Away from the coast we travel this time forty-five minutes to the Ramona Grasslands Preserve.
Near the town of Ramona, this Preserve is open to the public for hikers, joggers, birders, and even horseback riders. I found this to be true as I was two inches from stepping in a huge pile of horse droppings. A quick shuffle and I missed it. A few minutes later I passed by the culprit, as rider and horse were enjoying a stroll through this area of prairie grasslands, rolling pastures, and wet habitats.
This is what to expect when out in nature.
The Reserve is about ten minutes from the town of Ramona which is about 45 minutes northeast from San Diego.
For as far as you can see there is wide open land which actual encompasses 3521 acres, however, only 480 of those acres are available to the public.
Additional trails are planned for the future, but it is nice to know that there will never be homes or human development on these lands.
Walk the four-mile trail to enjoy vast grasslands, old trees, and possibly wildlife. I only saw squirrels who popped their head out once in a while then scurried back in their hole as you approached. Not much bird action although they say that eagles have been seen here.
The information sheet at the gate said that there were coyotes, snakes, and mountain lions. My walking companion mentioned how cool it would be to see a mountain lion, of which I looked her and said, “Are you kidding me!!?” She proceeded to tell me, but only if they are far away. Mountain lions are huge and can run 40-50 miles per hour, for a short period versus a human male at 8 miles per hour. Let’s see how that works out for you.
There was a stretch where the trail goes off into a heavy tree and brush area where nobody was going. In my quest to see some birds I followed that trail until I got spooked out. However, a minute later I heard the voices and laughter of about four people leaving that same place. See, no big mean mountain lions to worry about.
Although you can walk way further than we did, it is something to see with old trees, large boulders, and empty hills. There are homes in the distance too, but they don’t take away from this scenic valley.
The drive here from the coast was also spectacular which made the whole experience enjoyable.
This is a great Sunday drive and worth the price of gas, well that depends on how much you paid. But, it is certainly an interesting place.
Luckily, we didn’t see any mountain lions and I didn’t have to try to outrun them at my pace of probably 2 miles per hour.
This is yet another place that I have driven by thousands of times and looked at but never stopped.
From the coast highway, you can see the lagoon but, I never noticed all of the trails, tiny bridges, or the pure beauty of the place.
This time, we typed the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve into the GPS and decided to take a real look!
It was easily found from Interstate 5 and we slipped into one of only a few parking slots. There was a sign saying there were more spots across the street, but the parking angel was good to us as it always is.
I was surprised actually on how many people were there judging by the number of cars.
From the parking lot there is a sizable visitor center, with information on the lagoon, what species of animals and birds that can be found there, plus a gift ship.
Upstairs is an awesome lookout where you can see the whole area and the coastline. There was a family that brought food and were having a picnic at one of the many tables. It was a perfect spot and a clear, warm day in San Diego County.
Posters and information from the employee at the visitor center told me what birds I could find to photograph. There were plenty and I saw six species that I have never photographed before.
As we started towards one of the paths where it hit me on what a stunning place this was. There were trails galore and you can take your leashed pooch along.
People were jogging, walking, or just enjoying the peaceful day, but it didn’t seem crowded because it was so wide open.
There were walk-ways, bridges, marshlands, canals, and amazing birds to be seen. A large Gray Heron and White Egret were hanging out against the honey brown reeds. Another white bird was perched on a post across the water, it was nature at its best.
A loud weird sound was coming from a bird far up on the wires above and I could barely make it out even with the telephoto lens of my camera. On further inspection later with the trusty bird posters, I saw that it was a Belter Kingfisher. Never heard of it, never saw one but now I have, thanks to this Reserve.
I have seen Herons and Egrets many times but against this natural habitat and wonderfully preserved wetlands, they looked both serene and at home.
Do you want to get into nature and enjoy the creations on our earth? I highly recommend the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve.
If you ever want to see how vast California really is, get yourself out on a desert road. We had about seventy miles to go until reaching our final destination when, I noticed how desolate of an area we were driving. It was an awe-inspiring amount of wide-open space with a road that spanned for miles.
No cars to be seen, no buildings, structures… nothing.
It was a Friday morning and we were on our way to Parker, California on Highway 177.
Parker, California is across the river from Parker, Arizona so I was a few football fields away from standing in another state to qualify for writing about California. However, I will intermix a little Arizona in, as there are a few things that you have to see that are just across the border from where we were staying.
This part of the Colorado river is designed for only one thing, playing on the water!
There is resort after resort, storage units for boats or other water craft, and RV storage facilities.
The resorts are set up for RV’s, campers, or any other mode of camping you desire. Intermixed in these resorts are privately owned tiny homes and in the case of our place, a few bungalows for rent. All, right on the river.
Now, by bungalow, I mean a small trailer like structure. There was nothing fancy about it but, it had heat, shower, kitchen, TV, you know all the comforts of home without any form of elegance.
Across the river was another resort and further down on that side, there were nice homes with docks.
As I mentioned, river life is all about having fun, it is hot in the summer, very hot. Climbing in temperatures well over hundred degrees, flocking to the water is the course of the day.
However, it wasn’t summer. It was the first week in December and the days were warm at 65-69F, but at night it was a thirty-degree shift down to the forties.
So yes, we used the heater.
The nice part of it all is that there were virtually no boats on the water, I believe I saw five total during the four days we were there. So, it made for a very quiet trip with serene mornings and peaceful afternoons. It is, however, understandably busier with much more activity and noise in the summer.
The town of Parker with all of the restaurants, hotels, gas stations, stores, etc. is on the Arizona side of the river. Where we were is actually called Parker Dam, California. We were only a few miles from the dam and once you cross over the river, you are in Arizona.
Built in 1937 and at 320 feet high, the dam itself is fascinating as you can see both sides of the water. This mighty structure is filled to the brim from the river on one side, while on the other side, it spans far below. It is amazing to see how this structure can hold back so much water.
We did venture across to go twenty miles to Lake Havasu for the holiday boat parade that was taking place that weekend. Although, not in California, I have to mention it as an excursion as you just have to visit the London Bridge. Yes, it is the real London Bridge.
Here is a snippet about the bridge from the Lake Havasu Chamber of commerce:
In 1962, it was discovered that the London Bridge was “falling down,” sinking into the Thames because it was not adequate for the increase in traffic. The City of London decided to put the 130-year old bridge up for auction, and construct a new one in its place. Robert P. McCulloch, founder of Lake Havasu City, AZ, submitted the winning bid for $2,460,000 in 1968. McCulloch spent another $7million to move the London Bridge to Lake Havasu City which took a total of three years.
As mentioned, It is something to see if you are in the area and quite a sight all dressed up for Christmas. There were seventy boats participating in the parade while the whole area was overflowing with holiday decorations, lights, and spirit. Of course the whole town was there too, but that made it even more interesting…cue people watching.
Twenty miles back to Parker Dam, the bright lights have disappeared only to be replaced with pure darkness. With no city lights to speak of, the resort had rolled up its carpets for the evening and all of the residents were not to be heard from.
In the winter, all the retirees who get away from colder climates come here to stay. Party animals they are not.
The next day, we visited a few friends in two other resorts nearby. Each one had a feature that we wished was had in all. As an example, one had a great pool with bamboo thatched umbrellas scattered about, giving it a tropical locale atmosphere. The other had a cozy riverside restaurant and a sandy beach.
The one we were staying was more rustic but, I feel had the best view. Each one was unique.
I was surprised on how well I liked the area and the topography. If you squinted your eyes and imagined the pointed mountain structures to be vibrant green, you could almost see Tahiti. I may be pressing that a little, but the jagged peaks added such a uniqueness on each side of the water and the palm trees contributed to the appeal.
The water is cold this time of year yet, cool and refreshing in the summer against the hundred-degree temperatures.
In the mornings, the river was glassy and calm with not a wisp of wind. With the risk of sounding like a Guru, this tranquility and peacefulness can be very purifying for your soul.
Although the sun wasn’t out a lot of our trip, it did peak through a few times just in time for a vibrant desert sunset.
It is a laid back life for sure. A great long weekend get-a-way that we recommend.
However, in summer the river is filled with boats so, peace and quiet might not be the order of the day.
It is a yin and yang type of place that I have seen at its busiest in the past, but this time I was glad to see it in its dormant stage and so will you.
Check out any of the resorts in the area for vacation rentals by owners or small resort owned cottages/bungalows.
Story: Debbie Colwell
Photos: Debbie Colwell
River Sunset Photo: Patti Serrano
Parting Shots: Not in California but a quick drive away. Golden Marshes.