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.

To get to Dixon Lake, get your GPS out because there are no big signs leading the way.

A short drive up a hill takes you to the entrance and it is a nominal $5.00 fee to park.  You do need a fishing permit but it is also reasonably priced.

There are four dock areas that you can easily access from the road.  Each dock has benches which are perfect for kicking back and enjoying the view or to fish.

We chose dock three as it was quiet and serene on this cool winter day. Once in a while a noisy family would come by to throw out a fishing  line, but kids get bored  and with no fish biting, they were soon gone… yay,  back to quietude.

It turns out adults get restless, too, and with only one bite in two hours, it was time to leave. By the way, that one bite did yield a nice sized trout but it wasn’t enough to keep us there, especially since the sun was dipping behind a hill and it would soon get chilly.

Luckily Dixon Lake is open year-round (closed Christmas Day) so we will be back.

The gates are open daily at 6:00 a.m. and I hear on the weekdays you can get in for free.

You can’t fault a peaceful day on a lake, with the water, the trees, and the birds… its nature at its best.  Although small in area, visiting the lake takes you away from the city for awhile as if you are two hours up in the mountains.

All and all, it was a great day spent at a picturesque little gem some 30 miles from the coast.

Speaking of the coast, I wondered if we had time to catch the sunset.  You see, that is California, where you can be on a breezy lake one minute and then another watching the sunset with the sand between your toes.

Ah, the many colors and textures of California.

Story and photos: Debbie Colwell


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

Marina Del Rey 2018

Four years ago I decided to start staycationscalifornia.com and the very first story was on Marina Del Rey.

So why Marina Del Rey for the first one? It actually started from a childhood memory. I know, I know, me and my childhood memories, but this one obviously left a lasting impression.

It was many years ago and I was a young spectator watching outrigger canoe races in the Marina Del Rey harbor. My older sister was a participant in this regatta where teams from all over the state raced in distances from a quarter to a full mile.

To kill time in between races, I sat in a restaurant patio sipping on a Shirley Temple and listening to tropical music that was piping out of the speakers. The soft piano and cool bird sounds made you feel like you were in an exotic locale not in the middle of Los Angeles County. It was a warm day, the bay was full of boats, and a mild breeze was streaming through the trees. I thought that this was the most relaxed I have ever been in my life and I was only ten years old!!!

So I wanted to go back and see if it still held the magic that it had many years ago.

A Magical Place
Since that first time, I had been back to Marina Del Rey four times, this story being the fourth. The people I took with me all said the same thing, that Marina Del Rey made them feel good, that they actually got a feeling of well-being.

Was it the boats, the water, the proximity to the ocean and the negative ions? I don’t know but I too love Marina Del Rey.

How can a place make you feel like that? It just does.


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Huntington Beach

Surf City USA
Huntington Beach is a seaside community in the heart of Orange County with a population of over 200,000.  There is so much to do in this city but let’s face it; HB as it is known, is all about the beach, the ocean, and surfing!

When I was a kid they held a worldwide surfing championship at the pier and for us locals, it was just as popular as the Super Bowl or the World Series.  Crowds flocked to Huntington Beach to watch world class athletes perform at its famous surf break.  We would always arrive there as early as we could to get a prime view from the pier.

In the early days, the contestants rode ten feet long surfboards and it always amazed me how they accomplished such smooth footwork while moving back and forth on the board.  At the end of the wave, they would whip the board in the opposite direction for a stylish cut-back, as it was called.  Sometimes for more points, they would casually stride across the board towards the nose to execute the crowd pleasing “Hang Ten” maneuver.

Over the years the boards got  smaller and smaller so today the riders fly, snap, cut , carve, gyrate  across the wave on boards half of the size of their predecessors.  Both styles are just as impressive in my opinion.

The crowds still turn up for this huge event much to the happiness of local merchants and vendors.  It is a world renowned contest and with such a long history with the city, it is no wonder they call Huntington Beach, “Surf City USA”.

With miles of wide sandy beaches and prime surfing waves, the city embraces the surf culture.  There are over 50 surf contests held per year including the aforementioned US Open of Surfing.   It also is home to the International Surf Museum, the Surfers’ Hall of Fame, and the Surfing Walk of Fame.

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Three and a Half Days ,Summerland, Carpenteria, Downtown Ventura

Last year we wrote a story entitled “Five and a Half Days” in which we visited San Francisco, Sausalito, Napa, Fairfield, Suisun Bay, Benicia, The Delta, plus visited the Jelly Belly Factory, fished Grizzly Island, and so much more yet only in five and a half days. We never felt rushed and spent hours just leisurely kicking back or fishing along the rain saturated banks of the delta.
This time we are doing a mini version called, Three and a Half Days. On this trip, we visited Cayucos, Avila Beach, Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, Oceano, Summerland, The Dutch town of Solvang, Carpenteria, Downtown Ventura, and Santa Barbara. We visited a butterfly grove, an ostrich farm, we saw six piers plus drove on, we fished at night under a full moon, we saw otter and seals, and made it back home in time to watch the 6:00 news. As with the other trip, we never felt rushed.

Summerland and Carpenteria
On our drive home, we decided to check out a few of the smaller cities that dot the map just south of Santa Barbara., Summerland was one such place. As with other towns on the central coast, unique homes line the hills with what I am sure are spectacular ocean views. Don’t blink because from what I could tell, it only has one main street with restaurants and shops. The rest of the area was filled with private homes. It’s just as charming as Cayucos yet a lot smaller and I’m sure lodging is very limited. If you want relaxation, peace and quiet with beautiful beaches nearby, it is worth a try to find a Bed and Breakfast or an Airbnb.

After a short drive through the community, the 101 freeway entrance was just ahead, so we hopped back on towards Carpenteria.

Another attraction I have passed by many times without stopping on this coastal route was Santa Claus Village. It sat right at the edge of the freeway and you couldn’t miss it with its giant Santa Claus head atop one of the buildings and the rest of the shops all dressed up in holiday attire.

On this occasion since we were just cruising and exploring, we decided to take the off ramp on to Santa Claus Lane. It was a short drive that passed by a small beach and dead ended after the village. Much to my dismay, Santa Claus Village wasn’t there!! It was torn down to make way for new retail stores, restaurants, and even a few surf shops. No hint of Santa anywhere! I guess I blew it and should have stopped there when I had the chance many years ago. They say the eighteen foot tall Santa head now has a new home in Oxnard, California.

Not being able to visit the village, we set our sights on the beach that we passed by earlier.

With easy parking, we got out of the car to take a little stroll on the sand. As always, the eyes were ever vigilant for the illusive sea glass. A few people were walking their dogs on water’s edge and I admired the homes that were propped up on the beach or on the bluffs nearby.

The sand was soft on the feet and the water was a sparkling blue. A few wet suited surfers sat just offshore waiting for a set of the waves while a few kids splashed around near shore braving the 60 degree water. I know, I know, 60 degrees is balmy to some of you from the Mid West or Northeast.

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