Five and a Half Days-A Five-Part Series (The California Delta)

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Part Five: The California Delta

This is the fifth and final story in a five-part series of a road trip taking us into Northern California from San Diego County. We visited San Francisco, Sausalito, Fairfield, Benicia, Suisan City, Suisan Bay, Napa, and the Delta. We went to Pier 39 in San Francisco, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge twice, saw the hundreds of houseboats in Sausalito, toured the Jelly Belly factory, fished on the delta, rode on two ferry boats, crossed over four large bridges, and many small draw bridges, saw autumn colors, saw the last of our naval ghost fleet, and viewed the gorgeous vineyards in Napa… all in five and a half days.

The California Delta

A while back, I was given an article from someone who thought it might be interesting to post on my Staycations California page. It was a story about how California landed three of the best family fishing spots in the U.S. from the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. That seemed like quite an accomplishment considering all of the lakes, streams, rivers, and ocean fronts throughout the U.S. One of the areas they mentioned was part of the California Delta which is located in the central part of the state. I had never heard of the California Delta so it piqued my interest. Most people I spoke to had never heard about it either except for some of my northern California friends.

This is exactly the type of thing that I wanted to feature on Staycations California. Our goal is to experience places outside of the normal, away from the obvious, and locations most people don’t know about or even think about visiting.

Staycationer JoJo is the angler out of the group and a newbie at fishing so it didn’t take much to convince her to go. It might be a harder sell for some of my other friends though. I handle the photography so I always want to go to interesting places to satisfy my hobby as well as stimulate my mind for writing about it later. So the planning and research began, California Delta here we come.

The California Delta is 1,000 miles of recreational waterways where six rivers cascade from the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range into the central valley and eventually make their way to San Francisco Bay. The Delta features multiple waterways or rivers that bend and rest up against historical rural towns or Gold Rush villages where history is deep. In the Delta, the largest town is Walnut Grove with a population of about 1,500 so this is an extremely rural and sparsely populated area. There are 57 islands large and small, ferry boats, drawbridges, sloughs, and over 30 small marinas. Abandoned buildings and boarded up neighborhoods give you a glimpse of the past while over 100 launch ramps along the waterways keep it all alive for boating and fishing.

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Going across the Sacramento River on a ferry boat

Pittsburg

Our actual Delta portion of our trip officially started in Pittsburg, California…yes Pittsburg. I also saw signs for Staten Island, and the Chicago Port. I had to remind myself that I was still in California.

Pittsburg is a city of about 65,000 and sits in the outer portion of the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay.

Our first stop was the McAvoy Yacht Harbor to ask about places to fish in the area. This rustic marina sat next to an old abandoned building and had the ambiance I was hoping to see. I don’t always need shinny new boats sitting in pristine harbors, sometimes I want to see warn out and old, something that tells a story.

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There was a dock that was already occupied by a family of anglers, a launch ramp, and a tackle store. Staycationer JoJo checked out the tackle shop to ask about places to fish and then came back with, “He said you can go over there or over there,” as she pointed in each direction. Not much to go on. I guess that is the way of the delta, fish where you can and where you want.

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In our case, we traveled on to find that perfect fishing spot. Let me tell you, we found it!

About a couple miles away was another marina but this time it had a more modern look with nicer and newer looking boats.

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There was a small jetty and we walked over and asked the guys that were fishing if they knew where we could throw out our lines. They pointed to a small empty pier that sat about a hundred feet away. We questioned them again because we were surprised that nobody was on it fishing. Did the locals know something we didn’t?

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Our private pier for the day

We wandered over to the mini pier and set up chairs and our gear. What a perfect spot! The bay was beautiful against this sunny day and on the other side were vibrant green hills, a few farm houses, and dozens, if not hundreds of wind turbines. To our left was the marina and to the right some kind of refinery that when I asked the locals what it was, nobody seemed to know.

We threw out our line and within minutes a fish was caught, a Striper. Not a bad size either. He easily came off the line and immediately thrown back. Another fish was caught and within minutes after that, one more, then another, and another. It was non-stop for almost three hours! If we weren’t catching fish, we were getting strikes and nibbles. It was almost too much…almost. The two fishermen on the jetty gave their approval by calling over to us and hooting with their thumbs up.
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Non stop fishing with small and large fish. Here a medium sized

I couldn’t understand why they weren’t running over to the pier after seeing how many we were catching. I mean some of them were nice sized fish, at least to us.

A half an hour later I found out why.

These boys weren’t messing around with our little minnows, no; they were going for the mack daddies!
I looked over to see this huge fish hoisted up for all to see by our fisherman buddies from the jetty. It was at least a four-foot-long sturgeon! I hooted back at them and returned the favor of the thumbs up sign. Wow!   That showed me what is swimming around in the Delta along with many other species of fish, including trout and bass. No wonder it got top three.

We went back to fishing for our now mini daddies but I just wanted to chill out, so I sat back in my comfy chair and enjoyed the view. This looked so different from the coast where we live.  First off, in Southern California there wouldn’t be that much open land.  As a lone sailboat glided by, I couldn’t help but being impressed by the scene before me.

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With only a couple hours left of sun, we headed east to explore deep into the Delta farther. I actually wanted more time but that fishing dock took up most of the day. Not complaining at all though.

Continue reading “Five and a Half Days-A Five-Part Series (The California Delta)”

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Five and a Half Days-A Five Part Series (Suisan Bay, Benicia, Napa)


Part Four: Suisan Bay, Benicia, Napa

This is the fourth part in a five-part series of a road trip taking us into Northern California from San Diego County.   We visited San Francisco, Sausalito, Fairfield, Benicia, Suisan City, Suisan Bay, Napa, and the Delta. We went to Pier 39 in San Francisco, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge twice, saw the hundreds of houseboats in Sausalito, toured the Jelly Belly factory, fished on the delta, rode on two ferry boats, crossed over four large bridges, and many small draw bridges, saw autumn colors, saw the last of our naval ghost fleet, and viewed the gorgeous vineyards in Napa… all in five-and-a-half days.

Suisan Bay  
Many years ago I saw a documentary about hundreds of military ships that had been decommissioned and were floating dormant in a big harbor somewhere in the U.S.   I found out recently that Suisan Bay was that place.   So while in this area we just had to see these old ships and possibly take a boat tour out in the bay to get a closer look at these relics.

Suisan Bay is a continuation of the larger San Francisco Bay and is filled with industry , refineries, and what looks like a home port for other ships as well as the yet to be seen  old military ships.

As we arrived in town we saw the sign for a vista point and I took that exit to get a prime view of the bay and all of the ships.  It was a gray morning and almost on the verge of raining so visibility wasn’t great.  This part of the bay is where the ghost fleet, or moth ball fleet as it is sometimes called, is located.   As we were presented the first view of the bay, I could see the ghost ships, all… four of them.  Four?  Where were the rest?  We were going to have to investigate further.

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Only a few ships remain in Suisan Bay

While trying to get back to town we actually took an exit into the town of Benicia. While there, a local man told us that most of the ships were no longer in the harbor. For many years they have been scraped for the metal or sent to various other areas.  As an example, the U.S. Iowa now acts as a museum and is on display near Long Beach Harbor for tours. Later I researched it, and sure enough the ships were gone save for a few.  I am going to have to investigate my destinations a little more closely next time.

Since the ships had been long gone, we decided to stay in Benicia and check out that charming town.

Benicia
The city of Benicia, is called the “jewel” of the Bay Area because it is a waterfront community filled with that small hometown charm.  This was evidenced as we drove down a tree lined street filled on both sides with specialty shops, antique stores, and restaurants.  The trees framing the road were rich in fall colors and beyond you could see the bay.

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Five and a Half Days-A Five Part Series (Fairfield, Jelly Belly, Grizzly Island)

Part Three: Fairfield. Jelly Belly Factory, Grizzly Island
This is the third part in a five-part series of a road trip taking us into Northern California from San Diego County.   We visited San Francisco, Sausalito, Fairfield, Benicia, Suisan City, Suisan Bay, Napa, and the Delta. We went to Pier 39 in San Francisco, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge twice, saw the hundreds of houseboats in Sausalito, toured the Jelly Belly Factory, fished on the Delta, rode on two ferry boats, crossed over four large bridges, and many small draw bridges, saw autumn colors, saw the last of our naval ghost fleet, and viewed the gorgeous vineyards in Napa… all in five and a half days.

Fairfield
The big pull for this vacation was the California Delta which I will explain later in part five. So in looking for hotels in the general area, the Hampton Inn caught our eye because it faced and sat at the end of a charming little marina complete with a riverboat and a full sized lighthouse. It looked like something out of Cape Cod but was actually in Fairfield, California. It was also in a perfect location to easily visit some of the places we wanted to see plus close enough to start the last leg of our journey through the towns along the California Delta on Highway 160.

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Fairfield is a city east of San Francisco with a population of about a 100,000.  It sits on the very end of a waterway that is an offshoot of the neighboring Suisan Bay.  The hotel, the marina, and lighthouse were every bit as eye-catching as the photos on their website.  The hotel itself was a stone’s throw from the water’s edge and you could actually cast a line out in front and fish from the walkway.

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Jelly Belly Factory Tour

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Let it Snow Holiday Concert at the Marriott

Let it Snow Holiday Concert at the Marriott

If you follow Staycationscalifornia, you know by now that staff member JoJo is always looking for things to do and unusually activities.  Not that this is unusual or crazy, but she wanted to go to a holiday concert, one that played all the seasons tunes.

She found one at the La Jolla Marriot featuring a saxophonist who would be playing all of the hits of the holiday season.   That is all I was told when I agreed to go.

The concert was held in one of the Marriott’s conference rooms and I was happy to see that any seat was going to be a good one; I love intimate concerts like this.

Good start so far although I was wondering how it was going to be, hearing only Christmas music for over an hour with just the saxophone, even though it’s one of my favorite instruments.

On the stage were keyboards so I knew that it wasn’t going to be just the saxophone.

We took our seat and, soon after, the keyboardist came on stage and started playing.  Now we were waiting for the saxophonist to appear.   All of a sudden you heard this amazing sound come through the speakers; it was the sweet sound of a soprano saxophone.The artist was walking from the back of the room while playing right in front of you as he made his way on stage.  The saxophone was less than a foot from my ears at times.

Continue reading “Let it Snow Holiday Concert at the Marriott”

Five and a Half Days: A Five Part Series (Sausalito)

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Part Two: Sausalito

This is part two in a five-part series of a road trip taking us into Northern California from San Diego County.   We visited San Francisco, Sausalito, Fairfield, Benicia, Suisan City, Suisan Bay, Napa, and the Delta. We went to Pier 39 in San Francisco, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge twice, saw the hundreds of houseboats in Sausalito, toured the Jelly Belly factory, fished on the delta, rode on two ferry boats, crossed over four large bridges, and many small draw bridges, saw autumn colors, saw the last of our naval ghost fleet, and viewed the gorgeous vineyards in Napa… all in five and a half days.

Scenic and Quaint
I haven’t been to Sausalito in many, many years but it left a lasting impression on me the last time I visited. I remember it as being this quaint and picturesque town west of San Francisco and on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge.  It is a must see if you are traveling to San Francisco. Just take that big ole red bridge over to the other side of the bay and follow the signs.

As I was driving over the breathtaking Golden Gate Bridge, I was hoping that Sausalito was the same charming town I remembered.  Riding through town, I was happy to see that it was.

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Sausalito sits on the more subdued Richardson Bay and is surrounded by hills speckled with homes that have the most amazing view. I know this because we drove up into the hills and we saw that view and It WAS amazing.

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Continue reading “Five and a Half Days: A Five Part Series (Sausalito)”