Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for the ‘California’ Category

Amazing Scenery Along the Pacific Coast Highway

The surprises kept coming on the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway, which began in Washington and continued along the edge of the Pacific Ocean through Oregon and California, stopping at San Diego. Meandering roads kept driving speeds at 15-20 mph, or perhaps it was partly due to the spectacular views. When driving and watching the scenery at the same time, slower speeds were definitely required especially with many steep cliffs at the ocean’s edge.

With beaches galore and piers aplenty, Pacific Coast Highway, also known as America’s Most Beautiful Drive, renewed your spirit and your senses, as you encountered many unusual scenes along the way. This curving highway passed right  through the awesome giant redwoods on a stretch called Avenue of the Giants.This was the place where trees were large enough for a car to drive through or even have a gift shop inside. Words can not describe the wonder of these giants as you attempted  to look skyward  to see their highest branches. These towering trees, rock formations and ocean waves made you realize the power of Mother Nature and the role she plays in our beautiful world.

Even on a foggy morning, the picturesque combination of mountainous cliffs  on one side, and the waves crashing against the rocks on the other, made your heart beat just a little faster. After spotting a sign that said Pebble Beach Golf Links, thought the golfers in my family would be happy to know I stopped for a visit, as this is home to some of the world’s most prestigious golf tournaments.  Evidently it was a day without a tournament scheduled, as admission was granted to drive up to the luxurious lodge and even to walk on the course. My camera definitely wanted to snap a picture of the famous 18th green to prove my story wasn’t fiction.

Near Big Sur the mountains seemed to plunge into the Pacific. Unusual black rock formations rose out of the water to create amazing and different views around each bend of the road.  . These towering black rocks made a sharp contrast against the constant waves of the Pacific and the blue sky. Surfers in their wetsuits rode the waves and kayaks bounced across the ocean. A couple young men enjoyed hang gliding and the winds must have been perfect that day as they were airborne  for a very long time.  Might have to try that on another trip to experience the sensation of flying! Everywhere you felt the happiness of people relaxing from the cares of the day.

There was no resisting the temptation to find a place to pull off the road and walk on the beaches. Leave your shoes behind so you can feel the power of the waves wash over your feet. Two golden labs approached with a frisbee in their mouth so ended up the day playing catch with the labs.  Memories of the ocean will live on, long after the footprints in the sand are gone.

The Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 1, begins in Oxnard, Washington and continues along the coast through Oregon into California all the way to San Diego. Sometimes Highway 101 bends inland so watch carefully if you want to enjoy the scenic journey along the coastal region.

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Slab City in the Chocolate Mountains

“We like it here and we ain’t goin’ back.”  Residents of Slab City in Southern California enjoy their life of freedom where the air is clean and rent is free.

Sandwiched between the Salton Sea and the Chocolate Mountains, Slab City is home to many campers.  Here they don’t care what you look like or where you came from. Everyone is welcome! Campers come on dirt bikes, in RVs and even greyhound buses to park on this hidden desert city.

At the entrance to Slab City, you will find Salvation Mountain where the sides are painted with religious pictures and verses to inspire the freedom that is advocated here. Leonard Knight has been painting and repainting this mountain since 1985.  If you like his work and want to donate to the cause, a bucket of paint is his favorite contribution…acrylic is preferred.

As you travel back into Slab City,  you find campers set up on the concrete slabs left behind from the WWII training grounds. The Chocolate Mountains and a few creosote bushes add some beauty to this RV oasis in the middle of the desert. This is indeed rough living, even though free, as there is no electricity, running water, or bathroom facilities.  And the temperature is hot!  Those who stay either use a generator or solar panels to produce enough power to cook, or run a fan for their swamp cooler. Some even use that power to watch TV for a little while each day and have their satellite dishes located on top of their campers. Definitely not a place for those who like all the modern conveniences.

Entertainment seems to come in an easy manner to these free thinking people. Flea markets or swap meets are held most weekends. One camper even set up a library, as there is definitely lots of time to read a good book. In the evenings, those who have an instrument with them provide music with songs like: We Like It Here, Slab City USA, and Free Bird.

Marine Corps Chocolate Mountain Gunnery Range is located close by. This Gunnery range has been a training ground for Marine Corps and Navy pilots since WWII.   If you happen to stay at Slab City, you will hear the sounds of artillery practice throughout the night quite often.  Where Patton once ran his tanks, today folks race their four wheelers and dune buggies.

Nearby Salton Sea is one of the world’s largest  inland seas with its surface being 226 feet below sea level. Originally formed from an overflow during a heavy flood of the Colorado River into the Salton basin, this re-created lake in the Imperial Valley of California is located on the San Andreas Fault. This type of flood should not occur again due to the construction of Hoover Dam on the Colorado River in the Black Canyon. Since this inland sea has no fresh water supply except for the inch or two of rain each year, today this polluted sea seems thick enough to walk on!

There is a possibility that this area may soon be developed into a solar and geothermal energy site for much needed power for the California area.  This could power many homes and businesses! But environmentalists are concerned about the dwindling population of the Mojave Desert tortoise, the flat-tailed horned lizard, and the burrowing owl in that area.

If you happen to stop in a local tavern, you might hear this discussion regarding the protected environment. One slightly disheveled man of the desert will laugh and say, “The most amazing creature in the desert is the stick lizard.  Carries a stick in his mouth whenever the temperature rises above a hundred ‘n fifteen degrees.  Still he searches for food at high noon.  How does he do it?”

“Wow, how can he be out there at high noon?” ask the environmentalists.

“Well,” the desert man thinks deeply, “when the sand starts to burn his feet, he puts the stick in the ground so he can climb it. He just hangs there a few minutes ’til his feet cool off.  Ain’t many stick lizards left.  Definitely endangered.”

If you are tired of the city or your troubles are so many that you can’t list them, flee to Slab City where you are sure to be welcome!

If you are driving or hitchhiking to Slab City, it is located in the desert of Southern California just four miles east of Nilan off Route 111.  There is fairly easy access as it lies just north of I 8 and south of I 10.

World of the Giant Redwoods

Magnificent! On my first trip to Northern California’s Redwood National Forest, could find no words to describe this magical world of  towering redwood trees. Their size and power created a state of awe and silence.  This is the place to find most of the giant redwood trees remaining in the United States, including trees that are several stories taller than the Statue of Liberty. Located along the Pacific Coast, this mist-laden forest produces the tallest trees in the world.

Just to demonstrate their massive size, they have three redwoods that you can actually drive your car through.  This was a great experience, and hopped out to take a picture of my car inside Shrine Tree near Myers Flat in the Humboldt  Redwoods State Park. A small fee is charged for driving through the tree as it was privately owned, but it was worth it. For safety sake, the tree is anchored with steel cables even though no movement has been noted. These drive thru trees were an early way to draw attention to the giant redwoods and attract tourists their way.  Today the practice of cutting tunnels through new trees is basically frowned upon by environmentalists so the present tunnels are being cared for tenaciously. There is also a great little gift shop  inside another redwood tree. Many gifts were handcarved items using the available redwood, which is very hard to carve as it splits easily. Purchased a six inch tall redwood bear while stopping there. 

Nearby there was a fallen log that was wide enough to drive your car over. This log was cut in 1900 and weighed approximately a hundred tons with length of 40′ and width of 8 1/2′.  Have to try all these things because the size of the trees is just so amazing. Another surprising thing is the beautiful scent of the forest. Again, you have to be there to fully understand. “Seeing is believing.”

Back to the Avenue of the Giants, stopped by Founders Grove with a 350′ tree. You look up and up , but never see the sky it seems. These redwoods grow upwards straight as an arrow and their bark at ground level is also exceptional. The road is hilly and windy but you really don’t mind as you have spectacular views on all sides and upward.  The Dyerville Giant was 370′ when it fell, 200 feet taller than Niagara Falls. This Giant weighed over a million pounds.  Overwhelming!

Without a doubt, in my travels this is the most breathtaking work of Mother Nature in the United States as words can not describe, not can pictures show, the feeling of standing amongst these giants.  Return visit? Definitely!

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