Paradise Found-Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake Sign
Imagine enjoying a leisurely lunch with delicious Mexican food, accompanied with a cool pitcher of Margaritas and warm chips to dip in delicious salsa.

After lunch and with a full belly, you head over to the pool to enjoy a relaxing nap in the shade. Near the pool sits a small sandy beach leading out to warm clean water with a small island situated just offshore.  Adding to the overall ambience is a small lighthouse in the distance and palm trees swaying in the breeze.

Later in the afternoon you find a private fishing hole and catch the largest bass of your life, in fact, the largest fish of your life.

Sounds like a vacation on a tropical island right?  Or a dream?  Actually, what I am describing is available for any resident of Canyon Lake, a private community in Riverside County, just east of Lake Elsinore.

Lighthouse 2
The small unique lighthouse sits just off from the shore.

Lighthouse G
The island G
I did say a small island was offshore.

Unfortunately, I am sorry to say that you cannot visit the lake unless you live there or know someone to get you into this gated community.

So why are we doing a staycation on a place you can’t visit?  Because, if you do happen to have a friend, relative, business associate, or just acquaintance that asks you come visit… go!!!  Make these people your best friends, or favorite cousins because Canyon Lake is a hidden gem that most people don’t know about.

Dock and tree
There are all sorts of public docks, parks, and beaches.

We were lucky enough to have our newest best friend ask us to come by for the day for a tour of the lake and to fish in a few secret spots.

Pepe’s restaurant located just outside of the gated community provided the first leg of our afternoon with the great Mexican food I mentioned and of course the cold Margaritas.  When finished, we jumped in a golf cart and proceeded towards the main gate of this private community.

Since all but a few roads are privately held and maintained by Canyon Lake,  golf carts are allowed to freely motor around the area.  Conversely, motorcycles are not allowed to drive on the streets.

Only residents and selected guests can pass through the manned gates so, sadly, we can’t just drive up for the day to take a swim in the lake.   Canyon Lake is one of only five gated communities in California and one that began as a master-planned community consisting of over 4,800 lots.

Overall view
Some of the many homes at Canyon Lake.

The marina.

As we continued the tour we were amazed by the nooks and crannies around the lake.   Small little channels tucked away beautiful homes that sat right at water’s edge with their boats docked just a few feet away.

ChannelHomes on lake

Dock with birds on it

There were beaches with pools nearby, club houses, tennis and volley ball courts, ball fields, etc.  Everything a fine resort would have except it is only for the lucky who happen to live there and, of course, their friends who visit.

Local Bords ate volleyball court
Local Birds
A great place to bird watch as I saw tons of different species. Here a few occupy a volleyball court.

Tree by Lake G 900

Some areas had a  “no wake” speed zone for swimmers while other areas allow water-skiing and wake-boarding.   There is a slalom ski area and we even saw a lone ramp for jumping.

Slaom area
The slalom course is on one side of the street.

Water skiing is a popular activity at the lake.

Ski boats, fishing boats, paddle boats, sailboats, etc. are allowed on the lake with a maximum length of 21-feet and the speed limit is 35 mph.  Surprisingly, personal watercraft  (Jet-skis, Sea Doos, etc.) are not allowed.

One side of the road
Flying by in the golf court, this was taken on the other side of the slalom course.

Each year the association stocks the lake with bass and catfish and boy did we discover this as we caught the largest fish of our life.  We were treated to a few secret fishing holes and they delivered with catches of 5 enormous bass and one small one. Our host had a catch and release policy which we were happy about. The fish is only out of the water long enough to take a quick photo. We had to take a photo because none of our friends would believe the size of these fish!

debbies Fish
I dubbed this one the Mack Daddy as it was the largest fish, I have ever caught. Our host, Paul helped hold it up.

JoJO fish
Staycationer JoJo was surprised by the size of the fish too. Her largest catch.

We were told that summer is scorching at the lake and the water rises well above 80-degrees. On any given weekend the lake is filled with boats and swimmers.   With a little over 10,000 residents I am sure it gets pretty packed especially with all of the favorite cousins and best friends wanting to get a piece of this paradise.

Roads divide the two lakes
Roads divide parts of the lake. Just when you thought you saw it all, another part appears.

There is 14.9 miles of shoreline and a good portion of that is adorned with custom homes and docks.  There are also campsites, a equestrian center, and ball fields.

It seems like a perfect place to reside save for the temperatures of 90-degrees in the summer with an occasional 100+ thrown in for good measure.  It is a very hot place to live but would be no problem for me as long as I am on the lake or in the water!

As mentioned, Canyon Lake can’t be for everybody, but if you know somebody who lives there follow these instructions: go to the nearest store and buy a nice bottle of wine or a gift of some sort. Next, call them up and say, “I happen to be in the neighborhood and have a delicious bottle of wine or_____ (insert item), can I come over?”   Then enjoy your day hopefully on the lake, in the pool, or with a fishing pole in your hand.

For those of you who live in Canyon Lake, I hope you appreciate what you have because I thoroughly enjoyed my day and was a tiny bit, no,… a LOT jealous.

As I have said about other staycations,” I may not live there but at least I can go visit.”   However, in this case I have to make sure I keep my new best friend happy.  How much is a good bottle of wine these days by the way?

Story and photos: Debbie Colwell


California Clouds

Clouds harbor 2

Wonderful California Clouds

How many of you have laid back on a warm summer day and looked up at the clouds with awe and wonder and thought, “ What are they actually?”

Thankfully we have Google which says, “Clouds are made up of a large collection of very tiny droplets of water or ice crystals. The droplets are so small and light that they can float in the air.”

There is an activity called “Cloud Spotting” with organizations that have web sites dedicated to the act of viewing images in the clouds such as faces, animals, angels, etc.  Equipped with cameras, they set out to capture unusual images in clouds and, not surprisingly, there have been some wonderful results from all over the world.

I have often seen shapes that formed the likeness of animals, etc.   I even have a friend who claimed to have seen a famous president’s face formed in the clouds. Not sure if I am buying that one, but who knows.    If you use just use your imagination, clouds can be intriguing and maybe one day you will actually see a shape that reminds you of something.    You won’t know unless you try.

I see a dog in this one. See my illustrations below.

Clouds New years day
I didn’t see it at first but someone pointed out that it looked like a wave.

Clouds can add to your day with their mountainous images and beautiful peaks or they can ruin your day as they block out the sun.  A summer beach party isn’t quite the same without the warmth of the sun beating down on the shore, yet, a sweaty outdoor worker may welcome the shade generated from the clouds.

A snowboarder will howl with delight as the clouds dump the first snowfall of the year on his or her favorite run, then again, a rain cloud can bring misery to the bride and groom about to walk down the aisle at their outdoor wedding.

Clouds South Bay
The day after a rain in Southern California

To a photographer clouds can make or break a shot.  At sunset, interesting clouds can make a photo go from average to spectacular.

Clouds Oside Pier
Clouds Harbor

It is Mother Nature at its finest.

Clouds night
Clouds frame the moon at night.

Clouds may not be as colorful as other parts of nature and sometimes go unnoticed on an average day but they are an important part of our life.

Clouds Lake
Nothing like a cloud reflecting in the water.

Clouds O'side
Unusual shapes always make the clouds interesting.

Parting Shots:

Below are some images of clouds I found intriguing.  Although they weren’t perfectly sculptured,  my imagination saw a dogs head, a skeletons hand, a incense smoke ring, and a wave. See if you can see them too.

If not, I’ll leave these images in my head only from now on, I know imagination can be subjective, plus  I don’t want to sound as kooky as the person who saw the president’s face.

Regardless, let your imagination go and enjoy the clouds!!!!!

Just for fun I wanted to show you how I saw the cloud image next the actual image.
Dog Clouds
A howling dog

Wave sample
I was more interested in the palm trees but a friend saw the wave.

Skeleton Hands Sample
I know, very weird but I saw a skeletons hand in this one.

Burning incense ring
I know I am ready for the looney bin on this one and am pressing it to the limit. But here is a depiction of Moses and an incense smoke ring.

Update on Gold Panning

As promised here is an update on the gold found in the gold panning adventure:

Photo one, the gold looks like a nice little nugget.  Photo two, shows it in proportion to a penny.

Oh well, remember it is about the adventure not the outcome!!

Gold coin Nuggett

Gold Nuggett 2

Gold Panning

There’s Gold in Dem Thar Hills!!!

Staycations California has discovered a new pastime or a bucket list event for you… Gold Panning.

Long past the Gold Rush of 1849, prospectors are still searching and finding those shinny gold nuggets in California some 160 years later. While most of it is flakes, on a lucky day you can find a few small nuggets worth cashing in. With gold at about $1,200 an ounce, even a small amount can be worth some cash.

However, you don’t just pick up a pan and go; there is more to it than that.  You must have the following basic knowledge:

  • A knowledge of where gold has been found in the past
  • A knowledge of where one can legally prospect
  • A knowledge of prospecting laws and regulations
  • A knowledge of gold deposits and geology
  • A knowledge of prospecting methods
  • That is why it is important to be a part of an organization that gives you this knowledge or organizes trips where a bunch of people can join together to work on an owned claim.

    Staycationer JoJo  attended  The Treasury Seekers of San Diego meeting and then a few days later, went out to a claim site to see what all the fuss was about.

    Ray pour sand

    For more information about The Treasure Seekers of San Diego County’s, check out their official newsletter called Finders Keepers which is published monthly.  It contains information about the organization, interesting articles, as well as good information about Gold Prospecting & Treasure Hunting.

    Meetings are on the 1st Wednesday of the Month from 6pm-9pm.  The meetings feature interesting speakers with tons of information plus a raffle that offers up some great prizes.

    Meetings also give them the opportunity to announce the upcoming events for gem finding, metal detecting and  gold claim outings.

    As mentioned, JoJo was lucky to be able to go out to a claim and experience gold panning firsthand.

    Here is a little excerpt from that experience:

    On a warm Saturday in March, a few of us took the trek out to Twentynine Palms which is located in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree. The two-hour drive took us out to a claim organized by the Treasure Seekers and American Prospector Treasure Seeker.

    Gold panning feels like an outdoor gambling experience, minus the casino and minus sitting with hundreds of your closest friends in a smoke filled room.  The thrill of hitting a jackpot in the form of gold is still there but this time you are outdoors in the fresh air!

    Ray Panning

    Digging the dirt and panning, gives you new appreciation for the hard work and patience that our early settlers endured while trying to make a buck.   Equipped with just the basic tools, the early prospectors really had to work hard for their bounty.

    JoJo shoveling

    Flash forward to today and we are still using pans to sift through the dirt and rock but  this time it is just to see if there is gold or gold flakes  in the area.  Once established that there could be gold in that area, the digging begins and the fancy equipment starts. Machines separate the rocks and eventually the gold!

    The tools
    A good eye and instinct aren’t bad traits either and learning where the gold is most likely to settle is part of the fun too.  Certain plants, rocks and riverbeds are all good indications and all part of learning about this ever growing activity.


    The experience itself takes you outdoors to enjoy the warm breezes, nature, and, in our case…DIRT.  Yes, dirt.  However, you are away from cell phones, obligations, and responsibilities.  All your worries are left behind and that in itself makes for a good day.  Freedom to play in the dirt with the flakes of gold dangling in your sights is relaxing in its own way.    I will tell you, that at the end of the day, you will feel like you have worked hard but it is rewarding and satisfying.

    Even after the day is over, you can take home with you more dirt to sift through later, making this an ongoing experience.

    Ray pour sand

    It may not be glamorous, but it is still a lot of fun getting out in the open and back to our heritage of the Gold Rush in California. There may not be gold in dem thar hills but there may be gold in dem thar dirt!!!

    Stay tuned to see if we found anything.


    Story: Debbie Colwell and Jolan “JoJo” Schmidt

    Photos: Janice Davies and JoJo Schmidt


    The Things you see in California

    This pictorial shows just some of the fun animals you can see on any given day by the coast in California.  If you don’t live by the coast, take a staycations and visit for the  weekend or week.

    Just step outside and explore!!!

    A Seal Bodysurfing:

    Bodysurfing seal

    A Whales Tail:

    Whales tail

    A Pelican Flying:

    Pelican flying

    A Pelican chilling on the Pier:

    Pelican Oceanisde

    A Baby Seal and Momma:

    :Baby Seal Oceanside

    A Seal Saying Hello:

    Seal poking head out of water

    An Otter:


    A Pod of Dolphins Riding your Boat Wake:

    Multiple dolphins

    A Sea Gull Posing:

    Morro--Sea Gull

    An Orange Fish: (Garabaldi Perch)


    A Dolphin Jumping:

    Dolphin flying

    An Elephant Seal with it’s Baby:


    Canadian Geese:

    Canadian Geese