place.
After our visit, we continued south over the “grapevine” and into the Los Angeles basin. Our route required that we drive I-5 (“The 5” to Californians) through the entire LA area. You would think after driving through here that residents must pass some type of “incompetent driver’s test” – they must have to demonstrate how to fail to yield entering the freeway, the ability to maintain 85 MPH regardless of traffic conditions, and of course how to talk/text while applying makeup and changing lanes. Sometimes it’s good to be behind the wheel of a 16-ton vehicle with air horns. Somehow we made it through the area unscathed, and settled into our incredible spot at Camp Pendleton’s San Onofre Beach RV Park. Our site was right on the beach, only 20 feet from the tide line – an amazing view and the pounding surf provided a great lullaby each night. No matter what time of day or how cool the weather, we were treated to the sight of surfers right outside our window.
We’ve settled into our winter home in Texas, near New Braunfels, a town just northeast of San Antonio. We’ll be here for the next few months, until our spring journey back to Oregon and our summer of volunteering begins. We’ll continue to explore and share our travels, so stop back and see what we’ve been up to, and if you’re in the area, stop and visit!