Your favorite late summer or early fall vacation destinations…please share suggestions!

Morro Rock stands just off the beach at Morro Bay as horse-riders enjoy the scene.

Tufa towers stand like ghost ships along the shore of Mono Lake in the eastern Sierra.

Big Horn Sheep stand guard over Anza Borrego State Park (photo courtesy CA State Parks)

Group of bike riders in Discovery Park along the American River, Sacramento.

Families and empty-nesters are into the prime vacation season; with months of wonderful weather to come!

Once again, I am seeking your favorite vacation places in Northern California, southern Oregon or Nevada – anywhere within about a 5-6 hour drive or short flight from Stockton and San Joaquin County. Send me a short description of your best-loved destination(s), and a photo if you have one, and I’ll make it a subject of an upcoming column in the Stockton Record newspaper and my Record blog. Please send your ideas and a photo to: tviall@msn.com.

Last week’s request prompted a couple suggestions where we have not been, or, visited long enough.  Those included the far-north California coast, up near Trinidad and Arcata (thanks, Eric Grunder) and the Bend, Oregon area (thanks, Lori Dixon).

To prime your creative juices, here are a couple of additional favorites, including:

a. The central California coast, from Big Sur south to Morro Bay,

b. the eastern Sierra (including old ghost town Bodie and Mono Lake) and the Mammoth Lakes area just south,

c. The California desert with such parks as Anza Borrego State Park, the nearby Salton Sea, and,

d. Cycling along the American River Trail in Sacramento, Jack London Square in Oakland or the San Francisco Embarcadero area.

So, send me a photo and short, one or two paragraph description of your favorite vacation destination(s)! I will plan to make a blog feature of your favorites, perhaps an article in the newspaper with enough response.  So, get sharing your best vacation faves!

Thanks, and happy travels in the west!

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/valleytravel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Continued happy travels in the west!

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The high Sierra, a hiking, camping, fishing journey…with kids!

26 degrees ahead; no trailers, and bicyclists better think twice about peddling the final eight miles above Kennedy Meadows to Sonora Pass!

Relief Reservoir is a cool oasis of blue at end of a three mile hike from Kennedy Meadows Resort.

Guests descend the trail to Relief Reservoir on horses rented from Kennedy Meadows Resort.

Author's grandson Hunter prepares to dive into a chili burger at Kennedy Meadows Resort's homey restaurant!

View from about one mile south of Sonora Pass; relatively mild hikes run both north and south on the Sierra crest from the top of the pass!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Pinecrest to Sonora Pass, something for almost everyone!

Seeking a green, cool oasis from the heat of the valley, where kids or grandkids can hike and fish and you can curl up with a book amidst stunning vistas? Consider a late summer/early fall multi-day trip to the high Sierra and see a cool, green world, just two hours from the valley!

We often choose Highway 108, just east of Sonora from the Pinecrest area up to Sonora Pass. In 1852, 75 pioneers in 13-mule-drawn wagons departed from Ohio and Indiana headed west to California’s gold and promise of a better life, blazing the Sonora Pass route. Today, it’s one of the highest passes in the state, and the area just west of the pass is a summer and fall mecca for fisherman, hikers and admirers of the high Sierra.

For the kids, pack games, a couple of age-appropriate books, good walking shoes, fishing poles and  chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers for Smore’s. Between campground activities, short hikes, fishing expeditions and dinner around the campfire – it’s easy to entertain kids for several days in this glorious country.

With our teardrop travel trailer in tow and several of our grandchildren, we’ve made several summertime forays into this beautiful area. Here is what you’ll find along Highway 108 up to Sonora Pass:

Thirty miles east of Sonora, our first stop is usually Pinecrest Lake. Pinecrest is a self-contained resort area, on the shores of Pinecrest Lake, a PG&E reservoir (and, Dodge Ridge Ski Resort is just three miles above the lake). The lake is still almost full to the brim, and draws tourists, campers and cabin owners all summer and fall. The area offers a fine, family-friendly restaurant, the Steam Donkey, and lodging options at both Pinecrest Lake Resort and Pinecrest Chalet. Two large campgrounds can fill fast during the summer, so book early for best selection.

Heading higher into the Sierra, you will pass a dozen campgrounds along the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River. Our favorite is reached via the Clark’s Fork Road turn off; the Clark’s Fork Campground on the river of the same name offers 80 campsites on two loops, with the river running alongside and crisp nights at almost 7000 feet.

The Clark’s Fork Road dead-ends a few miles north in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, offering a variety of hiking trails and fishing options nearby.

A bit further east on Highway 108, you pass the mighty Dardanelles, sentinel mountains to the north of the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River and come to Dardanelle Resort, with restaurant open Friday, Saturday and Sunday and economical motel lodging options.

Our favorite destination for hiking and a good meal is the Kennedy Meadows Resort. This is a full-fledged horse and mule-packing station, offering a full restaurant, store, cabins, campground, guides and horses and mules which can pack you a few miles into Relief Reservoir, or 20 or more miles into the Emigrant Wilderness area on the border of the resort.

A cautionary tale: ask questions before you take a novice 14-year-old hiker on a “moderate hike”.  From Kennedy Meadows Resort, I misgauged the hike up to Relief Reservoir, estimating it at two miles and about 500 feet of elevation gain.  It turned out to be over three miles, and we climbed almost 1000 feet; despite a stunning high, alpine lake destination, my grandson was not a happy camper!  Fortunately, we both survived the ordeal but he was none too anxious to go exploring with me the next day!

Be sure to stop at Columns of the Giants, just off Highway 108. Here, a quarter mile hike on an easy trail takes kids and adults to the base of this natural wonder, where lava flows cooled thousands of years ago, creating vertical, towering basalt columns which almost defy imagination.

Highway 108 marches for miles along the Stanislaus River, with fishing holes just off the road. Don’t end your journey without a trip all the way to the top of Sonora Pass; trails lead both south and north off of the 9628’ pass, offering moderately strenuous hikes along the Sierra crest and superlative high-country views at every turn. A recent trip found only a few patches of snow above 10,000 feet – though afternoon thunderstorms come suddenly – be prepared for such changes in the weather.

This entire stretch of Hwy. 108, from Pinecrest to the pass offers wonderful views, glimpses of trees soon to begin turning their fall colors, a wealth of National Forest campgrounds (half off with a Federal Senior pass) and many hiking and fishing options just right for families with kids.  Weather is generally sunny and beautiful into October (though, check weather forecasts and prepare for changeable conditions; frequent afternoon thundershowers have kept this portion of the Sierra green with rivers running flush).

How to get there: From Stockton, take Hwy. 99 to Manteca, then go east on CA Hwy. 108 to Sonora (the largest town, for provisioning), and continue further east to Pinecrest and the Sonora Pass area. From Stockton to Kennedy Meadows Resort, it’s 120 miles and about 2.5 hours.

Dining, lodging, camping options abound in the high Sierra: The Steam Donkey Restaurant in Pinecrest, 209.965.3117, and Strawberry Inn (both restaurant and lodging) in Strawberry, 209.965.3662 are dependable dining options.  For lodging: Pinecrest Lake Resort,  209.965.3411, Pinecrest Chalet,  209.965.3276; higher up, the Dardanelle Resort, dating to 1923, with cabins, motel rooms and limited dining hours, dardanelle108.com; 209.965.4275; Kennedy Meadows Resort, 209.965.3900.  In the Dardanelles/Kennedy Meadows area, you will find almost a dozen campgrounds along the Stanislaus and Clark Fork Rivers, for information on camping or hiking in the Stanislaus National Forest  go to fs.usda.gov/stanislaus/, or contact the Summit Ranger District, 1 Pinecrest Lake Road, Pinecrest, CA 95364; (209) 965.3434.

What to bring: Binoculars, camera, good hiking shoes and gear for about any type of weather!

For more inspiration on other travel destinations in California and the west, see my blog, http//blogs.esanjoaquin.com/valleytravel, or contact me at tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the West!

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Your favorite vacation places for late summer or early fall…?

Cyclist heads north along San Francisco Embarcadero, in front of historic Ferry Building.

Machete Ridge in Pinnacles National Park, 30 miles south of Hollister, CA.

A frozen Lake Helen, with Lassen's volcanic peak behind.

Point Arena Lighthouse, a favorite spot along the northern California coast!

Families and empty-nesters are into the prime vacation season; with months of wonderful weather to come!

I am seeking your favorite vacation places in Northern California, southern Oregon or Nevada – anywhere within about a 5-6 hour drive or short flight from Stockton and San Joaquin County. Send me a short description of your best-loved destination(s), and a photo if you have one, and I’ll make it a subject of an upcoming column in the Stockton Record newspaper and my Record blog. Please send your ideas and a photo to: tviall@msn.com.

To prime your creative juices, here are a couple of our favorites, including the northern California coast, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Pinnacles National Park (Machete Ridge from the air) and cycling along the American River Trail in Sacramento and/or the San Francisco Embarcadero.

So, send me a photo and short, one or two paragraph description of your favorite vacation destination(s)! Thanks, and happy travels in the west!

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/valleytravel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Continued happy travels in the west!

 

 

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

California coastal dreamin’, Bodega Bay, the Russian River, Ft. Ross and north to Mendocino

Point Arena Lighthouse, looking north along rugged CA coast.

Mendocino Headlands and unique rocky bridge.

Old church stands sentinel over Mendocino's classy seaside downtown area.

Ocean Cove, and campers aligned along the bluff overlooking the mighty Pacific.

Pink Ladies grow wild along this stretch of the CA coast.

The old Bodega School was used to film some of the scenes from Hitchcock's classic movie, 'The Birds'.

Shorebirds, sea lions, quaint towns and spectacular Pacific coastal scenery – just 2.5 hours from San Joaquin County! With arguably the most scenic stretch of California coastline and late summer/early fall the best time of the year to visit, the coast from Bodega Bay north to Mendocino is too close not to make it a near-term destination!

It’s relatively undiscovered even in the busiest of vacation months, so leave the crowds behind and enter a world where time moves a bit slower. We have been there numerous times, on day trips, extended camping trips and a few motel overnights thrown in for diversity.

This piece of California offers impressive vistas, spectacular food, great camping options and wonderful places to stop for the night, if you aren’t into camping.  Recently, we headed northwest with our Scotty teardrop trailer in tow. Bodega (the town is different than Bodega Bay) was our first stop, just off Hwy. 116 west of Santa Rosa, and offers the old school where portions of the 1963 Hitchcock classic movie ‘The Birds’ was filmed.

This cute little town is worth the short detour, for both its quaintness and cinematic history. Just six miles north, one reaches Bodega Bay (also appearing in Hitchcock’s film), on the water, home to a variety of fine restaurants and several nearby beautiful campgrounds. Stop at the Tides Restaurant for delicious breakfasts or lunches, and check out a myriad of nearby state parks for tenting or trailering options.

Our favorite campground, Wright’s Beach, between Bodega Bay and Jenner, offers tent and trailer sites right on the ocean (though, reserve well in advance, through www.reserveamerica.com)! It’s one of two campgrounds in Sonoma Beach State Park, with the larger easier to book.

Heading north on Hwy 1, one soon crosses the languid Russian River and reaches the cute town of Jenner, where the Russian River spills into the Pacific. Stop at River’s End Restaurant for great food and stunning views; looking down from their deck above the river, a cadre of harbor seals usually is visible on a sandy spit below (the restaurant offers a telescope for a closer view). Shorebirds are also visible and swoop through the air off the restaurant deck.

If you have the time, detour off Hwy. 1, up the Russian River to Guerneville, the unofficial river headquarters with plenty of shops, restaurants, river-floating options and overnight accommodations.

Returning to the coast just north of Jenner, one soon reaches Ft. Ross, the old Russian settlement active from 1812 to 1841.  The fort was Russia’s southern-most outpost in its attempt to colonize North America, and functioned as an agricultural base, a center for ship building and was the site of California’s first windmills. The Rotchev House remains from the 1830s, with the balance of the fort, stockade, blockhouses and chapel all reconstructed as original, now a part of Ft. Ross State Historic Park.  Take the kids to get a feel for early settlements on the rugged California coast; docents lend an air of historical authenticity and hands-on experience!

A favorite private campground, where you can tent or trailer on a bluff above the ocean, is Ocean Cove Campground.  It’s fairly rustic, with showers, a small store, stunning scenery, fishing and snorkeling right at your doorstep, with reasonable pricing.

Pressing north up Hwy. 1, stop at the Stewart’s Point General Store, for a snack and drink and admire an historic outpost that looks much as it did almost 100 years ago.  Just north is Salt Point State Park, where native Americans once gathered salt that was captured in depressions on the ocean’s rocky outcroppings; hiking, birding and watching for sea lions are the attractions. Pretty campsites on a bluff over the Pacific can fetch late afternoon winds that can level a tent…beware!

Traveling north, several cute coastal towns like Sea Ranch (stop at the Sea Ranch Lodge for breakfast or lunch and spectacular if pricey overnight accommodations) and Gualala (Bones Roadhouse a fine lunch choice for BBQ or fish dishes) offer neighborly stops.  Gualala County Regional Park just south of Gualala offers very pretty and secluded campsites.

As you continue up Hwy. 1, take the detour two miles off Hwy. 1 to check out and tour the Point Arena Lighthouse for stunning coastal views and a tour of the historic lighthouse. Some of my best coastal photos were shot looking north along the rugged coast with the old lighthouse as the backdrop.

Further north, one passes through Manchester, then Elk, Albion and into Mendocino. Mendocino is the quintessential California coastal town, with trendy shops and several restaurants.  It’s old main drag is on a bluff overlooking the crashing Pacific below.  Don’t miss Mendocino Headwaters State Park, just west of town for superb ocean views and rocky bluffs. If you are camping, Van Damme State Park is just south of the city, with secluded campsites in a deep riparian forest - and the ocean beach is just steps away, including kayak rentals!  Ft. Bragg is just north of Mendocino, if you have time to extend your journey on the gorgeous California coast!

How to get there: Take Hwy. 12 west out of Lodi, then connect to Hwy. 116 just beyond Napa and Sonoma (both offer marvelous diversions if you want to extend your trip), to connect to Hwy. 1 along the coast.  Bodega Bay is 115 miles and about 2.5 hours from Stockton.

For more information: Bodega Bay Chamber of Commerce, visitbodegabayca.com, 707.347.9645; Jenner Visitor’s Center, 707.865.9757; Guerneville, guerneville-online.com707.869.9000; Ft. Ross State Historic Park, fortrossstatepark.org, 707.847.4777; Ocean Cove Campground, oceancove.org, 707.847.3422; Mendocino, mendocinocoast.com, 707.961.6300; Sonoma Valley Visitor’s Bureau, sonomacounty.com, 707.996.1090. For camping reservations, reserveamerica.com.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/valleytravel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Continued happy travels in the west!

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California Railroad Museum provides unique anchor to Old Sacramento

This engine, built to 1/3 scale, hauled tourists around the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal.

The Governor Stanford locomotive was the first for the Central Pacific; built in Philadelphia, shipped around Cape Horn and entered service in Sacramento in 1863.

Huge Southern Pacific cab-forward locomotive allowed engineers to see around tight mountain turns.

Refrigerated rail cars like this one, being loaded with blocks of ice on top, allowed San Joaquin Valley produce to be shipped to the midwest and east coasts.

Western Pacific's Feather River Route china and silverware, along with place settings of a dozen other railroads, is on display in the dining car.

The Santa Fe's engine No. 347C is a fine example of streamlined diesel engines that were the rage in the 1940s to 1960s.

The Sacramento Southern runs excursions on the weekends and other days from the museum along the Sacramento River.

The California Railroad Museum anchors the north end of Old Sacramento in our state capital. It’s one of the top railroad museums in the country, and celebrates the railroads’ huge impacts on California’s state-hood, Gold Rush and subsequent growth boom.

Before gold was discovered in 1848 in the tail race of Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California was growing slowly but steadily. San Francisco, Stockton and Sacramento were three major ports – and with few roads, most goods moved by water.

In the 1840s, rail began to be developed with short-line railroads. Theodore Judah came west to help build the Sacramento Valley Railroad, finished 1856, from Sacramento to Folsom to serve the Gold Rush boom.

He then turned his attention to the cross-continental railroad (discussed by visionaries for 20-some years), lobbying Congress and in 1861 helped persuade four local Sacramento merchants to incorporate the Central Pacific Railroad in Sacramento.

Collis Huntington and Mark Hopkins were partners in a Sacramento hardware company, Leland Stanford ran a grocery business and Charles Crocker was a dry goods retailer. All highly successful by the 1860s due to the Gold Rush’s huge influx of miners, they became the “Big Four” and kings of western railroads.

In 1862, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act and the race to complete the transcontinental railroad was on! The Central Pacific Railroad built east across the Sierra and into Nevada, while the Union Pacific Railroad forged west from Omaha. The two railroads met on May 10, 1869 at Promontory Summit, Utah, completing the nation’s first Pacific Railroad.

Today, the California Railroad Museum celebrates these benchmarks in state and Western history, and offers a marvelous adventure for kids to adults exploring the museum’s many exhibits and rolling stock.

A recent visit found seniors, families with young kids and tourists from outside the US, all thronging the museum’s offerings.

Immediately upon entering the museum, one walks into the Panama-Pacific Exposition exhibit. Celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal in 1915, two major expositions, one in San Diego, the other in San Francisco, forecast the canal’s impacts upon future California growth. In San Francisco, the expo was so large that a small, 1/3 scale railroad was built to take spectators throughout the grounds; Pan Pacific locomotive No. 1915 was built for the expo.

Then it’s a step back in time, to the locomotives that powered California’s expansion from the 1860s.

First up is Central Pacific Railroad locomotive No. 1, the Governor Stanford. This 40 ton, woodburning steam locomotive was built in Philadelphia in 1862, shipped around Cape Horn and went into service in Sacramento in 1863. It was retired from service in 1895, and through 1963, was on display at Stanford University.

The museum has a host of noteworthy locomotives. Remarkable in its size is a Southern Pacific cab-forward locomotive, No. 4294, built in 1901. The distinctive cab-forward design allowed engineers to see around tight mountain corners and avoid asphyxiation in the long tunnels and snowsheds that lined the Sierra route.

Also noteworthy, demonstrating technological progress, is the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe streamlined diesel locomotive No. 347C, built in 1949 and retired from service 30 years later. It’s the only surviving example of more than 250 such units, painted in the Santa Fe’s distinctive war bonnet colors.

The museum allows kids and adults to walk through a number of distinctive specialty railcars. They include The Great Northern’s Post Office car No. 42, which served as a complete post office between Chicago and Tacoma, Washington.

Nearby is the gleaming silver dining car, the Santa Fe’s No. 1474, named Cochiti. The car went into service in 1936, and displays the classic china and silverware settings of a dozen different railroads. While we were on board, a volunteer Porter allowed delighted kids to sound the chimes, calling train-goers to a fine dinner (in 1937 the Cochiti’s  menu included swordfish steak for $.75, salmon for $.70, old-fashioned boneless chicken pot pie for $.85 and sirloin steak for two for $2.75).

Other railcars had particular benefits to San Joaquin Valley agriculture. Fruit Growers Express refrigerated car No. 35832 is typical of the early refrigerated cars allowing California produce to be shipped to the Midwest and East Coast – greatly expanding markets for San Joaquin growers.

A panoply of model and toy trains is offered on the third floor, complete with Lionel, Gilbert, American Flyer and many other models.

This is a museum where kids can explore real railroad locomotive cabs, Pullman sleeping, postal and dining cars, and get hands-on. Outside, the Sacramento Southern Railroad offers excursions on the weekends and some midweek days, taking excited children and adults on a several mile tour along the mighty Sacramento River.

Moored along the adjacent wharf, as in days gone by, is the Delta King, the passenger ferry built in Stockton in 1927 – today open as a delightful restaurant and offering overnight hotel accommodations.

Within a few blocks of the railroad museum are the California Military Museum documenting 200 years of Californian military tradition, 1119 2nd St., www.militarymuseum.org, the Delta King Riverboat, 1000 Front Street, www.deltaking.com (built in Stockton in 1927), the Huntington & Hopkins Hardware, offering insights into a small town hardware business, 113 I St., www.csrmf.org, the Sacramento History Museum, 101 I St., www.historicoldsac.org , the Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum, 1200 Front St., www.scoe.net/oldsacschoolhouse and the Wells Fargo History Museum, 1000 2nd St., https://www.wellsfargo.com/about/history/museums/sacramento.   And, just 1/2 mile south is the California Auto Museum with a stunning variety of classic and novelty autos, dating back more than a century, 2200 Front Street, www.calautomuseum.org.

How to get there: from Stockton, take I-5 43 miles north and exit J St. and watch for the signs to Old Sacramento.

For more information: California Railroad Museum, 125 “I” Street, Sacramento, CA 95814, Ph: (916) 323-9280; web, www.csrmf.org; open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (summers, Thursdays to 8 pm) except Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Years Day.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.  Happy travels in the West!

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Vintage travel trailers; great investment, and, total class in campgrounds!

Hunter Compact II, made in the Los Angeles area in the 1970s, feature a pop-up center roof that allows 6'2" standing room, but a very low profile when towing.

Our 1958 reproduction Scotty Junior teardrop, in front of St. George Lighthouse in Florida.

1960s Airstream Caravelle, towed by a 1950 Pontiac "woodie" makes a true classic combo!

Casita trailers, made new today, also offer a wide range of used models, many in almost perfect condition (see Craig's List or eBay)!

1955 DeVille is a well-made and highly sought after model from 60-some years ago!

1965 Serro Scotty Sportsman offers low profile, sleeping for up to four adults.

New Shasta Airflight, reissued by Shasta just in the last year, is similar to vintage Shastas from the 1960s.

Last week, my travel blog featured a half-dozen vintage travel trailers we recently toured at a classic trailer rally at Lake Tahoe in June.

We have owned two tiny teardrop trailers; our first was a cute little reproduction Kit Kamper, popular after World War II and one of the more frequent teardrop trailer styles seen today. The Kit was built on a platform of 4’X8’ plywood sheets; hence, 4’ wide, 4’ tall and 8’ long, with a 6’ sleeping compartment and a rear galley for camping storage.

Several years ago, we decided to up-size, and bought a slightly larger 1964 Serro Scotty Sportsman trailer, still teardrop in style and needing a complete rebuild. This larger retro trailer offers a dinette, sleeps 3-4, with an interior sink, two-burner stove and stand-up room for someone 5’8” or shorter – my wife!  And, this smaller classic will still fit in a standard garage (barely), important if you live in a homeowner’s association!

Procrastinating on the rebuild of the larger Scotty (now wedged in our garage), I purchased (through eBay) a beautiful reproduction 1958 Serro Scotty Sportsman Jr. teardrop, built in 2011. We have toured extensively with it, including two trips across the country, trips up the CA/OR and WA coasts to Vancouver, BC, and assorted other western trips to national parks like Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Pinnacles, Glacier and more.

The arguments for a vintage teardrop trailer include small and lightweight (about 800 pounds), so a small car can tow it and deliver good gas mileage (we tow ours with a Ford Focus 5-speed stick and get 26 MPG). They fit in your garage, the smallest campsites and vintage trailers are always the “talk of the campground”!

Stepping up to mid-size classic trailers (1000 to about 2500 pounds) offers scores of options. From Scotty’s, Lil Loafers, Boler, Little Caesars to larger Aristocrats, Shastas, Airstreams, Kenskills, Boles and the like, a wide variety of lengths, weights, floorplans and luxurious appointments await the discriminating buyer. Since they are larger, they offer more interior space and many more amenities – the trade-offs are they weigh more, reducing your towing gas mileage (you will need a more powerful tow vehicle) and you have to store them somewhere.

Some of our favorite trailers seen in recent years include:

Hunter Compact II, made in the Los Angeles area in the 1970s, these fiberglass trailers have a pop-up center roof that allows for 6′-plus stand-up room, as well as a low profile when towing.  This one cost the owner $2,500; he did minor work, added a new paint job and has a roomy, light trailer (seen in Glacier Park, 2014).

Airstream Caravelle, from the 1960s, pulled by equally classic auto: The smaller Airstreams are highly sought after; they offer plenty of interior space, marvelous aerodynamics and light weight.

Casitas (as well as Burro, Boler and other similar brands) have been around for 30-some years, offering light weight, fine aerodynamics and plenty of room for couples with small kids.

1955 DeVille is a classic teardrop-style trailer that fetches admirers and a good price on the resale market.

1965 Scotty Sportsman (similar to our 64 Scotty awaiting a re-build in my garage) were popular from 1958, when the company started with small teardrop trailers, then went with the larger Sportsman models starting in 1960.  Today, Scotty rallies occur all over the country and the National Scotty Owners Association sports hundreds of members throughout the US, Canada and other countries!

New, or old Shasta Airflight: Just reissued by Shasta in the last year, these new trailers are made in same style as the 1960′s Shasta; both vintage and new models are very popular!

We also equipped all our trailers with a rear bike carrier receiver, so we can load 2-3 bikes on back.  With bedding already made up, camp gear loaded, it’s a simple matter to pack a cooler and your clothes, hook up and away we go!

Rebuilding a classic trailer can range from $1000 up to $10,000, or, you can choose to buy one that an owner has already rebuilt or upgraded. Prices for a fully rebuilt midsized classic can range from about $7500 to $15,000, plus or minus. Nicely, the true classics can usually be sold years later for as much, or more, than you paid for them.

To find your vintage trailer, check both Craig’s List and eBay (search for tear drop, teardrop and vintage campers). Remember, however, if you find a trailer that has water damage or dry rot, the damage is usually many times greater than can easily be seen from the exterior, so beware!

The web also features varied companies that rent teardrops or old classics for a few days or a week. Try one out, you may become hooked on the comfort afforded and hard-sided security, vs. tent-camping.

For more information: A variety of classic trailer web sites offer insights into buying or rebuilding, including Tin Can Tourists,  on the web at tincantourists.com, Shasta Trailers, vintageshasta.net and Serro Scotty trailers, nationalserroscotty.org. Pick a classic, and you can find an owner’s group for most!

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the West!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Southern California, United States beyond! | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Agricultural heritage and agri-tourism in San Joaquin County

1915 Indiana tractor is typical of those used in the fields in the first 20 years of the 20th Century; 30 more can be found in the Museum's Tractor Building!

Lodi's Farmer's Market, running Thursday eves from 5 to 8:30 PM, is trypical of almost a dozen markets throuhgout the county.

Captain Weber's cottage was originally part of the Weber compound on Weber Point in Stockton in the 1850s, now located at the San Joaquin Historical Museum.

An old yellow Caterpillar tractor, invented by Benjamin Holt, allows kids to scramble to the controls!

The Elliott Family prairie schooner is a huge wagon that came to California loaded with the family's possessions in 1859.

Phillips Farms is a favorite breakfast or lunch stop, on Hwy. 12, just west of Lodi (it's also part of Michael David Winery).

LoCA (Lodi, CA) directional signs post the way to over 60 wineries in Lodi and Woodbridge, CA!

San Joaquin Historical Museum, wine country, Ag Center offer insight and fun for all ages…

San Joaquin County is consistently ranked in the top 10 counties in the United States for the value of its agricultural production – positioning our county as one of the top-most producers in the world. Living in the center of this ag powerhouse – have you and your family explored the history and splendor of our county’s agriculture?

Captain Charles M Weber, the German immigrant who founded Stockton in 1849 during the early days of the Gold Rush, relied on his own crops and pioneering farmers for food to feed his family and the huge influx of fortune seekers headed to the central Sierra mines.

New arrivals to Stockton’s busy port and San Joaquin County would pay handsomely for staples like wheat, corn and potatoes grown nearby. Specialty crops like chicory (mixed with coffee to stretch expensive coffee imports) and grapes, for table use, juice and wine also figured prominently in farms in and adjacent to the Delta.

As the country hurtled towards World War II and 20-some years after Ben Holt invented what would become the Caterpillar tractor and revolutionize Delta farming, the complexion of San Joaquin County agriculture had changed.

With the benefit of refrigerated railcars, growers were able to ship produce all over the United States. The ag commissioner reported leading crops in the late 1930s were grapes (table grapes, juice and wine production) followed by alfalfa hay, potatoes, beans, asparagus and peaches and tomatoes.

Today, leading ag commodities are grapes, almonds, walnuts, milk, cherries and tomatoes, with an overall value at well over $2 billion annually.

So, if you want to show kids or grandkids the history, impact and fun of our agricultural community – how do you do that? We asked several experts in the field where they would direct people for insight and entertainment. Here’s are destinations that will provide history and fun for all.

Everyone agreed that the place to start for hands-on history is the San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum in Micke Grove Park, just south of Lodi. Here you will find, spread across 13 acres exhibits on Charles Weber, founder of Stockton and our first agriculturalist, including many artifacts and Victorian room dioramas with Weber family furnishings and a new exhibition on the first settlers and farmers in the county, featuring a prairie schooner (wagon) that came from Illinois in 1859.

Six large museum buildings focus on agricultural history, including the invention and manufacture of farm and earthmoving equipment.  Through August, the popular Critter Corral (meet and pet small farm animals) runs weekends, delighting young and old.  Another exhibition (through August 9) displays Rich Turner’s stunning photographs of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The museum preserves a portion of the Tokay vineyard planted by William Micke in 1922, at that time the most popular grape grown locally.

David Stuart, Executive Director of the San Joaquin County Historical Society, noted “The goal of the Historical Society is to preserve the rich history of our county and to tell some of the many fascinating stories that have shaped us. Stories feature the Miwok- and Yokuts-speaking nations that cared for this region for millennia and Captain Charles Weber, who had the vision to develop Stockton as a transportation, manufacturing, and agricultural center”.

“Featured are the early American settlers who emigrated to build families, farms, and communities here; of inventors and entrepreneurs such as Benjamin Holt and R.G. LeTourneau, who started international corporations here; of thousands of immigrants who built our levees, toiled in our fields, and brought new energy and ideas for agriculture. This is what we hope to provide to visitors to the County Historical Museum.”

”The Historical Society hopes that visitors to the Museum will be fascinated by the stories of those who have gone before us and have shaped our county; stories that demonstrate a tradition of innovation, ingenuity, and creativity. We trust that a visit will whet visitors’ appetite to learn more. Discovering the roots of California’s heartland will encourage community pride and civic engagement.”

Pat Patrick, CEO of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce, concurs on visiting the San Joaquin Historical Museum, “Visit the Tractor Building, where history of tractors and earth-moving equipment is graphically demonstrated; kids can climb on old Caterpillar tractors.    Then, stop at the Lodi Wine and Visitor Center (corner of Turner Road and Lower Sacramento), with plenty of info on local wines, events and wineries – as well as the demonstration vineyard on the west side, flush with zinfandel, chardonnay, syrah and the methods illustrating how grape varieties are grown. On the way, stop for breakfast or lunch at Phillips Farms, corner of Hwy. 12 and Ray Road.”

Patrick also suggests walking the quaint streets of downtown Lodi, where 13 wineries and tasting rooms flourish, with over 20 labels of wine to sample. The World of Wonders Science Museum is also located in the midst of these tasting rooms, for kid’s activities.

A host of other destinations can be included in your tour of county agricultural heritage.  They include the University of California Cooperative Extension and lovely demonstration garden at the Cabral Agricultural Center), a result of federal legislation in 1914 that established a system of cooperative agricultural services.

Additionally, tour nearly a dozen farmer’s markets throughout the county, farm stands that sell local, fresh produce until late in the Fall, the historic Lockhart Seeds in Stockton and evidence of the growing “Farm to Fork movement” including neighborhood gardens such as the Puentes Garden in Boggs Tract, teaching gardens at agencies like Stockton’s Emergency Food Bank and school gardens such as Taylor Leadership Academy.

For more information: San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum, located in Micke Grove Park, 11793 N. Micke Grove Rd, Lodi, 209.953.3460, sanjoaquinhistory.org; Lodi Wine and Visitor’s Center, 2545 W. Turner Rd., Lodi, 209.367.4727, Lodiwine.com; Lodi Chamber of Commerce, 35 S. School St., Lodi, 209.367.7840, lodichamber.com; World of Wonders Science Museum, 2 N. Sacramento Street, Lodi, 209.368.0969, wowsciencemuseum.org; UC Cooperative Extension and demonstration garden/Cabral Ag Center, 2101 E. Earhart Ave., Ste 200, Stockton, 209.953.6100, cesanjoaquin.ucanr.edu.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the West!

Posted in Central California, Northern California | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Classic travel trailers; touring “vintage style” as you gain in maturity!

Our 1958 reproduction Serro Scotty Sportsman Jr. teardrop trailer.

1955 Little Caesar, lovingly restored by owners Steve and Patty Elliot of Shingle Springs, CA.

Interior of '55 Little Caesar is bright, comfy and sleeps up to four adults.

1960 Aristocrat 'Lil Loafer weighs just 1400 pounds.

1962 Kenskill, 19' model, has lots of interior comforts, cost owners $800 - they had to repair water damage in front end.

1957 Corvette trailer was a real "head-turner" in the campground!

German-built 1989 Ariba Puck, with pop-up roof, offers lots of amenities in 700 lb. package!

When we were younger and our kids were in school, we would load them into the car, pack our camping gear into our canoe and flip the canoe upside down on top of the car. Off we’d go for a week’s vacation, or longer, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

As we have matured, and the kids went their separate ways, we have moved from tent camping to classic teardrop trailer camping. And, we are soon to move “up the line” in classic trailers, when we finish rehab on a 1964 Serro Scotty Sportsman trailer.

We have owned two tiny trailers; our first was a cute little reproduction Kit Kamper, popular after World War II and one of the more frequent teardrop trailer styles seen today. The Kit was built on a platform of 4’X8’ plywood sheets; hence, 4’ wide, 4’ tall and 8’ long, with a 6’ sleeping compartment and a rear galley for camping storage.

Several years ago, we decided to up-size, and bought a slightly larger 1964 Serro Scotty Sportsman trailer, still teardrop in style and needing a complete rebuild. This larger retro trailer offers a dinette, sleeps 3-4, with an interior sink, two-burner stove and stand-up room for someone 5’8” or shorter – my wife!  And, this smaller classic will still fit in a standard garage (barely), important if you live in a homeowner’s association!

Procrastinating on the rebuild of the larger Scotty (now wedged in our garage), I purchased (through eBay) a beautiful reproduction 1958 Serro Scotty Sportsman Jr. teardrop, built in 2011. We have toured extensively with it, including two trips across the country, trips up the CA/OR and WA coasts to Vancouver, BC, and assorted other western trips to national parks like Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Pinnacles, Glacier and more.

The arguments for a vintage teardrop trailer include small and lightweight (about 800 pounds), so a small car can tow it and deliver good gas mileage (we tow ours with a Ford Focus 5-speed stick and get 26 MPG). They fit in your garage, the smallest campsites and vintage trailers are always the “talk of the campground”!

Stepping up to mid-size classic trailers (1000 to about 2500 pounds) offers scores of options. From Scotty’s, Lil Loafers, Little Caesars to larger Shastas, Airstreams, Kenskills, Boles and the like, a wide variety of lengths, weights, floorplans and luxurious appointments await the discriminating buyer. Since they are larger, they offer more interior space and many more amenities – the trade-offs are they weigh more, reducing your towing gas mileage (you will need a more powerful tow vehicle) and you have to store them somewhere.

We take special delight in pulling up beside giant diesel pickups, pulling 35′ fifth-wheels (and getting about 8 MPG), realizing we are about as comfortable as they are!   We also equipped both our trailers with a rear bike carrier receiver, so we can load 2-3 bikes on back.  With bedding already made up, camp gear loaded, it’s a simple matter to pack a cooler and your clothes, hook up and away we go!

We recently attended a classic trailer rally near Lake Tahoe.  There we toured almost 40 classics, many of them wonderfully redone from the original.  Typical was a 1955 Little Caesar, weighing just 1400 pounds. Owners Steve and Patty Elliot, Shingle Springs, CA, noted “we paid only a few hundred dollars, invested $4000 and considerable time in the rehab, from the frame up”. They also have a 65 Scotty and have rebuilt two teardrops and an Aristocrat.

Donn and Donna Marchall proudly showed off their 1960 Aristocrat Lil Loafer, just 1400 pounds with a 9 foot box. Donn noted “we paid a few hundred and invested $4200 in the rebuild; we love that it’s so small, easy to store and can fit in many campsites too small for the giant fifth wheels! And, every camper wants to come by to tour our little trailer!”

A larger classic that needed only a bit of work was a comfortable 1962 Kenskill. Owners Jenny and Mel Davis, Grass Valley, CA, paid just $800, installed a new refrigerator and $1000 in parts and fixed some water damage in front window area.

Bob Hughes, of Camino, Ca, showed off his 1957 Corvette trailer on its maiden voyage. He paid $600 and spent two years doing a total rebuild. He extended the frame, rezinced the windows and put about $7000 into the rebuild, including a beautiful blue and white paint job.

And, we spied an import from Germany, a tiny 1989 Ariba Puck, weighing only 700 pounds, with queen size bed, tiny kitchen in front and towed by a classic Volkswagen Westfalia. With a pop-up roof, for six-foot plus headroom, it drew rave reviews (American-made 1970’s Hunter Compact classics offer similar style with pop-up roof).

Rebuilding a classic trailer can range from $1000 up to $10,000, or, you can choose to buy one that an owner has already rebuilt or upgraded. Prices for a fully rebuilt midsized classic can range from about $7500 to $15,000, plus or minus. Nicely, the true classics can usually be sold years later for as much, or more, than you paid for them.

The marketplace for any of these is both Craig’s List and eBay (search for tear drop, teardrop and vintage campers). Remember, however, if you find a trailer that has water damage or dry rot, the damage is usually many times greater than can easily be seen from the exterior, so beware!

You can also find, on the web, varied companies that rent teardrops or old classics for a few days or a week. Try one out, you may become hooked on the comfort afforded and hard-sided security, vs. tent-camping.

For more information: A variety of classic trailer web sites offer insights into buying or rebuilding, including Tin Can Tourists,  on the web at tincantourists.com, Shasta Trailers, vintageshasta.net and Serro Scotty trailers, nationalserroscotty.org. Pick a classic, and you can find an owner’s group for most!

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the West!

Posted in Central California, Mountain West USA (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah), United States beyond! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bodie, historic ghost town, and Mono Lake make Eastern Sierra memorable!

Bodie's school house, built 1879, replaced another which burned down when set fire by disgruntled students!

Interior of the 1879 Bodie schoolhouse, almost as if the students just left!

Bodie, with Bodie Bluff in distance, spreads across the high valley.

Old Bodie home, and telephone pole, are leaning in opposite directions!

From Bodie, heading south on Hwy. 395, Mono Lake stretches out in the hazy summer sun.

Tufa towers rise on the south shore of Mono Lake, with the snow-dusted Sierra in the background.

My last blog post and article in the Stockton Record newspaper profiled our recent trip over the Sierra, and along Hwy. 395.  We found this section of the Eastern Sierra green, with rivers flowing, dotted with scenic lakes and full of other-worldly destinations!

Here are more photos on the historic ghost town of Bodie, and a couple more on the eerie Mono Lake Tufa formations.

From Lee Vining at the intersection of Hwy. 120 and 395, we trekked north to tour Bodie State Historic Park.  Bodie, high in the volcanic mountains north of Mono Lake, was founded in 1859 when Waterman Body discovered gold.

Bodie’s population, 20 years later, had grown to 10,000, famous for its lawlessness, robbers, and some of the worst climate in the west.

Today, the town is maintained in a state of “arrested decay” by the State Historic Park. Only 5 percent of the original buildings remain – but it’s an impressive remainder!

 

Among its evocative old structures are the Methodist Church, erected 1882 and the old sawmill, used for cutting firewood for winters when snow reached 20 feet deep, winds up to 100 MPH and temperatures down to 40 below zero!

It’s second schoolhouse still stands, with classrooms decked out just as students would have left it (the first school house burned down when disgruntled students set it afire!

Above the town stands the old Standard Mine and Mill, on the west slope of Bodie Bluff. Though the old mill buildings are unsafe and closed to the public, the mill extracted more than $15 million in gold over its 25 year run and remains an imposing presence over the town.

Along Bodie’s Main Street you’ll find the old post office, the IOOF Hall, Miner’s Hall with adjacent morgue, Boone Store and Warehouse, the old firehouse and Wheaton and Hollis Hotel (the hotel lobby, complete with bar and pool table, looks like gold prospectors just left minutes earlier)!

Stroll down Green Street to the red-brick hydroelectric building. In 1882 a hydroelectric plant was built on Green Creek above Bridgeport, developing 3500 volts and 130 hp. Electricity was run 13 miles over power poles set in a straight-line – the concern being that electricity could not be made to turn a corner! This engineering breakthrough spread throughout the world, and soon similar power plants became a worldwide standard.

Just south, Mono Lake is one of the oldest in North America, 760,000 years old. It has no outlet and is fed by six major streams that keep it from evaporating. With minerals flowing into the lake for eons, it’s 2.5 times saltier than the ocean and extremely buoyant. Though no fish can live in the alkaline waters, it’s flush with life – millions of brine shrimp and alkali flies feed thousands of migratory birds. And touring the shoreline tufa tower gardens is an experience like no other.

Tufa tower formations are the result of springs rising up from the lake floor and depositing minerals as they grow upwards. Once 30, 40 or 50 feet under the lake’s surface, they have been revealed in stark, alien contrast over the past 90 years, as LA water interests siphoned off tributary streamflow, causing the lake surface to drop by 60+ feet. A 1994 court decision has required the streams to be left unchecked, and the lake level is starting to slowly rebound.

To reach the South Tufa Reserve, take Hwy. 120, 5 miles east of Hwy. 395; a one mile easy hike takes you through some of the most intriguing topography – tufa towers rising 30 feet, appearing like ghost ships at lake’s edge!

From the Bodie Hills to the north, a variety of volcanic craters circle the lake. Most distinctive is Panum Crater which erupted 640 years ago and is easily reached off Hwy. 120, 3 miles east of Highway 395.

How to get there: From Stockton, take I-5 or Hwy. 99 south, then go east on Hwy. 120, into and through Yosemite Park, to connect to Hwy. 395.  Lee Vining is about 170 miles and 4 hours from Stockton.

For more information: Bodie State Historic Park, PO Box 515, Bridgeport, CA, 93517, phone 760.647.6445; WWW parks.ca.gov/Bodie; Mono Basin Visitor Center, PO Box 429, Lee Vining, California, 93541; phone 760.873.2408; www.fs.fed.us/r5/Inyo.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the West!

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Eastern Sierra; Bodie, Mono Lake, Mammoth Lakes and Devil’s Postpiles, all along Hwy 395

Old mining winch stands in front of the Standard Mine and Mill on Bodie Bluff.

Mono Lake Tufa towers on shore, and off-shore, strike an eerie presence.

Lake Mary, at 8966 feet in the Sierra, just four miles above town of Mammoth Lakes.

Devil's Postpiles National Monument features basalt columns, the result of ancient lava flows.

John Muir, speaking of the strange and scenic land just east of Yosemite National Park,  described it in 1864: “a country of wonderful contrasts, hot deserts bordered by snow laden mountains, cinders and ashes scattered on the glacier-polished pavement, frost and fire working in the making of beauty”.

I had long thought of this area as dry, gritty and a place to travel through.  But a recent trip through Yosemite Park, over Tioga Pass and down into the Mono Basin changed all that.  We found this section of the Eastern Sierra green, with rivers flowing, dotted with scenic lakes and full of other-worldly destinations!

From Lee Vining at the intersection of Hwy. 120 and 395, we trekked north to tour Bodie State Historic Park.  Bodie, high in the volcanic mountains north of Mono Lake, was founded in 1859 when Waterman Body discovered gold.  The population, 20 years later, had grown to 10,000, famous for its lawlessness, robbers, and some of the worst climate in the west.

Today, the town is maintained in a state of “arrested decay” by the State Historic Park. Only 5 percent of the original buildings remain – but it’s an impressive remainder! Among its evocative old structures are the Methodist Church, erected 1882 and the old sawmill, used for cutting firewood for winters when snow reached 20 feet deep, winds up to 100 MPH and temperatures down to 40 below zero!

Above the town stands the old Standard Mine and Mill, on the west slope of Bodie Bluff. Though the old mill buildings are unsafe and closed to the public, the mill extracted more than $15 million in gold over its 25 year run and remains an imposing presence over the town.

Along Bodie’s Main Street you’ll find the old post office, the IOOF Hall, Miner’s Hall with adjacent morgue, Boone Store and Warehouse, the old firehouse and Wheaton and Hollis Hotel (the hotel lobby, complete with bar and pool table, looks like gold prospectors just left minutes earlier)!

Stroll down Green Street to the red-brick hydroelectric building. In 1882 a hydroelectric plant was built on Green Creek above Bridgeport, developing 3500 volts and 130 hp. Electricity was run 13 miles over power poles set in a straight-line – the concern being that electricity could not be made to turn a corner! This engineering breakthrough spread throughout the world, and soon similar power plants became a worldwide standard.

Just south, Mono Lake is one of the oldest in North America, 760,000 years old. It has no outlet and is fed by six major streams that keep it from evaporating. With minerals flowing into the lake for eons, it’s 2.5 times saltier than the ocean and extremely buoyant. Though no fish can live in the alkaline waters, it’s flush with life – millions of brine shrimp and alkali flies feed thousands of migratory birds. And touring the shoreline tufa tower gardens is an experience like no other.

Tufa tower formations are the result of springs rising up from the lake floor and depositing minerals as they grow upwards. Once 30, 40 or 50 feet under the lake’s surface, they have been revealed in stark, alien contrast over the past 90 years, as LA water interests siphoned off tributary streamflow, causing the lake surface to drop by 60+ feet. A 1994 court decision has required the streams to be left unchecked, and the lake level is starting to slowly rebound.

To reach the South Tufa Reserve, take Hwy. 120, 5 miles east of Hwy. 395; a one mile easy hike takes you through some of the most intriguing topography – tufa towers rising 30 feet, appearing like ghost ships at lake’s edge!

From the Bodie Hills to the north, a variety of volcanic craters circle the lake. Most distinctive is Panum Crater which erupted 640 years ago and is easily reached off Hwy. 120, 3 miles east of Highway 395.

From the Mono Basin area, we headed south on Highway 395 and circled the June Lakes Loop. Here a string of beautiful lakes offer scenery and fishing options set against the rugged Sierra. The quaint town of June Lake offers gas, lodging and food along the loop.

We continued south on 395, turning off on Hwy. 203 to the town of Mammoth Lakes. It’s home to Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, one of the largest in the west, and in summer a huge mecca for mountain bikers. We climbed higher into the mountains west of town to Lake Mary Campground. At 8966 feet, with thin air and gorgeous scenery, it’s one of six lakes in the Lake Mary Loop, all with scenic campgrounds and interconnected by paved biking and hiking trails.

Mammoth Lakes is a town that caters to tourists year-round, with lodging, restaurants, retail and sports shops, all aimed at youthful, outdoorsy visitors. The Mammoth Brewing Company, combined with the adjoining Eatery, is a must stop; fine craft beers and some of the best brew pub food we have had in a long while!

The next day, we followed Hwy. 203 north to Devils Postpiles National Monument. A short 1/2 mile hike takes one past a pristine stretch of the Upper Middle Fork San Joaquin River, then to the postpiles. Here, about 80,000 years ago, basalt lava flowed from an unknown source. As it cooled and contracted it split into the symmetrical vertical, hexagonal columns that constitute the postpiles. Hiking further down the San Joaquin is Rainbow Falls, which drops 101 feet over a cliff of volcanic rock.

Fishing in any of the strings of lakes in this area is good to outstanding! Touring, hiking and biking options are abundant, up and down the Eastern Sierra, and each turn yields wondrous new views!

How to get there: From Stockton, take I-5 or Hwy. 99 south, then go east on Hwy. 120, into and through Yosemite Park, to connect to Hwy. 395.  Lee Vining is about 170 miles and 4 hours from Stockton. 

For more information: Bodie State Historic Park, PO Box 515, Bridgeport, CA, 93517, phone 760.647.6445; WWW parks.ca.gov/Bodie; Mono Basin Visitor Center, PO Box 429, Lee Vining, California, 93541; phone 760.873.2408; www.fs.fed.us/r5/Inyo; Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce: 760.934.6717; www.mammothlakeschamber.org; Devils Postpile National Monument, PO Box 3999, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546; phone 760.934.2289; www.nps.gov/depo.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com. 

Happy travels in the West!

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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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