San Diego Botanical Gardens


I wish I would have visited the San Diego Botanical Gardens just two hours earlier. Maybe I wouldn’t have man-handled my succulent that I was replanting because of a broken pot. The poor thing is either going to flourish in its new home or die a slow death.     Coincidentally, two hours later while I am at the botanical gardens, a lady was speaking on how to plant and handle succulents.  She taught the crowd about things to do and things not to do.  My planting skills were on the not to do list.

The informative seminar is one of a few that they had in progress on this warm spring day in April.  Nearby, another woman spoke on the care of orchids which was perfect for my friend who had one sitting on her dining room table at home.   I am sure she listened carefully to the helpful tips as to keep the beautiful flower the vibrant purple that it was in its current state.

Art on a Sunday Afternoon
The “>San Diego Botanical Gardens has been a mainstay in Encinitas, California for many years.  Originally it was called Quail Botanical Gardens but changed its name in 2009 to gain more attention as a regional attraction.

We saw an advertisement for an “Art Fest” on social media that caught our eye and decided it was the time to give this place a visit.

So on a warm Sunday afternoon we decided to check out the San Diego Botanical Gardens and the “Art Fest”.   The festival was in full bloom with various booths featuring paintings, photography, sculptures, gourds, wood carving, and various other crafts, all from local artists.  It is always nice seeing what these creative people display and we were not disappointed.

As one of our staff members was limited on how far she wanted to go based on a broken ankle, it gave me the opportunity to go off on my own to explore the grounds.

Trails, Waterfalls, and Bamboo
Trails upon trails twist you through twenty nine themed gardens featuring , to name just a few, California native plants, desert gardens, tropical rain forest, succulent gardens, herb gardens, and even one that features fire-safe landscaping,  which is perfect if you live in California.


One of the trails

My favorite was the bamboo grove which is said to be the largest collection in the United States. It features some mighty large bamboo pieces with a nifty Japanese hut displayed smack in the middle of the grove.

I didn’t realize the gardens would be as hilly as I took off to meander through the grounds.  It wasn’t good for staycationer JoJo who had a foot cart to rest her broken ankle.   However, along the route I saw people in wheel chairs and walkers, so it couldn’t be all that bad.  Still, the art show was the main appeal for her anyway and another friend who also had some walking issues.

The hills were actually easy to traverse and where there were stairs, the steps were low and wide, making it super easy to climb.  Good thing because I saw a really high look-out tower in the distance and proceeded to make my way in that direction.

Along the trails, signs point out the various gardens with information about each region and type of flower or plant.

Distracted by the subtle hum of water or a stream, I changed direction and headed that way instead.   As the sound became louder, I pulled out my camera and was quite surprised to see an impressive three story waterfall.

The water cascaded slowly down the rocky slope making this and the shaded areas nearby one of the most tranquil areas on the grounds.   You can also find benches placed along the way to relax and enjoy the scene.

Look-outs, Parks, and Music
Heading higher now, I make my way to the look-out tower which had an amazing 360 degree view of inland Encinitas plus it was high enough to see all the way up the coast.


This was just a small portion of the view, you could see more from the other side.

I was thinking it was time to get back to my injured guests so I proceeded back down the hill.  On the way back,  I passed by more art booths that were set up in a cute little park area where on stage a gentleman was playing  soothing Zen type music.

I read later that this park as well as other areas can be rented out for the day for weddings and receptions.

Every place like this has to have a gift shop and the San Diego Botanical Gardens is no exception.  Nearby, the Feel Good Coffee Cart offers up salads, sandwiches, treats, and of course coffee.

Back near my original starting spot I gave one last look around and I noticed a cute little miniature house no more than two feet high.  Right around the corner there was also a miniature railroad that the kids seemed to be enjoying.


This house is only two feet high

If you love plants and want to see rare and unique species, this is the place for you.  This attraction can take anywhere from one hour to four hours to see depending on how much time you spend visiting each garden.

They call a person with the opposite of a green thumb, a black thumb.  I always thought I was somewhere in between, even though I may have murdered my poor succulent at home.

Regardless of your thumb color, if you have a thing for plants, or if you just want to get out for a relaxing day,  enjoy a day at San Diego Botanical Gardens.

Find out more about San Diego Botanical Gardens by visiting their website at: https://sdbgarden.org/

Story and photos: Debbie Colwell

Parting shot:

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Pirates Tower


As you know, we are always looking for something interesting to see or do in California so we can report back to you on the chance this might be something you would also like to explore.  So in that spirit, I heard about a hidden tower in Laguna Beach that sits directly against an ocean cliff and that you can only access during low tide.

With a free Sunday and a few friends wanting to take a drive, it was time to finally check out this mystery structure.

Not really knowing much about it, I asked my friends if they wanted to go see a lighthouse in Laguna, their reply, “you had us at lighthouse.”

The History of the Tower
As it turned out, I was wrong, it was not a lighthouse at all.  It wasn’t until I researched it later that I found out exactly what it was and why it was there!    When we saw it, we were speculating that maybe it was a lookout turret constructed after Pearl Harbor, or something really old from the swashbuckling days.

It was nothing like that; it was actually constructed in 1926 as an enclosed staircase that allowed its owner who at the time was Senator William E. Brown, to reach the secluded beach below.   The 60 ft. structure does in fact sit right up against a cliff and as mentioned can only be accessed at low tides and a rugged journey over rocky terrain.

The home was sold sometime in the 1940’s to a retired Naval officer who, as the story is told, would dress up as a pirate and hide coins around the tower for neighborhood kids to find.  Eventually it got the name that the locals call it today, Pirates Tower.

How to Get There
Along Pacific Coast Highway and Nyes Place sits Victoria Beach which is actually well known as a popular beach for the hard core skim boarding crowd.

It is an awesome setting with the dazzling blue water and a super clean sandy beach.

Offshore, rock formations dot the coastline and on this extremely clear winter day, you could see Catalina as well as San Clemente Islands perfectly in the distance.   The whole place is amazing and looks like it could be a scenic beach somewhere in Hawaii.   Once we were finished admiring our setting, we turned our attention to finding the tower.


Catalina Island in the distance was as clear as a bell this day

Locating it isn’t a problem or hard to figure out, just follow the trail of people. When reading how to get there I saw that it said, to go on a weekday or early on the weekends to avoid the afternoon crowds.  Here we were at 2:00pm on a Sunday so a crowd is what we got.   The people are no big deal unless you want to take a photo without a body in the shot. I stood there until it was clear and was lucky to get the tower alone.

How to Get There, Part Two
It takes a little hiking over rocks to reach the tower as it is not directly seen from the beach. You have to traverse over an uneven rocky surface to finally get around a corner to get your first view.   One friend in our group didn’t want to go because she felt her balance wasn’t up to snuff for that rough of a trek.  I think I made her decision even easier as my first steps landing me directly on my knees.

Luckily it was on a small patch of sand so it was like landing on a cushion.  Just a few feet more, I would have been in a great deal of pain.

I lumbered on because I was the picture taker, but I definitely choose the wrong shoes for the journey, thin and flimsy sneakers just don’t cut it.   As I was gingerly stepping on the rocky landscape I was thinking that I should research my destinations better.

The Tower in Person
We finally reached the tower and it was pretty cool; however, I was more impressed with the surrounding area.  Against the rocky terrain there was a small natural pool of clear blue water that I thought might be pretty amazing to swim in during the summer.  I wondered if the locals did just that.

Tide pools were everywhere and again there was the beautiful Pacific Ocean as a backdrop.

Back to the tower, we were able to walk right up to it by virtue of the low tide.  I am told it is not accessible during high tides or large waves.

The lower half was built of stones and a staircase leads you right to the rusty door which of course is locked.  A small metal window shows its age with years of salt water damage.


Even though I didn’t know its history at the time, I was expecting to daydream about pirates and treasures like I normally would.  I guess I was too concerned with watching my every step as to not land on the ground like before.   It was all rock now and no sand to soften the blow…it would hurt.

This 92-year-old structure didn’t have the captivating history we expected but it was still an interesting sight to see.  I am glad I can say I saw it and it is off the bucket list.


If you choose to see it yourself, expect to have to park on the coast highway or streets above the beach. The neighborhoods nearby do not have any parking areas.

Expect to walk over rocks and be sure and check the tides. Obviously low tide is the best.

Also, plan to stay a while so you can enjoy the beach, the tide pools, and the scenic area.

Lastly, take good shoes for walking over the rocks and learn from mistake…luckily all I got was a bruised ego.

Photos and story: Debbie Colwell

Dixon Lake

Dixon Lake

As mentioned many, many times before, California is a place of many colors and textures. You have beaches, forests, deserts, rivers, lakes, and so much more!

There are over 3,000 lakes and reservoirs in California with a vast range of sizes.   Some are under 100 acres and you would be hard pressed to find these smaller ones on a map.

Such is the case with the 80 acre Dixon Lake nestled in the foothills of Escondido.   In comparison, Lake Hodges, which is about 26 miles away, is just over 1,200 acres and Lake Tahoe is over 122,000 acres.  So yes, I would say it is a little on the smallish side.

Despite its size, the lake is very scenic and families flock to its park for picnics, outdoor games, or to camp at one of its forty-five RV sites.


Dock One near the store and park

You can rent a boat to just cruise around or try fishing for a chance to catch one of their sizable stocked trout.    Bass, crappie, bluegill, and cat fish also call Dixon home and you can find places along the shore to throw out your line.

Continue reading “Dixon Lake”

Dockweiler Beach

Dockweiler Beach

While visiting Marina Del Rey one weekday, we decided to investigate what beaches were nearby since the harbor is only about a mile from the coast.    Heading west, you hit the world famous Venice Beach, and traveling south you reach Playa Del Rey.  Just south of Playa Del was our destination, Dockweiler Beach.

As the daylight was waning, we decided to stop and hit the sand to do some quick sea glass hunting as well as watch the impending sunset.

The Beach
At the entrance of Dockweiler Beach, there were a few sizeable parking lots with plenty of spaces and it costs about three bucks to park, not bad.

On the beach, the sand was thick and each step pulled on your calves as we made our way to the water.  For some reason I thought the beach would be dirty since there are usually massive crowds using Los Angeles beaches, however, I found this one clean and free of trash.

I heard that Dockweiler was voted one of the best beaches for bonfires and I can see why based on the amount of fire rings I saw.   Even on this cool winter night, a few people were already transporting wood out to the large cement rings.

Dockweiler State Beach spans about three miles and is directly under the flight path of Los Angeles International Airport.  The planes fly just above the beach and you can almost wave to the passengers as they pass by on their way to places all around the world.

The beach is wide and,unfortunately, I didn’t see any rocks that would be optimum for glass hunting. However, just past the deep sand towards the water there were all these little white shells and in between the shells, there was glass.  Even though it wasn’t particularly smooth and more on the thin side, it was frosted so it met the criteria to save.

Besides the ample parking lots, there are nice bathroom facilities, a picnic area, and a concession stand.

It seems like a great place to take the family, swim, surf, or any other beach activity.  There is also a paved bike path and lifeguards are on duty at certain times.  Nearby sits a RV park and camping facilities with 117 spaces available.

We were only there an hour or so, yet you get accustomed to the drone of the planes flying over-head. With camera ready I tried to get a shot of a jumbo jet, but none came by.  I settled for a snap of one of the smaller planes even though LAX is home to enormous airplanes that carry hundreds of passengers on long international flights.

As the sun was setting across the horizon, I put my head down and tried to find a few last minute pieces of borderline sea glass before it got dark.   I found a hand full and was quite happy.

Glancing at the pastel colors that were now stretched across the sky, I realized that I could see way down the coast past South Bay and almost to Pacific Palisades.  I was warming up to L.A. beaches.   They are not like my beloved San Diego County as they have a whole different feel, still, I would be happy hanging out at this one.

The distinct smell of a bonfire was now filling the air as we made our way back to the car.  Although the day could easily be spent in shorts and t-shirts, we know in California that February nights can be rather nippy.  I hope they all brought plenty of wood to burn.

For a great day at the beach, visit Dockweiler.  To find it, drive parallel to runway 24L and once you reach the coast you are there!

Story and photos: Debbie Colwell