Sunday Drive-Lake Hodges and Del Rios Highway

Too cold to go to the beach?  Take a Sunday drive instead. Here is one in the San Diego region.

Sunday Drive-Lake Hodges and Del Dios Highway

I was surprised when we visited Lake Hodges on a very warm spring day that there were only about 5 boats out on the water.   We were told the fishing was bad so I can understand the lack of fishing vessels but it is a nice sized lake that seemed perfect for taking the boat out for a spin just for fun.

We had fished along the shore before and although we didn’t catch anything, we saw about five huge fish being caught some 100 feet down the shore from us, so we knew the fishing can at times be good.  They told me that the water was murky and at a high level so that accounted for some of the  lack of activity. Normally you can catch crappie, bluegill, carp, catfish, and largemouth bass.

The rainy California winter may not have helped the fishing but it certainly splashed the landscape with green hills and colorful flowers.  On almost every drive we have taken in the last few months it has been like that.   Amazing what a good pounding of rain will create later.

Lake Hodges is a lake and reservoir located about 30 miles north of San Diego and just south of Escondido off of Interstate 15.  It has a maximum depth of 115 feet and has about 27 miles of shoreline.


Far above the lake from Del Dios Highway

The lake is open seasonally from February through October on Weds, Saturdays, and Sundays.   Gates are open a half an hour before sunrise and lock at sunset.  There is a concession store and a place to rent rowboats, motor boats, and kayaks as well as ramps to launch your private boats.

If you feel like just hanging around for the day, there is grassy area with picnic tables and designated barbecues that are all close to the store.    There seemed to be plenty of parking places in the large lot but I don’t know how crowded it gets in summer.


A grassy picnic area

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Lake Tahoe

How to get there
I was approaching one of the highest sections of the road coming into Lake Tahoe and as if on cue the snow began to gently drop on my windshield.   I had traveled this route a few times before while on my way to visit my Sister who resided in South Lake Tahoe.  However, I wasn’t thrilled with my upcoming lack of visibility especially in this most intimidating part of the road.

In addition, the sun had already set and the sky was turning darker by the minute.   I am a beach girl and have seen snow fall maybe three times in my life, so I am not an experienced driver in these conditions.

Luckily my friend, who is from the Mid West, noticed my white knuckles firmly gripping the steering wheel and informed me that she had driven in snowstorms way worst than this.   I saw a pull-off just ahead and I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough!  I happily let her take over the driving duties.

The route we took was one of a few to get into Lake Tahoe and each one has its pluses and minuses. In the way we came, which was coming down from Echo Summit, it was very scenic and only had one area where you drove on what some people would call scary, because of its height.  But that part doesn’t last long, most of the time it is easy driving.

Besides this route, I have driven in two other ways through the years.   The longest approach from the southern part of the state is coming around the Truckee side.  If my memory serves me, it wasn’t one of those winding, switchback roads but rather a gradual incline until you arrive into the northern part of the lake.  In contrast, from the Reno/Nevada side, you are traversing through plenty of switch backs and ‘S’ turns.


The road to Tahoe

Regardless of which way you decide to take, all of them will amaze you with the picturesque scenery.

Sadly, it has been many years since I had been to Tahoe, so when a friend and her family were spending a week at an Incline Village cabin, I asked her to take some photos while I brushed away the cobwebs from my memory to write this story.

A big thank you to Stephanie Moore for the photos.

About the Lake
Lake Tahoe is a huge fresh water lake with a surface area of 191 square miles and at an elevation of 6,225 feet.

The lake is 2/3 in California and 1/3 in the state of Nevada and is the largest alpine lake in North America as well as one of the deepest in the United States.

So what is there to do in Tahoe?

The question should be what isn’t there to do in Tahoe?

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South Carlsbad State Beach

Spring is around the corner and it is almost time for the beach and some camping!

A friend once said they hate camping because you get dirty and grimy.   I thought about it and yes, that can actually be true especially when camping at state parks where your sites are usually in dirt or sand.   However, That IS camping.  You do get dirty, you do smell like camp fire smoke, you do rough it in some cases.   That is why some people prefer RV’s where you can have the comfort of home and still enjoy camping life.  You can sleep in a warm comfortable bed at night yet enjoy the outdoors, nature, the waves crashing on the beach, birds chirping in the morning,  the stars at night,  S ‘Mores around the campfire, and all that camping encompasses.  At the very least, you are getting away for the weekend even if it is close to home.

Getting away for the weekend and close to home is exactly what we did as we packed up our gear to stay at South Carlsbad State Beach.

The park sits on the cliffs just south of Tamarack Beach in Carlsbad.  It spans about 2 miles and is home to about 222 campsites some of which now have hook ups.    Obviously the best sites are the ones that sit directly on the bluff facing the Pacific Ocean.  On the other side of the road the sites may not have the same unobstructed view but it is only a short walk to find a view point overlooking the coast. At least that was the case from our campsite.

A Campsite on water
One of the sites right on the bluff, overlooking the ocean
Campsites on oceanside 1
A view looking down the only road in and out

For this particular weekend, we pulled out a brand new tent and we had two people putting it up while I sat back reading the instructions and supervising.  Hey what can I say, I was born a supervisor so that is what I should do, can’t deny my calling, right?  Once in awhile between sips of beer, I had to get up to compare the photo illustrations to make sure it was being built correctly.  The tent went up in a reasonable amount of time thanks to my brilliant direction, oh… and the other two of course.

Once accommodations were set up it was time for munchies and a fire.  Looking up at the stars, the fresh air, and talking story by the bonfire  is what camping is all about regardless if you have  a tent or a bus sized RV.  The dirt can always be washed off at the park shower and the smelly clothes can go in the washer when you get home.

South Carlsbad State Beach has a mix of campsites ranging in size.   All spaces are ample and privacy is in the form of trees and bushes between each camp.

The beach can be accessed by a long stairway available in different parts of the park. The view point and the stairs were very close to where we were so it wasn’t a long walk to get to the beach.  Climbing down the stairway is a nice little hike but not too bad.  If you go to the beach with all of your gear, plan to stay awhile.

The look out
One of the look outs

We did take the stairs down to the beach and were surprised on how many rocks were along the shore between patches of sand.  However, the rocks were gorgeous with hues of red, orange, green, blue, etc.  I was bummed that I didn’t take my camera with me as I chose to collect a few shells instead.   There were hardly any shells as it turned out so I plopped down on a comfy boulder and enjoyed the sights of the beach anyway.

Heading back up the stairs I have to admit there were a few huffs and puffs coming from my direction.  We stopped to enjoy the 180 degree view of the coastline from a bench half way up but it was just to enjoy the view and not to rest, I swear. That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

Coastline north
A view of the bluffs and beach looking north

Back at the site we just kicked back as you usually do when camping and eventually squandered over to an empty site to watch the sunset.  For dinner we cooked with a camping stove and sat at the provided cement picnic table to enjoy our delicious meal.   Also, all sites have fire pits.

It is a peaceful camping area at least in the section where we were.  They only allowed 3 cars per site which was a bummer as some of our friends wanted to come visit.   Plus the hefty $15.00 parking fee kept away anyone who was only going to stay for a few hours.  Maybe that is why it is so quiet there; nobody can plan a raging party when there is no place to park. We were told that you could park outside on Pacific Coast Highway and come in through a gate but there is no guarantee your site will be close to that entrance.  It is just as well, the quiet is nice.

The bathrooms are clean and the sites as mentioned are plenty large.  An onsite store is open until 8:00pm with pretty much everything you need or forgot to bring.

Dogs are also allowed.

The park is a great place to camp whether you want to play at the beach or just sit back and enjoy the sound of the crashing waves.

If you love camping, consider South Carlsbad State Beach.  Leave your TV behind and instead enjoy a beautiful sunset across the Pacific Ocean.  Substitute a night at your favorite restaurant for a barbecue of chicken or steak with corn on the cob, and finally, forgo that fancy dessert and instead gobble down a hot gooey marshmallow stacked between a graham cracker and Hershey bar.

That is camping, and as far as the dirt?  I say…Bring it on!!!!

Part Three, Monterey, Sand City

Part Three, Monterey, Sand City

Our home port was Half Moon Bay for the four day holiday weekend but we choose to explore north of there on one day and south on another.

On the third day we head south to our hotel in Santa Maria but first a stop in Monterey and Sand City for some sea glass hunting. Our fourth day we would slowly make our way back home towards San Diego with one quick stop In Ventura, and a little shopping in Camarillo.

Monterey and Sand City
I have driven through Monterey at least five times in my life and twice in the past few years alone. It has always been mostly a drive-by to sightsee or a quick stroll along its wharf. On this occasion we planned on spending a little more time in town and we especially wanted to visit Cannery Row.


Old meets new at Cannery Row

Sand City
Our first stop though, would be nearby Sand City for some sea glassing and beachcombing. This small town overlooks the Monterey Bay and has some of the highest sand dunes along the central coast.


This view from the Monterey wharf shows the bluffs of Sand City in the distance

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Part Two, Davenport, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Santa Cruz

Part Two,  Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Davenport, and Santa Cruz

Our home port was Half Moon Bay for the four day holiday weekend, however, our plan was to explore the nearby coastline north on one day and south on the other.

Half Moon Bay and other cities north were visited in part one of a three part story. So for part two of our trip and on the second day, we are headed down the coast towards Santa Cruz. We hadn’t considered going all the way to Santa Cruz even though it was only about an hour away. However, the drive was mellow with virtually no traffic, so we continued all the way to this larger coastal city.


Old Highway 1, north of Santa Cruz, south of Half Moon Bay

During the scenic hour long drive on the iconic Highway 1, we stopped at many beaches and state parks along the way. All we knew at the beginning was that we wanted to stop at the small town of Davenport on a search for some sea glass. The rest of the trip would be open to wherever the wind blew us. At our hotel, the elevator door had a huge photo and map of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse taken against a gorgeous orange sunset, so now this was on the list of places to see too.

Davenport:
I have heard people call this part of California; “the Slow Coast” because it is filled with small sleepy towns and Davenport is certainly one of those.

I wanted to visit Davenport Beach, because I had heard it is known for its sea glass hunting. There are videos on the internet of people using long scoops to grab the incoming sea glass before it gets pulled back out by the receding wave. With the water so cold up in Northern California, the hunters wear wetsuits and brave the incoming waves that can easily drag you out to sea.  I wanted to see this in action although my idea of sea glass hunting isn’t quite that extreme.

We did pull aside to visit a turn off just short of the actual town and combed the sand for sea glass.
Staying higher up on the beach and avoiding any incoming waves, we still managed to find a few pieces. I didn’t see anyone else hunting but it could have been the tide situation or this wasn’t the place I saw on the Youtube clips.

We drove a little further and came up the actual town of Davenport with its population of under 500 and one of those towns where if you blink, you just might miss it. There is another beach right in front of this area that is probably where I have seen the videos of the extreme sea glass hunters. We viewed the shoreline from the bluffs but since we had already tried our luck just a few minutes earlier, we decided not to take the trek down the hill.


The small town of Davenport on old Highway 1.

Continue reading “Part Two, Davenport, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Santa Cruz”