Local travel; explore your history and what makes the city great!

Hush, by Diana Reuter, is on display.

Kids exercise their artistic talents at the Haggin.
The Leyendecker Gallery is a popular art exhibit.
This classic Stevens wooden runabout helps the museum tell Stockton’s story as a boat-building center over the last 170 years.
The Yokets Village is part of the museum’s Native American gallery.
Huge harvester, a wonder of wood and iron, was pulled by a 20-horse team in Valley fields.

The Haggin; explore your history and what makes the city great!

Have you and your family wondered about the Native Americans and early settlers who lived in the Stockton/San Joaquin area hundreds of years before you? Have you recently toured, arguably, Stockton’s finest institution of history and art? Stockton’s Haggin Museum, declared by Sunset Magazine “one of the unsung gems of California” recently opened new and renovated exhibits and galleries, offering renewed inspiration and education for residents of the San Joaquin.

The Haggin’s Native American Gallery profiles Spanish missionaries who entered California in 1769, finding an estimated Native American population of over 300,000, the densest population of Native people in the entire North American continent north of central Mexico. 100 indigenous tribes speaking 125 languages inhabited California with diverse food sources, from the oceans and our inland waterways, to the marshes of the Delta and Valley oaks producing acorns.

The following 150 years would produce massive changes in the landscape and population, uprooting the native populations.

The Spanish mission in San Jose had the greatest influence on tribes in the San Joaquin County area.  In 1826, Jedidiah Smith, the first white trapper appeared, foretelling annual visits by trappers from the Hudson’s Bay Company out of Ft. Vancouver, WA.   In 1833 a malaria epidemic swept through the Native American population; over 20,000 died in one six month period.

Haggin exhibits outline how the Mexican government ceded vast tracts in the form of ranchos, including 46,000 acres to Captain Weber in Stockton, practices which further endangered Native Americans. The Haggin’s galleries trace how the county grew with missionary’s incursions and land-grant growth due to new settlers.

The Mexican American War ended with Mexico ceding California to the US, just eight days after discovery of gold at Coloma in 1848.  The Gold Rush would prompt California’s population to quadruple by the early 1860s. Museum exhibits trace the city and the county’s dynamic growth to modern times. The Haggin’s most popular artifacts remain, including the oldest harvester remaining, a wonder of wood and iron, built by Holt, the old Stevens classic wooden boat and Willy the Jeep, commemorating Stockton High School students who held war bonds fund drives and raised money to supply 245 Jeeps for the World War II effort.

The Haggin’s storied art collection, along with current and coming art exhibitions, make this a special time to renew your acquaintance with this wonderful institution.  They include:

87th Annual McKee Student Art Contest & Exhibition, March 22 – April 29: Celebrate the arts in education during this student exhibit, the longest running student art exhibition in the country! Featuring the work of student artists from kindergarten through grade 12, the exhibition was first envisioned by founding patron Robert T. McKee. All schools in San Joaquin County—public, private, charter, parochial and home-schools—receive invitations to submit their work.

60th Stockton Art League Juried Exhibition, May 17 – July 15: The Stockton Art League’s juried art competition returns to the Haggin Museum this year with more than 100 new works by long-standing local artists and newcomers from around the country. The original competition was conceived in 1951 to promote and reward excellence in Northern California art, expanded in 2006 to include all of California as well as Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Today it includes artists from throughout the United States; artists will be awarded across five categories:  Acrylics and Oils; Water Media; Mixed Media & Graphics; Sculpture; and, Pastel.  The works on display in the museum’s temporary exhibition galleries will be for sale through the Stockton Art League with pricing information at the front desk.

FULL SUN: American Women Artists Illuminate the Haggin Museum, August. 2 – Sept. 16: This exhibit celebrates a re-examination of the Haggin Collection; members of American Women Artists (AWA) were asked to create artwork that was inspired by a selection of 13 paintings from the Haggin Museum’s 19th – 20th-century art including works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Albert Bierstadt, Rosa Bonheur, William Merritt Chase and other notable artists. This juried exhibition will include nearly 100 pieces of artwork ranging from paintings to sculptures.

2nd Saturdays for Families are popular with families with children ages 5-12. Activities include art projects, interactive programs and Museum-wide events. Reservations are not required, but seating is available on a first come, first served basis. The Museum supplies all materials and activities are included with regular Museum admission. Contact the education department (209) 940-6315 or education@hagginmuseum.org for more information.

• Saturday, May 12, 1:30 – 3 pm: Weave a colorful flower plate to take home or give to someone special.
• Saturday, June 9, 1:30 – 3 pm: Become a robot engineer for the day! Using simple materials, create a moving hand modeled after your own muscles and tendons.

Summer Art Workshops are coming, with Session 1: July 10 – 13, from 2 – 4 pm and Session 2 July 17 – 20, from 2 – 4 pm. Each session features a range of art projects for ages 6-12. Call (209) 940-6315 or email education@hagginmuseum.org.

For information: Haggin Museum, 1201 N. Pershing, Stockton, hagginmuseum.org, (209) 940-6300, open Saturday and Sunday, Noon-5 PM and Wednesday-Friday, 1:30-5:00 PM (open to 9 PM, 1st and 3rd Thursdays). The Haggin charges a modest admission fees; all visitors are FREE on the 1st Saturday monthly.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com or follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in the west!

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Backroads: the wild East Bay, alive with wildlife, hiking, scenery, history!

Rose Hill Cemetery is final resting place for over 100 miners and their families in Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.

View from Mt. Diablo, looking west from Northgate Road.
Wildflowers just off the Hardy Canyon Trail in Round Valley Preserve.
Hikers descend from the native oaks in Round Valley Regional Preserve.
Spouse Susan ascends the Hardy Canyon Trail in Round Valley Regional Preserve.

Backroads in the wild East Bay, alive with wildlife, hiking, scenery, history!

Fellow hiker on tree beside Marsh Creek in Round Valley Preserve.

I inherited my love of backroads from both my parents. On weekend drives in Ohio, my dad would spot a road he’d never been on and say “let’s see where this takes us” – off we would go. My mom packed my two brothers and me in the back of a Ford station wagon in 1962 towing a tiny tent trailer, and set off from Ohio across the US, down to Texas and the Grand Canyon and on to California (where my dad flew in and joined us). As we continued on to Yellowstone, the Black Hills and home, we explored almost every back road in the west on that trip – and it hooked me on the Western states.

Today we headed for favorite backroads in Northern California, heading west of Stockton on Highway 4, south on the Byron Hwy. to Byron, then west on the backroads of Camino Diablo and Marsh Creek Roads to Round Valley Regional Preserve.

Located between Mount Diablo’s dual peaks and Byron, CA, Round Valley Preserve is a lovely foothills park in the coastal range, with hills and canyons turned emerald green after recent rains. It offers 30+ miles of hiking trails through old oaks: blue, valley, live and black oak along with California bay laurel and buckeye trees. The park is open for hiking, horseback riding and bicycling (with some restrictions); no dogs allowed.

From the parking lot, we crossed a foot bridge over Marsh Creek, turgid with runoff from recent rains, crossed a field with grazing cattle and ascended the Hardy Canyon Trail into the foothills beside High Creek. Along the creek we saw signs of deer, pawprints of either bobcats or cougars, and saw hawks lazily circling on high. With more time, we might’ve seen San Joaquin pocket mice, Audubon‘s cottontail rabbits, red fox, coyotes and endangered San Joaquin kit fox. Golden eagles also patrol the reserve.

Had we boundless energy, we could’ve connected with the Miwok Trail and toured all the way into the adjoining Los Vaqueros Reservoir/Watershed to the south. That much longer trek, alas, must wait for another day.

If you’re seeking a place for lunch between Round Valley, try Wild Idol, a biker bar and grill in what remains of historic downtown Byron, or, Union Point Marina, Bar and Grill, on Hwy. 4 headed back to Stockton. Both offer good food in unique surroundings.

Within a few miles of Round Valley Preserve are other favorites destinations, including Los Vaqueros Reservoir with hiking trails and marvelous fishing, Morgan Territory Regional Preserve, Mount Diablo State Park and Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.

Los Vaqueros Reservoir and Watershed is a few miles off Camino Diablo Road; the lake was recently increased in capacity to 160,000 acre-feet by raising the dam 35 feet, storing water pumped from the Mokelumne River for Eastbay residents. The impoundment is regularly stocked with rainbow trout, largemouth and striped bass, catfish and more (a daily fee and CA fishing license is required).  The park is also a hiking and bicycling Mecca; with a variety of trails/roads in the hills surrounding the reservoir.

To reach Mt. Diablo, continue west on Marsh Creek Road to Concord, turn left on Ygnacio Valley Road, then left on Oak Grove Road to the park’s North Gate Road entrance. North Gate Road into Mount Diablo State Park yields an incredibly scenic drive with some of the best views in all of Northern California. Try to make your visit on a day where the skies are clear – smog will detract from the experience.  Ascend North Gate Road, offering fine views from every turn to reach Mt. Diablo’s 3,849 foot summit, where the Summit Visitor Center offers insight.  The North Peak is about a mile distant, reaching 3,557 feet into the sky.  The park offers three campgrounds (Juniper, at 3,000 feet, offers spectacular vistas and star gazing), gorgeous picnic areas and over 150 miles of hiking trails.  Of course, the view from the twin Diablo peaks are sublime.

Just seven miles northeast lies Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, preserving the history of California’s lively coal mining district, active from the 1850s to early 1900s. By the late 19th century, several towns within the current preserve were the center of Contra Costa population, with several thousand miners and their families mining deep veins of coal, shipping the black diamonds to Pittsburg where the coal powered steamboats, railroads and heated homes. Hike to Rose Hill Cemetery above the parking area, to tour the final resting place of over 100 miners and their families, where the voices of the past seem all too real.

On your East Bay tour you’ll spot plenty of additional back roads…”let’s see where that one goes”!

For more info: For Round Valley and Black Diamond Mines, go to East Bay Regional Park District’s website, ebparks.org or 1-800-EBPARKS; for Los Vaqueros Watershed, ccwater.com/losvaqueros, 925.240.2440; for Mt. Diablo State Park, parks.ca.gov, 925.927.7222. Both Los Vaqueros and Mt. Diablo State Park charge an auto admission charge. For camping in Mt. Diablo State Park, www.reserveamerican.com, or 800.444.7275.

Contact Tim Viall at tviall@msn.com; follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, San Francisco Bay Area, Stockton/San Joaquin County | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Roadtrip: Mokelumne River; wild and scenic river, wildflowers, history and quaint towns

The wild and scenic Mokelumni River runs unchecked from high in the Sierra to Pardee Lake.

The hills along Electra Road are alive with California poppies and other wildflowers.
Old homestead dating to late gold rush days along Middle Bar Road.
California poppies blanket a hillside above the Mokelumne River just above Hwy. 49 in late March.

Mokelumne River; wild and scenic river, wildflowers, history and quaint towns

Recent spring rains have brought the Sierra foothills to splendor with verdant greens, California poppies and other wildflowers bursting forth brightly. Add the wild and scenic Mokelumne River, gold rush history and quaint towns that beckon around every turn – you have a roadtrip waiting to happen.

This exploration shows off the Mokelumne River, stretching almost 100 miles from its headwaters in the Sierra, running west to its merge into the Delta just west of Lodi. The river is divided into the Upper Mokelumne River, which stretches from the high Sierra to Pardee Reservoir in the foothills, and the Lower Mokelumne River, the section of the river below Camanche Dam to the Delta. In its lower section, the Mokelumne is heavily drafted for irrigation and water for the east San Francisco Bay Area through the Mokelumne Aqueduct. The river bisects Amador and Calaveras Counties, beautiful this time of year.

Take the 35 mile drive from Stockton to Valley Springs, another 12 miles to Mokelumne Hill, then north seven miles to Jackson. With side road detours for river access and wildflower viewing, you’re looking at about 160 miles and a full day’s adventure.  First stop is Valley Springs, with traveler’s conveniences, restaurants and shops, but press on for more history and river access.

Continue east on Hwy 26 (with a detour for river/trail access down Gwin Mine Road) to the wonderful old town of Mokelumne Hill. “Moke Hill” was named for the Mokelumne River; high above the river sits the old town, with a variety of well-preserved buildings dating to the 1860s. Visit the Leger Hotel; a portion of the building served as Calaveras County Courthouse from 1852 to 1866.  When the courthouse was moved to San Andreas, George Leger made it part of his hotel. Fire damaged the building and it was restored in 1879, renamed the Leger Hotel.  Today if offers quaint rooms and delicious meals in its Whitewater Grill.  Take the time to walk the historic blocks of Mokey Hill and you will feel the ghosts of gold rush days!

From there, follow Hwy. 49 north to Jackson. Just after crossing the river, detour east on Electra Road along the river for wildflower-finding, and just outside Jackson, you can detour down Middle Bar Road back down to the river for more wildflower sightings. Jackson is a vibrant old and new town, with quaint Main Street preserving gold rush history with a variety of cute shops and eateries. Stop at the National Hotel at the south end of Main. Built in 1852 and visited by many noteworthy guests over its history, the hotel was extensively renovated a few years ago; stop in Stanley’s Steakhouse in the hotel’s lower level for libation or lunch.

If time allows, visit the old Kennedy Mine and the historic Kennedy Mine Tailing Wheel #4 north of town, for a short dose of early mining history.  If you like the casino scene, the Jackson Rancheria Casino is a big part of “new Jackson”.

From Jackson, take the Stoney Creek Road west to Pardee Lake (the road crosses Pardee Dam and the Mokelumne River outflow) for another scenic drive through verdant green hillsides and wildflowers, then follow the road back to Valley Springs.

To really see the wild and scenic Mokelumne River, plan side trips to river access points on the Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail (download marvelous maps from East Bay Municipal Utilities District, ebmud.com; get a trail permit, accessible on-line). To see the free running upper reaches of the Mokelumne River, plan short or longer hikes on the trail from either the Rich Gulch Trail access point on Gwin Mine Road off of Highway 26, or the Middle Bar Trail access point, 3 miles down a bumpy Middle Bar Road off of Highway 49.

Along the Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail, find old townsites such as James Bar, Middle Bar and Independence Flat – you will have to look hard to find old foundations, for miners, fire, floods and East Bay MUD removed the buildings after placer gold mining played out. The town of Middle Bar was founded in 1850 by English miners, finding gold quartz. A year later, a bridge was built to handle increasing miner traffic; soon it was washed away by a flood and subsequent bridges replaced it (a newer bridge currently marks the spot). Additional trail points of interest include the Hancock and Tibbetts Quartz Mine and several old homestead stone homes along the access roads.

Wildflower sightings can be found along the trail and hillsides above, along the access roads, above Highway 49 as it crosses the river, and above Electra Road heading east off of Highway 49, parallel to the river. You’ll find other backroads worth exploring, as well.

How to get there: From Stockton, take Hwy. 26 to Valley Springs, then continue to Mokelumne Hill. Then, follow Hwy. 49 north to Jackson, and take Stoney Creek Road back to Valley Springs.

For more information: for Amador County tourism, touramador.com; Calavaras County tourism, gocalaveras.com; Mokelumne River Coast to Crest Trail access, permits, maps, East Bay MUD, ebmud.com.

Contact Tim Viall at tviall@msn.com; follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world!

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California’s Riviera; fun and sun in Orange County, “on the cheap”!

San Clemente's old pier is home to Fisherman's Restaurant and popular with strollers.

Balboa Island Ferry links the island to Balboa Peninsula for a short 3/8 mile journey.
Corona Del Mar State Beach is a popular spot for sun-seekers and surfers, just south of the Newport Beach Harbor.
Orange County is just south of Los Angeles, providing 40 miles of sunny coastline!
Big Mountain Railroad in Disneyland provides plenty of thrills in scenic setting!

Fun, sun on California’s Riviera; doing Orange County “on the cheap”!

Orange County, known by many as California’s Riviera, a 40 mile stretch of sunny beaches and coves, entertainment options, exotic cars, sporting events and fine dining, blessed by a lovely Mediterranean climate, makes a great location for a long vacation get-away. Here’s how to do it, relatively inexpensively.

We’re most familiar with the city of Newport Beach (we have spent about 16 weeks in our timeshare over the years); this article centers around that town, arguably the most upscale of these ocean-front cities. Newport Beach boasts the world’s largest small boat harbor and includes two piers, Newport and Balboa Piers, sandy beach-front and one of the more colorful bike paths.

Inside the harbor are Balboa and Lido Islands, walkable seaside communities. Center a day on Balboa Island, circled by a wide walkway lined by $4 million dollar homes, home of to quaint shops and several that sell frozen bananas (dipped in chocolate and toppings), and Balboa Bars (vanilla ice cream on a stick, dipped in chocolate, then covered with varied toppings like Oreos, invented 1945).

Take the auto ferry across to Balboa Peninsula (just $2 for car and driver, $1 each additional passenger), On the peninsula side of the ferry, tour the 1905 Balboa Pavilion, gabled and cupola-topped and home to harbor tours, boat excursions, whale watching and Santa Catalina Island cruises (the town of Avalon is only 26 miles and 75 minutes via ferry to Santa Catalina Island). A favorite, funky restaurant just right for families is the Crab Cooker on Newport Bay.

Visit Corona Del Mar Beach by the Newport Harbor entrance, or Newport‘s Back Bay, a 10 mile long wild estuary, complete with migrating birds and crisscrossed with walking trails.

On the south end of Newport is Crystal Cove State Park, with miles of pristine beaches, rocky coves and tide pools and the former oceanfront town of Crystal Cove, location of several dozen movies and television shows. The old town provided a tropical setting for Beaches, Son of Tarzan, Herbie the Love Bug and Treasure Island, films featuring Bette Midler, Bogart and Bacall, Barrymore. About 20 of the 40 old cabins have been renovated and are available for rent per night in the $200-$250 range; it’s also home to Beachcombers Restaurant, a favorite for good food and sultry sunsets!

Just north is Huntington Beach, Surf City USA, featuring three beaches, Huntington City Beach, Huntington State Beach, and Bolsa Chica state beach, all popular for surfing, volleyball and fire-rings for campfires at night. Bring your surf-board or boogie-board and ride the waves! Just east across Hwy. 1 are Bolsa Chica’s 1449 acres of wetlands – the largest saltwater marsh between the Tijuana River Estuary and Monterey Bay. Featuring 300 species of birds sighted in the last 10 years and 80 species of fish, this stunning parkland features 5 miles of hiking trails. Huntington Beach features an 8 mile long bike trail, running south into Newport beach – ideal for cruising the beach scene. The trail intersects with the Santa Ana Bike Trail, a lovely 25 mile cycling option heading inland.

Laguna Beach is south of Newport, offering more rugged coastline, sandy beaches and attractions such as the Laguna Art Museum and Laguna Playhouse. Its Main Beach offers volleyball and basketball courts, a grassy kid’s play area and a quaint downtown right across the street.

Further south is Dana Point and Harbor. Richard Henry Dana, who wrote the 1840s ‘Two Years Before the Mast’, noted the grandeur of the California coast and called it “the only romantic spot on the coast”. Just south is Doheney State Beach, a very popular state park with campground, public beaches and walking access to Dana Point Harbor. The harbor features 2500 slips and is home to the Ocean Institute. The Institute features a replica of the Pilgrim, the brig on which Dana sailed and the Maddie James Seaside Learning Center with the Spirit of Dana Point, a traditionally-built replica of a 1770s privateer used during the American Revolution.

Just south of Dana Point is San Clemente, with pier anchored by Fisherman’s Restaurant, set against the Pacific, with great food, reasonable prices and the largest slices of Mud Pie we have ever seen! Following dinner, stroll the pier and take in spectacular sunsets.

Disneyland, in nearby Anaheim, is expensive but deemed by many families and kids as “worth it“. To receive greatest bang for your buck, go early (lines for the most popular rides get progressively longer as the day wears on), go early week, avoid weeks when schools are on break, take drinks, snacks and consider purchasing Fast Pass, allowing you to go to head of lines that can stretch for 75 minutes for the most popular rides. Somewhat less expensive options for a full-day’s family entertainment include Knots Berry Farm and Universal Studios jaunts.

For reasonable lodging options, check Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO), offering cute two and three bedroom cottages on Newport Beach’s Balboa Island or Balboa Peninsula, in the $200 per night range, just blocks from the beach. Or find less expensive motels inland through websites like Priceline.com.

How to get there: Go south on I-5 to LA, take I-605 south and I-405 to Newport Beach; it’s about 385 miles and six hours from Stockton.

For more insight: Newport Beach, newportbeach.com; Orange County Visitors Association, visittheoc.com.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com; follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world!

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Interstate 5 blues; creative cures for a monotonous five hour drive

San Luis Reservoir, looking southeast down to one of California's largest lakes.

Beat the Interstate 5 blues; creative cures for a monotonous five hour drive

If you are a California resident, you’ve probably driven Interstate 5 south to the Los Angeles Basin many, perhaps even scores, of times. You likely have your favorite gas or reststop, maybe ventured to Harris Ranch for a burger and a drink, and look forward to climbing over the Grapevine and down into the huge metropolis, putting the monotonous drive behind you.

Spice up that drive, add a few hours and venture off the Interstate to see some of the spectacular country and attractions along the Interstate. Here are our favorites, listed north to south, both for families and for inveterate explorers.

San Luis Reservoir and Recreation Area, With fishing, camping, and spectacular views,  the reservoir is a huge man-made lake on San Luis Creek, just 12 mi west of Los Banos on Hwy. 152. Water is pumped uphill into the reservoir from the California Aqueduct; the dam is the fourth largest embankment dam in the US and one of California’s largest reservoirs. Camping is available at four campgrounds; the lake also offers numerous picnic areas and fishing spots. Since the reservoir’s water is imported from the Sacramento River Delta, its fish species include largemouth bass, bluegill, shad, striped bass, crappie and yellow perch. But it’s the scenery that will reward your visit most of all.

Tule elk are the prime attraction at Tule Elk State Reserve.

Bravo Farms: Stop at 33341 Bernard Dr., Kettleman City for an old West nostalgia stop just minutes off I-5 that both kids and adults will enjoy. Featuring great food with a sit-down restaurant, and plenty of snacks including nuts, ice cream, candy, cheeses, historic farming and ranching artifacts and old west shops a’plenty – Bravo Farms is a kid’s and photographer’s paradise.

Kern National Wildlife Refuge: The refuge, off exit 278, northeast of Lost Hills, preserves 11,249-acres of natural desert uplands, an ancient riparian corridor and marshes. A part of what once was the largest freshwater wetland complex in the western United States, it provides prime wintering habitat for migratory birds like waterfowl and water birds. The refuge also provides suitable habitat for several endangered species and protects an example of the historic valley uplands of the San Joaquin Desert. A year-round 6-mile auto road winds through the some of the wetlands, making for easy viewing.

Tule Elk State Reserve, The reserve, off the Stockdale Highway near Buttonwillow, protects a growing herd of tule elk, once in danger of extinction. Elk from the reserve have been successfully transplanted to other areas in California.  Today nearly 4000 tule elk, most active in summer and fall, are again roaming the foothills and grasslands of California. The park offers a picnic area offering a good opportunity for viewing elk, as well as birds of the San Joaquin Valley.

Old windmill is surrounded by wildflowers on the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Just a few hundred years ago, California’s Central Valley was a vast, undeveloped grassland where elk and antelope grazed and the spring landscape was a’blaze in wildflowers. Over the last 200 years, agriculture and human settlement has forever changed the face of the valley; the Corrizo Plain preserves a segment of California as it once was. While a bit further off I-5, this is worthy of your time. Follow winding CA Hwy. 58 west, becoming more scenic by the mile. Golden and purple wildflowers began to show their faces (usually best in March and April), and as we reached a deep pass through the dramatic hills, suddenly the slopes were a’glow in gold, purple and yellow hues.

The monument features two campgrounds, a wealth of hiking and bicycling, horseback riding and stunning birdwatching, wildlife and wildflower viewing. Wildlife can include sightings of pronghorn antelope, tule elk, black-tailed deer, bobcats and mountain lions, coyotes and ground squirrels.

Ft. Tejon, looking west towards the old parade grounds with old barracks on left.

Ft. Tejon State Historic Park, at the top of the Grapevine and just blocks off Interstate 5, Ft. Tejon was an outpost of the US Army from 1854 to 1864, with troops garrisoned to keep the peace between settlers and resident and marauding bands of Native Americans. The fort was also the site of a several year experiment with more than 70 camels, which were deemed not a good fit for the army.

Pyramid Lake and Vista Del Lago Visitors Center, Just beyond Ft. Tejon, at 38500 Vista Del Lago Rd., Gorman, is this beautiful lake and stunning visitor center that tells the story of the creative engineering of the southern section of the California Water Project. The views are killer, and this visitor center does a riveting show and tell how water has transformed the Los Angeles Basin with growth and prosperity. You will also find sections of the old Templin Highway near the reservoir, the earlier road over the mountains before Interstate 5 superseded it.

Pyramid Lake and Vista Del Lago Visitor Center are just off Interstate 5

Break the I-5 boredom; plan a few extra hours on your trip to LA and discover new pleasures!

For more information: Bravo Farms, bravofarms.com, 559-386-9622; Carrizo Plain National Monument, blm.gov/nlcs_web/sites/ca/st/en/prog/nlcs/Carrizo_Plain_NM.html, (805) 475-2131; Camping at federal campgrounds, recreation.gov, 877.444.6777; Ft. Tejon State Historic Park, parks.ca.gov/?page_id=585, (800) 777-0369; Kern National Wildlife Refuge: fws.gov/refuge/Kern/; Pyramid Lake and Vista Del Lago Visitors Center, water.ca.gov, (661) 294-0219; San Luis Reservoir, parks.ca.gov/?page_id=558, (209) 826-1197; Tule Elk State Reserve, parks.ca.gov/?page_id=584, (661) 764-6881.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com; follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world!

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Gold Rush history lives on in ghost town gems along the Mother Lode, CA Hwy. 49

A replica of Sutter's Mill stands at the site of California's gold discovery in January, 1848.

Discovering ghost town gems along the Gold Rush Highway, CA Hwy. 49

Hydraulic mining like this washed entire hillsides into streams and rivers, eventually silting up the San Francisco Bay, until outlawed by the state in 1884.

Recent rains have cast our Sierra foothills in a verdant shade of green, perfect for exploring our state’s gold rush legacy. I always suggest starting in the place of gold’s discovery, just 80 miles northeast of Stockton, at the tiny town of Coloma and site of Sutter’s Mill where John Marshall discovered gold in the mill’s tailrace in early 1848. The ensuing golf rush would lead to the world’s largest mass migration, and California’s population would increase by over four-fold in the 1850s.

Start your exploration at the Sutter’s Mill replica in the James Marshall Gold Discovery Park, Coloma. John Sutter, a German-born Swiss immigrant, received a Mexican land grant in 1839 giving him rights to develop a good portion of the Sacramento and American River Valleys. From his Sacramento fort, Sutter needed lumber to fuel his construction projects and partnered with James Marshall to find and build a nearby lumber mill in the Sierra foothills.

Marshall, along with John Sutter’s Indian guide, Nerio, found a site in the valley of the Cul-Luh-Mah Native Americans, plenty of pine trees and a river (the South Fork of the American) strong enough to power a sizable sawmill.

The California Stamp, a huge timber and iron mill, was used to crush ore into powder, from which gold would be separated out.

The first boards destined for Sutter’s empire in Sacramento were milled in March, 1848 but millwork would continue until only 1850. Marshall had discovered gold in the tailrace of the mill on January 24, 1848; with gold’s discovery, the land soon became too valuable and the Gold Rush was on. The mill’s dam was removed, the mill fell into disuse and floods in 1862 destroyed what remained.

The Marshal Gold Discovery Park tells not only the Sutter’s Mill story, but of gold mining in the Sierra from 1849 until the latter part of that century. In the park are re-creations of an Arrastre, powered by horses or mules and used by early Spanish settlers to crush rock for gold, as well as small and large stamp mills to pulverize rock to release the gold. The huge nozzle of a hydraulic water monitor (cannon), used to wash down the hillsides so the gold could be placer-mined, is displayed. After streams, rivers and even the San Francisco Bay began to silt-up, hydraulic mining was outlawed by the state in 1884.

From Coloma, follow Hwy. 49 south, passing through Placerville and Plymouth. From Plymouth take the six mile drive to Fiddletown, established by prospectors from Missouri in 1849. It quickly grew in the 1850s and 1860s as a center of trade for many mines located nearby.

The Chew Kee Apothecary is a rammed-earth building dating to the 1850s in Fiddletown.

During the dry season when water for their hydraulic mining ran low, miners were known to just “fiddle around”, hence the town’s name.  During the city’s boom years, it numbered two dozen businesses, a handful of boarding houses, taverns, blacksmith shops, bakeries and restaurants. With a post office, church and school, it was a full-fledged city. From Fiddletown Road, take a right on American Flat Road, just 3/8s of a mile to a well preserved one-room schoolhouse and, across the road, a large cemetery where you can wander through gravesites of old miners and merchants dating to the 1850s.

Fiddletown wood grow to over 2,000 residents, over half Chinese, who worked the mines and established many of the early businesses (some of these still stand, though in a state of arrested decay; the local Fiddletown Preservation Society is working to refurbish several structures). While touring the several remaining blocks of old Fiddletown, be sure to check out the Chew Kee Apothecary (a rare “rammed earth” building dating to the early 1850s), several nearby Chinese merchant buildings, C. Schallhorn’s Blacksmith and Wagon Store and the Fiddletown Community Center with the giant fiddle over the door! Today only several hundred residents remain.

Fiddletown's Community Center features a huge fiddle over the entryway.

Plymouth traces its history to the 1870s, when prospectors searched for quartz and gold. The city has a cute public park with bandstand, the old Plymouth Hotel and other eateries, all grouped along several old-town blocks. For gourmet travelers, the Taste Restaurant in Plymouth is a fixture, drawing rave reviews from around the region. Both Fiddletown and Plymouth are known as “Gateways to the Shenandoah Valley” with over 30 wineries.

Following Hwy. 49 south, pass through delightful Gold Rush towns like Amador City, Sutter Creek, Jackson and Mokelumne Hill, all worthwhile historical stops on your way to another favorite, Columbia State Historic Park. Columbia was founded March, 1850 when Dr. Thaddeous Hildreth and others settled here and began prospecting. Soon, Hildreth Diggin’s had found the precious metal and miners descended on the area. Renamed Columbia and today preserved as a state historic park, it’s a museum of living history!

Wells Fargo stagecoach rolls through Columbia State Historic Park.

Columbia’s business district is closed to cars – foot- and horse-traffic only – and businesses, shops and volunteers bring the town to life, much as it appeared in 1855!  Join a free tour led by period-dressed docents, pan for gold, take a stage coach ride, visit blacksmith and livery shops, grab lunch or an ice cream and take in life as it was more than 150 years ago! Best of all, admission, parking and tours are free, open seven days a week all year – a day spent here is easy on the wallet!

Kids pan for gold and agates in Columbia.

For more information: Marshall Gold Discovery State Park, parks.ca.gov/?page_id=484, (530) 622-3470; Columbia State Historic Park, parks.ca.gov/?page_id=552, (209) 588-9128.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in the west!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Sacramento/Capitol region, Sierra Nevada, Stockton/San Joaquin County | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wildflower blooms, wildlife and scenery in the California desert!

Wildflowers bloom in perfusion in February in northeastern part of Death Valley.

Death Valley, Joshua Tree National Parks offer wildflower blooms, wildlife and other-worldly scenery

Tired of chilly mornings and frosty windshields? Use the late winter/spring to take a road trip to the California desert for wildflower blooms, exotic wildlife and stunning scenery. Our destination includes two stunning national parks, Death Valley and Joshua Tree, and several national monuments and state parks.

More color accentuating Death Valley!

We’re headed to Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks. Take the scenic route over the Sierra via California Hwy. 88 where you’ll see snow above 6000 feet and descend the Eastern Sierra, past Mono Lake and it’s other—worldly tufa columns and Manzanar, the Japanese forced resettlement camp during World War II. Further south is Death Valley, just 425 miles and seven hours from Stockton.

Death Valley was named during the 1849 California gold rush. A member of an immigrant wagon train from the Midwest died, attempting to cut across the arid valley; looking back one said “goodbye, Death Valley”; the name stuck.

In the valley, watch for desert tortoise, roadrunners, hummingbirds and bighorn sheep. A year ago, we found the greatest panorama of wildflowers about 15 miles north of Badwater Basin.

If you are tracking desert wildflower blooms, a variety of factors is at play, including rainfall, temperature, topography and elevation.  A good website that offers updates on desert blooms is desertusa.com. It suggests that, through mid-April at lower elevations (valley floor and alluvial fans), the best areas are Jubilee Pass, Highway 190 near the Furnace Creek Inn, base of Daylight Pass, where you will often find desert star, blazing star, desert gold, mimulus, encelia, poppies, verbena, evening primrose, phacelia, and various species of cacti (usually well above the valley floor).

Water tanker and borax wagons at Harmony Borax Works in the park.

Death Valley also offers considerable history, both of native peoples who settled nearby thousands of years ago, and more recent exploration. Silver was discovered in the park in 1873 and Panamint City would swell to more than 5000 residents. While the silver played out about four years later, “white gold” was discovered, borax. A stop at the Harmony Borax Works reveals the refinery huge 20 mule team wagons and more which operating from 1883–88. These huge wagons would haul 36 tons of refined borax over 160 miles to the nearest railhead – the operation lasted only five years due to competition outside the desert area. The Keane Wonder Mine has been reopened after safety modifications, a gold mine that boomed from 1907 to 1912, producing over $1 million in gold inside the park.

In 1904, gold was discovered just east of the park, leading to the last real American gold rush. While the gold saw thousands of miners, several roads and a railroad built into the Rhyolite district; a financial failure led to the end of the era by 1912. Rhyolite is one of the more interesting ghost towns in the west, located on the eastern edge of Death Valley.

Abandoned railroad station in the ghost town of Rhyolite, eastern side of Death Valley.

The park offers many other points of interest including Golden Canyon – just a short hike off Highway 190 takes you to this truly golden canyon – a hike is best taken in late afternoon when the setting sun offers spectacular colors. A few miles south is Natural Bridge, a short drive off the main road and another short hike takes you to this natural wonder. Don’t miss Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, a vast sandy desert expanse, wonderful for photo taking.

A 30 foot-tall Joshua Tree stands in the northern section of its namesake park.

After admiring the wildflowers and scenic splendors of Death Valley National Park, head south to Joshua Tree National Park (it’s another 280 miles and 4.5 hours). We entered the park from the north side, adjacent to Twentynine Palms, featuring a number of motels and restaurants. The park offers a number of scenic campsites; our favorite is Jumbo Rocks, featuring Friday and Saturday Ranger talks in a large amphitheater.

The park’s nearly 800,000 acres are at the confluence of several ecosystems. With more rainfall on the higher, northern part of the park, the Mojave Desert prevails – the habitat of the park’s namesake Joshua Trees. As one moves south through the park, steadily dropping in elevation, the Colorado desert prevails, sprinkled with wildflowers depending upon rain and temperature, and 18’ tall, spindly Ocotillo plants with slender red flowers, Brittlebush, Smoketree, Mojave yucca and the strange Cholla cactus – we never imagined such creations. In the park’s westernmost section, above 4000 feet, the Little San Bernardino Mountains offer habitat for Pinyan Pine and Juniper.

Other destinations in California that offer wildflower blooms and evocative desert finery include the huge Anza Borrego Desert State Park, south of Palm Springs, the Carrizo Plain National Monument, take the I-5 exit at Buttonwillow and go west on Hwy. 58, and Pinnacles National Park, 30 miles south of Hollister, CA (more on those parks in future). Be sure to take camera and binoculars and sunscreen, hat, plenty of water and snacks for hiking.

Chollo Cactus Garden stands in Joshua Tree's lower elevations, at home in the Colorado desert within the park.

Where to stay: In Death Valley, for lodging inside the park, Panamint Springs, Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek offer both lodging and camping. Additional smaller campgrounds dot the park; most are first come, first served. For Joshua Tree, motels are found in Twentynine Palms, and lovely campgrounds are situated at impressive locations inside the park.

For more information: Carrizo Plain National Monument, blm.gov/nlcs_web/sites/ca/st/en/prog/nlcs/Carrizo_Plain_NM.html, (805) 475-2131; Death Valley National Park , nps.gov/deva, (760) 786–3200; Joshua Tree National Park, nps.gov/jotr; or phone 760.367.5500; Pinnacles National Park, nps.gov/pinn; (831) 389-4486.  Camping at federal campgrounds can be booked through recreation.gov, (877) 444-6777.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com or follow at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world!

Posted in Central California, Sierra Nevada, Southern California | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dodge Ridge re-opens on Friday, March 2; Bear Valley also celebrates big storm!

Family takes in the view in Boulder Canyon off Dodge Ridge's Chair 8.

Dodge Ridge re-opens for the season on Friday, March 2; Bear Valley also receives huge snow fall

Dodge Ridge Ski Resort will reopen on Friday, March 2.  Wednesday evening delivered a significant storm with three feet of new snow expected by Friday evening. With this significant snowfall, Dodge Ridge will have a majority of terrain open with chairlifts 1, 3, 5, 6 and 7 scheduled to operate with chair 8 on a possible early morning delay for Friday. Lifts are scheduled to operate from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. As always ski and ride with care and always ski and ride with a buddy and keep your buddy in view.

Skier enjoys the Sonora Glades at Dodge Ridge.

“We are excited to open and get back to skiing and riding!  It’s been a long wait and we are looking forward to welcoming our employees, guests, and the community back to the mountain.” said Jenni Smith, General Manager. “Opening day is always a fun time, and to open on a powder day with great conditions is a terrific way to celebrate and we expect to open 85% of our skiable terrain!”

For the reopening weekend with powder conditions, lift tickets will be priced at $74 for adults, $59 for teens, $25 for youth and $54 for seniors.  All Dodge Ridge services will be available including a full line of group and private lesson programs for ages 2 and above. To ensure availability, reservations are recommended for all lessons and can be made by calling (209) 965-3474 or online from DodgeRidge.com. The rental shop will be in full operation, offering ski, snowboard and helmet rentals for all ages and The Sport and Tech Shop will be open for equipment tunes, waxes and essential ski and ride gear. The Creekside Lodge and North Fork Bistro will be open serving up breakfast, lunch and beverages for guests.

The Tuolumne County Ski Bus will be running every weekend of the season for only $10 round trip, offering their easy-ride shuttle service from Sonora to Dodge Ridge, with numerous stops along the way. Advanced reservations are encouraged by calling (209) 532-0404 or you can book online.

Dodge Ridge partners with participating Save Mart & Lucky’s Supermarkets throughout the Bay Area and Central Valley offering discount lift ticket vouchers for your trip to Dodge Ridge. You can see the full list of participating supermarkets from the Deals Page at DodgeRidge.com

Dodge Ridge relies 100% on natural snowfall and will be skiing and riding on epic powder conditions for the reopening weekend. Always ski and ride with care and for more detailed information on mountain safety pick up the Mountain Safety Guide at Guest Services and go online to the DodgeRidge.com safety page.

Get complete updates on new snowfall, road conditions, news and events by going online to DodgeRidge.com or by calling the Dodge Ridge Snow Phone at (209) 536-5300.

Family prepares to enjoy the new snows at Bear Valley Resort.

Bear Valley Resort is also touting over three feet of new snow; a large part of the overall Bear Valley Mountain is now open with marvelous skiing conditions. This season, the resort celebrates a new high-speed chairlift; the first six-pack in the Central Sierra. The chairlift will transport six passengers at a time from the mid-mountain ski lodge to the top of the mountain. The new lift replaces the Bear chairlift, increasing guest uphill capacity of the mountain’s main artery. For more info and snow report, go to bearvalley.com.

Another storm is expected to add another foot of new snow in the next 48 hours; so, get those skis and boards and head for the Sierra!

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Sierra Nevada, Stockton/San Joaquin County | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Be cool; moving up from tent camping to a classic travel trailer

This classic '57 Corvette trailer was rebuilt from the frame up at a cost of about $6,000. Beautifully redone, it was for sale recently, in the price range of $12,000.

Thinking of moving up from tent camping to a classic travel trailer? Be cool with the classics!

Classic Airstream Caravelle, and its truly classic tow vehicle, seen in the Lake Tahoe area last summer.

Last week, I shared thoughts about moving from tent camping to small, newer travel trailers.

I offered that small trailers share special qualities; they’re easy to maneuver into tight campsites, easy to store and can be towed with many four-cylinder and almost all six-cylinder autos/SUVs, yielding good gas mileage. Several additional pluses come with classic travel trailers; they’re cool, and if purchased properly, you won’t lose money should you sell them a some years later. Bought wisely and well-maintained, many of these classic trailers from the 50s through the 70s actually will appreciate, should you later desire to sell them.

For a twosome, or a family with several kids, classic trailers can be found in the range of 13 to about 20 feet offering plenty of room for up to four or five. Airstream, Shasta, Serro Scotty and other models can be found throughout the west. Search online and you’ll find a variety of classic trailer shows spread throughout the spring and summer where you can see these classics, check with the owners and determine what you like. Also scan the Tin Can Tourist website, the websites of classic trailer owners groups like Airstream, Shasta or Scotty and join the Facebook groups of the same trailer brands. My suggestion: watch your newspaper and put up daily searches on both eBay and Craigslist for “classic travel trailer” and see what pops up.

Classic early 60s Shasta, complete with iconic wings, seen at Fallen Leaf Lake last summer.

When you find the trailer you like, be prepared for some serious inspection. If you have a friend who knows woodworking and trailers, take him/her along. Also, a flashlight to look into all hidden corners and underneath the trailer – you’re looking for any signs of water damage, either at the base of the walls, the floor or around the interior windows and roof seams. Some classic owners are good at putting cosmetic touches to hide water and dryrot damage; repairs like this can be expensive and time-consuming.

Years ago, I found a cute ‘64 Serro Scotty trailer for sale in Oceanside, thinking it needed merely paint and a bit of rear-end patchwork. I finagled the price down to $900 – but shortly discovered extensive dryrot necessitating a full re-build. After about 700 hours of work, and another $4500 the trailer is finished -but I wouldn’t want to tackle a project like this again. It would’ve been a lot easier to have searched a bit longer and found a trailer ether in better shape, or fully rebuilt, and paid $6000.

Classic Boler fiberglass trailer, seen in upstate New York two falls ago!

Here’s a sampling of beautiful classics we’ve seen in recent years, offering quality, collectability and proper “coolness quotient”:

Airstream: These aluminum trailers offer the iconic shape, starting with the tiny Bambi and offering a number of slightly larger trailers (like the Caravelle, pictured) that can be towed with mid-size vehicles. They can be buffed to a high sheen and are often the talk of a campground.

Shasta trailers: These classic “canned hams” were originally made in southern California, so you’ll find lots of them spread around the west. They sprouted the cute Shasta wings in 1958, continuing through the mid-80s.

Serro Scotty trailers: Made in the late ’50s to the ’80s with pretty basic construction (making them easiest to rebuild), they also offer the classic canned ham profile. Our 64 Scotty Sportsman provides plenty of room for two, featuring a double bed in back, small dinette seating for four that converts to another bed, and center cooking area with small sink and two-burner stove.

‘57 Corvette: Bob Hughes, of Camino, Ca, rebuilt this 1957 Corvette trailer. Purchased for $600 and a two-years labor-of-love, it features an extended frame, rezinced the windows and cost about $7000 into the rebuild, including a beautiful blue and white paint job.

Our '64 Serro Scotty Sportsman trailer pictured in Yosemite recently, cost only $900. With extensive water damage and dry rot, rebuild took about 700 hours and another $4,300, rebuilt from the frame up.

You can find small classic trailers on sites like e-Bay and Craigslist; popular out west are those already noted, as well as Boler, Burro, Little Caesar, Hunter Compact, Kenskill, Layton, Mobile Glide and Scamp. They range in size from about 13 to 25 feet in length; a good reconditioned trailer can set you back anywhere from $5,000 to about $25,000 depending upon make and model. Bought wisely and well cared for, one can recoup the investment years later, perhaps seeing some appreciation in value. With any of these classic trailers, you’ll be “snug as a bug”, get good gas mileage getting there and be the toast of the campground!

Then there are new trailers I define as “classics”; classic design, small and cute. They include Shasta, which has just re-issued a retro, new Shasta Airflyte (in the upper teens as to price), and T@B and R-pod trailers that I profiled last week, with the old-fashioned teardrop shape.

For more information: A variety of classic trailer web sites offer insights into buying or rebuilding, including Tin Can Tourists, tincantourists.com; Airstream trailers, airstreamclassifieds.com; Serro Scotty trailers, nationalserroscotty.org; Shasta Trailers, vintageshasta.net. Pick a classic and find an owner’s group! To purchase, scan your newspaper as well as Craigslist and eBay.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world!

Posted in Alaska, Canada, Eastern, Canada, Western, Central California, East Coast US, Hawaii, Midwest US, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Sacramento/Capitol region, San Francisco Bay Area, Sierra Nevada, Southeast US, Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), Stockton/San Joaquin County, Teardrop and tiny travel trailers, United States beyond! | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tiny trailering; see the country in small, cozy travel trailer!

Friends Christine and Steve Lewis and dog Alice with their T@B trailer.

Tiny trailering; see the country in small, cozy travel trailer!

Our classic ’64 Serro Scotty in Yosemite; these other trailers are just a bit larger and heavier than our trailer.

My spouse and I have spent the last 10 years or so crossing the US and Canada using three tiny travel trailers – two of them the tiniest, teardrop trailers – and more recently, a 13 foot ‘64 Scotty classic trailer. As we’ve grown older, we tired of the hassle of tent camping compounded by my wife’s fear of bears tearing through the side of the tent. Small hard-sided trailers solved both those problems; our trailers are packed and ready to go but for tossing a few food items on board, and it would take a pretty crazed bear to be able to break into either of them.

With spring fast approaching, here are some suggestions for newer tiny trailers that fill the bill on comfort, coolness, frugal trailering and relatively inexpensive purchase prices. All of them are available locally and used versions can be found on Craigslist or eBay.

Favorites, from discussions with fellow campers in campgrounds and several friends or family who own them, include T@B, R-pod, Casita and A-liner trailers. The first three trailers range in length from about 17 to 20 feet, while the A-liner is a hard-sided pop-up trailer.

Spouse Tim, married to my cousin Anne, relaxes by their R-pod by Forest River.

These tiny trailers share common attributes; they are small, easy to maneuver into tight campsites, can be towed with many four and most six cylinder vehicles (yielding pretty fair gas mileage) and offer creature comforts for up to a family of four. For retiree couples like us – plenty of room to spare!

If purchased new, these trailers cost from the high-teens to mid-$20,000 range, depending on length and options. Most have inside bathrooms, with showers and inside-kitchens. If you’re willing to search online, you can find used versions of these trailers at 25 to 40% discount compared to buying new.

T@B trailers have been around for well over 10 years, and are one of our favorites in campgrounds, both based on their retro look and lots of positive owner comments. Friends Steve and Christine Lewis of Carmichael, CA, travel as a twosome with one big dog in a T@B trailer towed with a six-cylinder Toyota SUV. I asked Steve how they came to purchase their trailer a year ago. Steve notes, “We’ve been kicking tires on trailers for years; we just saw this one and kind of fell for it, just the right size, we thought. We purchased from Folsom Lake RV and liked the idea of a new trailer”.

Another R-pod trailer, spotted in Bryce Canyon National Park.

He added, “It’s cute and gets lots of looks in campgrounds. We like the size of 18 feet which is the maximum for a lot of special camp sites like DL Bliss on Lake Tahoe. We both thought this was the smallest self-contained trailer that actually is practical. Lastly and really important is we can park it alongside our house in not all that big a space”.

A newer Casita fiberglas trailer, with an Airstream profile, spotted in the Lake Tahoe area.

R-pod trailers (built by Forest River) are also a favorite, and offer the additional space amenity of slide-outs. My cousin Anne Linton and husband Tim of Bend, OR, travel both in sunny summertime and cold seasons with several dogs.  Anne notes, “We went to an RV show and really loved the R-pod 179 with slideout (at almost 18 feet, the slideout gives them even more internal room). We have found the R-pod light and easy to transport. We also wanted a kitchen and bathroom inside so the really small trailers were not enough. When we bought it we had two dogs so needed a little extra space; we absolutely love it as a four-season trailer!”.

Casita trailers are new fiberglass trailers, looking a bit like the classic Airstream shape.  Several owners have raved about their Casitas, including Bill Palmer, happy to show off his trailer in Bryce Canyon National Park, noting he tows with a six-cylinder Toyota Tacoma pickup. Likewise, we have met owners delighted with hard-sided pop=ups like the A-liner – most of them also noting that they fit handily into their garages when not in use.

A newer A-Liner Ranger model, a hard-sided pop-up trailer, spotted in Death Valley National Park. Nice thing about these trailers – they fit in your garage!

Before purchasing a new or used trailer, be sure your intended tow vehicle can handle the weight of both trailer and the contents of the tow vehicle.  As example, if your Suburu is rated at 2500 lbs. tow capability, and your trailer weighs 1800 pounds, when its loaded with camp goods and you pile two adults and additional camp items in the car – you may exceed the car’s tow abilities.

Like our 13 foot classic Scotty, all of these trailers fit easily into national park and national forest campgrounds, often built 50 or more years ago when most trailers were no longer than 20-some feet. Hence, the big modern behemoths can’t get into some of the nicest spots. I’ve always been aghast to see a huge pick-up pulling a 36 foot fifth wheel arrive, disgorging two adults no larger than the two of us. I always wonder what in the world they need all that extra room for? And, the smaller trailers allow close to 20 miles per gallon from the tow vehicles, while the giants get – maybe – 6 to 8 MPG.

For more info: Local dealers like Pan Pacific Trailers in French Camp carry the R-Pod, tent-trailers and smaller tear-drop trailers; several dealers in Sacramento like Folsom Lake RV offer more choices including the T@B and Casita lines. For purchasing used, small campers, see Craigslist or eBay (put up a daily search for “classic trailer”).

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

Posted in Alaska, Canada, Eastern, Canada, Western, Central California, East Coast US, Europe, Hawaii, Midwest US, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Sacramento/Capitol region, San Francisco Bay Area, Sierra Nevada, Southeast US, Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), Stockton/San Joaquin County, Teardrop and tiny travel trailers | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment
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    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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