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

Continue reading “Part Three, Monterey, Sand City”

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.

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”

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay, Part One

There is a moment when you realize you are no longer in Coastal Southern California and have now crossed the imaginary line into the central part.    It isn’t the road signs that give it away, it is a feeling.

That moment when the traffic has subsided, your jaw relaxes, you are no longer chewing on the side of your mouth, and your body feels less stressed.

Don’t get me wrong there is traffic in the larger cities of the coastal north too.  It is just that there are so many small, quaint, and mellow towns in the central or northern part that make you feel like you are in a whole different world.

Our destination this time was Half Moon Bay.  It is a town I had passed by a few times on my way up north but one that I have always wanted to visit for a longer period.

So with four and a half days off from work, it was time to take the trek north and visit this town and many others as it turned out.

We took Interstate 5 to get there and were guided by GPS through a series of other freeways that eventually dropped us off in Half Moon Bay. It was a long trip that was not helped by the LA traffic with its stop and go.

We made a plan once we arrived in Half Moon Bay that we would investigate north one day and south the other.  On the third day we would slowly move our way south and visit among other places Monterey and Ventura.  We would spend the night in Santa Maria leaving us only three hours to get home on our last day.

It was a great plan and we never felt rushed.   Now all we had to do was try to avoid the rain that was predicted during our stay.

Part One starts at Half Moon Bay, then Pacifica, and eventually takes us over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to Sausalito.

Part One
The rain held off at least on this first day as we began exploration around Half Moon Bay. First stop was to hit the sand for some beach combing and sea glass hunting.

The bluffs were common place along the beaches in this area, making it very picturesque.  The towering and rugged cliffs contrasted against the pristine sand, while giant breakers came crashing on to the shore.

It looks like the water is going to hit JoJo, but there is about a three foot tall hill right in front of her.

I was overwhelmed on how large the waves were as they formed huge peaks and then exploded on the beach.   There would be no way I would swim in that ocean or even to wade knee high!   It appeared as if the outgoing waves could pull you off your feet and send you spiraling out to sea only to be tumbled back to shore by another huge roller.     I am not sure if this is how it always is or if the waves were just big this day.

Regardless, it is an awesome beach so we took a leisurely walk for about an hour while alternating between enjoying the coastline or looking down at the sand for sea glass.  The Pacific Ocean was beautiful this day but there was no sea glass to be found. Continue reading “Half Moon Bay”

Harmony, California

Harmony, California

We were listening to a Dean Koontz book on tape that was getting spookier by the minute.  The author spoke of a small tranquil town on the central coast of California called Harmony Center.  However, it wasn’t as peaceful as it seemed as you discover while listening to the book.

Evidently an alien “being” was taking control of the minds of people in the town and getting them to do all sorts of weird stuff.  In some cases he took over the thoughts of people just passing through, but they were able to leave, the few residents couldn’t.

In the authors description of the town he depicts it as a short jaunt off of Highway 1 and just a few miles from the coast.   This small area had a gas station, a café, cottages, and one evil entity that was making residents slit their own faces or commit murder.

As the narrator was reciting the words from the final chapter of this book, we were driving on the central coast of California on Highway 1 near Cambria.  Just ahead was a sign for the upcoming city that read …Harmony, Population 18. Whaaaaaat?

So we just had to pull over and check out this little town.

I have to admit when I got out of the car, the hairs on my neck stood up.   I was thinking of that alien that takes over your mind.

Where we were, could have easily been that place.   This quaint little town was as charming as they get and a lot of it was as he described in the book.  Except this town had the feel of art and creativity!   I did a quick mind check and thankfully no alien was taking over my thoughts so off I went to explore more.

Along with a café, there was a pottery shop and a glass blowing store which gave this town that artisan ambiance.  At times they give glass blowing demonstrations but we weren’t’ there long enough to see this for ourselves.

There was also a welcome center complete with information and fresh coffee for the weary traveler as well as conversation or sitting areas scattered about.

It was a perfect place for a wedding as there was a cute little chapel and nearby there was plenty of space for the reception.   Lights were hung to enjoy the celebration through the night and quirky art statues added to the eclectic scene.

I would have really liked to stay longer and stroll around the shops but we had to leave. We were on a mission to get to our destination.

There is talk of restoring this town to be a must stop for travelers.  For right now, it is a hidden gem with lots of personality and I am glad we decided to stop and visit.

Five minutes later we were back in the car and listening to the last five minutes of that peculiar story.   I won’t tell you how it ends but I will tell you when in the central California area, check out the small stopover of Harmony, you will be glad you did.

Story and Photos: Debbie Colwell