Port Hueneme

Port Hueneme,

When I first heard of Port Hueneme many years ago I had just three questions, where the heck is it?, what is in Port Hueneme, and how do you pronounce Port Hueneme?  The answers in short are:  Near Oxnard, California, a Naval base, and Wy-nee’mee.

So now that we got that out of the way, let me give you a little more info and insight about this interesting coastal town.

Port Hueneme has a population of around 22,000 people and is home to a naval base as well as a bustling port for commerce ships coming in to supply the area.   We inquired at the hotel desk if there were any touristy spots in the harbor area and they said no.  There are no harbor side restaurants, no boat rental places, gift shops, etc.  However, just a few miles up the road in the city of Oxnard, the Channel Island Harbor provides all of that.  The port in Hueneme may not be a hub for visitors but it is a vital supply chain for Ventura County and some of Southern California.


The Naval Base

We found an amazing hotel price at the Holiday Inn Express just one block from the beach and pier, so we jumped at the deal.  It was a super nice hotel that looked fairly new and it was situated on one of the main streets.   It offered rental bikes and surreys to tool around the beach area which would have been about a two or three minute peddle away.

We bypassed the bicycles and instead jumped in the car to investigate the area.  The pier would be our first stop so we brought our fishing poles just to be prepared.   We weren’t opposed to setting up our chairs, throwing out our lines, and relaxing pier side.

This simple wooden structure itself isn’t that long at 650 feet and has absolutely nothing on it. A lot of piers in California have a life guard tower, a restaurant, store, or at the very least, bathrooms.  Here, there is nothing, it’s just a pier.   That kind of made it unique in my opinion. However, near the parking lot there IS a lifeguard building, bathrooms, and a restaurant with a view of the coast.

It was a cold February day and probably why we got the hotel rate so cheap as this region had some rain storms earlier that week.  There was not a soul fishing on the pier which we found kind of strange although we soon found out why.  As we exited the car, the wind was blowing so hard that it was blasting sand pebbles into our face at an unusually high speed.  With the sting of the tiny pellets, I actually felt like they were creating new pores in my skin.  I covered my face with my jacket and quickly moved behind a building.

Now I know why no one was fishing.  This frigid tempest squelched any ideas of us spending time on that beach, pier, or even at the park.  There was no way I was going to sit in a chair and try to enjoy an afternoon of fishing with that cold biting wind at my face or back.  

The warmth of the car seemed like a way better choice, so we set out to explore the area further in the comfort of a blasting heater.

Near the beach there was a nice sized palm tree lined park and from what I have read, there are plenty of very large well maintained parks in Port Hueneme. 

Even though we only saw one surfer, there are plenty of surfing waves in this town.  I am sure on calmer days, the waves are much better.

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Off the Beaten Path—Valley Center, North San Diego Country

Spring is in the Air!!!!!

Soon the wildflowers will be in full bloom and it will be time for a drive.
Here is one to think about.

Off the Beaten Path—Valley Center, North San Diego Country

When you think of Valley Center in the North County of San Diego, you think of casinos!!   After all, this is where Harrah’s, Pauma, Valley View, and Pala all call home.  The hotels and casinos stand out like sore thumbs against the picturesque countryside in this serene valley.

After staying at one of the casinos for the weekend, we decided that on our way home we would take a few minutes and explore some of the “off the beaten path” roads in the area.

Valley Center is 27 square miles of rural land, agriculture, and a few homes here and there. It is also home to Bates Nut Farm, Palomar Observatory, Lakes Wohlford and Henshaw, and a 18-hole golf course.

homes-on-hill

It sits about forty miles north of San Diego and can be accessed a few different ways but most notably 76 Freeway off of Interstate 15.

The hills, fields, and countryside always remind me of a valley I knew in Hawaii, minus the waterfalls, palm trees, the rich green countryside, but other than that…

However, after much rain in the winter, the hills and meadows were filled with the most vibrant green that challenged anything I have seen in Hawaii, if I squinted I could almost see the Wailua Valley on Kauai, well almost.

village-from-far-up

Cruising on the 76 Freeway we saw a road that headed into the hills so we decided to explore this first.

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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!!!!