Walter and Sara Let the good times roll
We left off in Part II in Twenty Nine Palms. Southern California was having a major heat wave and it had even been in the high eighties at the beaches. We were hoping that things would cool off a bit as we set off for Carlsbad State Beach just north of San Diego.

It was still warm when we got there but the marine layer had won the fight in the night and it was a little foggy at the beach when we arrived at about 1 pm. The campground had been full for the weekend and this was Monday and they still had the signs out saying that we absolutely positively couldn't check in until 2 pm. So we found a place to park along old Hwy 101 and had lunch and watched as the fog burned off.

We checked in at a little before 2 pm only to find that the campground was nearly empty! We got a wonderful spot on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Our spot was so big we could park the trailer sideways in it with the side windows looking out over the ocean.

We were greeted shortly after settling in by the local wildlife.

Ground Squirrel on fence at Carlsbad State Beach Ground Squirrel running on fence

These little guys knew all about trailers and what they were good for. We had our door open with the screen door shut and they'd come and sit on the step looking in. I guess they've learned that there's food just past them thar screen doors!

We took a walk on the beach and I even waded in the waves since it was in the high 70's. Walter just enjoyed wearing his goofy hat and watching the birds.

Walter on the beach at Carlsbad State Beach

That's Rosita up on the bluff on the far left. When the tide comes in the water eats the whole beach and laps at the bottom of the cliff.

The cliffs at Carlsbad State Beach

We had gorgeous weather just like this all three days that we were here. Need I say that once again I was in heaven? Well, I was. I love the beach and to have a beautiful beach like this nearly all to ourselves and gorgeous weather, well, it just doesn't get much better than that.

The first night we even had a nice sunset. This is looking south from our campsite.

Sunset at Carlsbad looking south

And this is looking north.

Sunset at Carlsbad looking north

And this is looking west! Duh!

Sunset at Carlsbad looking west

Not a bad view to have from a trailer in a state campground!

The next day we went to see the Carlsbad Flower Fields where they grow 50 acres of mostly Tecolote Ranunculus.

The Tecolote variety was developed on this same property and they still grow almost all the Tecolote bulbs in the world here. The city and the property owner have arranged to preserve this 50 acres of farmland that would otherwise have become hotels and houses. When I was a kid this whole area of the coast was miles and miles of flower growers and it's all become houses.

So what in the world is a Ranunculus you ask?

Rose Ranunculus White ranunculus

And why go to the flower fields?

Flower Fields at Carlsbad Montage

They grow rows and rows of flowers that end up looking a lot like the tulip fields that are located just north of us at home.

But the flowers are definitely NOT tulips.

Ranunculus Montage

After taking the tractor ride through the fields and stopping and taking pictures of WAY too many flowers we headed back to the beach for lunch and another afternoon walk.

The next day we took a hike at Batiquitos Lagoon.

Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad, CA

There's lots of birds here--ducks, wading birds and egrets.

And this lizard was sunning on the top of a post just waiting for us to take his picture.

Lizard in the sun

After our hike we went and found a nice park for lunch. Looking out at the view we realized that industrial park we were overlooking was probably where the division headquarters for Respironics, the company that Walter has consulted for, is located. We didn't go find their building but we can say that we understand why they're headquartered in Carlsbad--it's a very nice little beach town.

After three days at the beach we moved on to Santee Lakes County Park where we always camp when we're in San Diego. It was hot there --it's inland--and we ran the air conditioning while we did important housekeeping chores like the laundry!

The next day we started our 4-day visit with our daughter, Tracy. Walter said he wanted to go to the San Diego Maritime Museum and it was a warm sunny day that seemed like a good one to be down by the water.
They have a number of ships moored along the waterfront including:

An old steam ferry, The Berkeley, with wonderful stained glass windows. This ferry used to run in San Francisco Bay. It was Friday and they were getting ready to have a wedding there that afternoon/evening.

Stained Glass windows in The Berkeley ferry

They also have an old Russian B-39 diesel submarine which we toured. The hatchways are really narrow in all directions so it's a rather gymnastic activity but fun. Clearly they'd designed the thing from a mechanical point of view and then when they were done they found room for the sailors wherever they could squish them in. Do you want to sleep in the engine room?

Russian B-39 diesel submarine

We also got to see the HMS Surprise which is a 179 ft wooden sailing frigate that was renovated to be used in the movie, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. The Surprise is the ship that's featured in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series of 22 books that Walter had just finished reading.

HMS Surprise figure head HMS Surprise

The Star of India is also moored there. She is an iron hulled ship that was used first as a cargo ship to India, then as an emigrant ship to New Zealand and later in Alaska as salmon cannery. She's been fully restored and goes out sailing at least once a year with the Surprise. She's the world's oldest active ship.

Star of India

The next day was cooler and cloudy so we went to the San Diego Zoo--my favorite. It was perfect weather for it--a bit on the cool side for the humans but perfect for the critters who were up and prowling about. The cats were awake and out. We saw the pandas out moving around. And there's a new pair of 1 yr old grizzly bear cubs who were playing chase all over their enclosure.

We went way the heck up to the back of the zoo to see the polar bears who were of course taking a nap. When we came back down the hill we ended up going by the birds of prey. This HUGE Harpy eagle took off and flew a full lap around his cage and really put on a show--to everyone's amazement and awe.

That really got our attention so we stopped to look at this Andean Condor. He was doing what the birds usually do: sit with their backs to the people.

California Condor with back to the crowd

And then all of a sudden he turned around and gave us a show.

California Condor with wings spread

It was like watching a flasher! He swung back and forth so everyone got a great view. And then the big eagle in the next cage took off and flew too.

On our way out one of the many peacocks decided to pose for us too. Watching him do a full two turns was pretty fun since it's a real balancing act. Later the next week on the way home we were in a campground where they have peacocks and there was a juvenile male practicing how to strut. His tail was only a foot or so long but he still had to work on his posture and balance.

Peacock at San Diego Zoo

The next day we went to the Fallbrook Avocado Festival. This was Tracy's choice and we all thought it would be a laid back quiet day. Wrong. The thing was huge. There must have been at least 10,000 people all walking up and down the main street of Fallbrook. Holy Guacamole stands appeared every block. I bought some gorgeous Haas avocados and they were ripe by the time we got home.

The last day we went for a hike around Lake Hodges in north San Diego County. Driving from the desert to Carlsbad through this same area I'd seen these small piles of orange straw here and there along the road and up on the hillsides. I wondered if it had been something they'd used fighting the fires the previous fall.

On our hike we came across a patch of the stuff.

Dodder in San Diego County

It turns out not to be straw. It was damp to the touch and a little rubbery. It was clearly alive and twining it's way around the stems of the low lying shrubs. Very weird stuff. I did a search on the internet later and discovered it's called dodder. It's a plant parasite and eventually blooms and makes seeds.

After our hike we had a picnic in the park where they have the Renaissance Faire each year. Tracy had been there the two weekends before dancing at the Faire with her Belly Dance Troupe. As always we had a wonderful time visiting with Tracy.

The trip back north was uneventful and not particularly photogenic! We stopped and saw Walter's family in Napa and then made a beeline home up I-5.

We're really glad that we took our trip to California this year in April. It was a bit of a stretch for me to be gone from my garden that time of year but it turned out to be an incredibly cold April in Seattle so I really wasn't that far behind on my gardening tasks when I got back. It was a perfect year to be gone!