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Day 176 - Calif Coastal Hwy, Birds and Beaches

It rained most of the morning, but we drove on anyway - north along the Coastal Highway, along Beaches, through towns, then more Beaches. We also found a new bird (for us).

storm 60 °F

Weather forecasters must be getting better. I remember the weather forecast almost as a joke when I was a kid - but most of this trip the forecasts have been dead on. Last week, they said it would rain Friday, be decent Saturday and rain Sunday. Bingo - rained Friday, nice yesterday, then started raining again last night. This morning Mom got up all fired up to go check out the beach. She quickly found out it wasn't quite as much fun when it was wet.


No bother, I wanted to get at least past the Los Angeles area by tonight - not that there aren't nice things to see and do down here, but this trip is more about enjoying the rural parts of America, big cities tend to drag us down a bit. So with the rain, we didn't have much incentive to stop. We both wanted to see as much of the coastal highway's as we could however, so we started up Hwy 101. It doesn't go through all the way from San Diego to Los Angeles however, we had to jump on I-5 again to get through Camp Pendleton. It kind of made me appreciate military bases however, at least we drove through rural area's along the coast - not condo's and such. We did see one tank driving along the dirt roads by the freeway however - in the rain.

When we got to Dana Point, we got off I-5 again and took Hwy 1 the rest of the day (except for a detour around LAX). However, until we got past LA and it's suburbs, Hwy 1 was mostly just another urban highway. On occasion we'd see the water, but we also saw a lot of shops, restaurants, hotels and condo's. One thing I had a lot of trouble with was stopping. I couldn't go very fast in the RV if I wanted to - but on very steep, wet pavement sometimes even 20 or 30 mph was too fast to stop sometimes. On at least two occasions, I tried to stop for a yellow light and just started skidding. I had to take my foot off the brake and just honk - hoping the cars waiting to go would hold up, since there was no way I could stop. Fortunately, the other drivers were paying attention (or we just got lucky) and nobody hit us or even came close. Not the way I like to drive however.

We pulled over in Laguna Beach to stock up on some provisions (buy Milk and a few other things). It was a regular supermarket (Albertsons), but the prices were sky high - I suppose they have higher overhead than the stores other areas. I also took a minute to snap this shot on the hillside above the highway. This was typical of the hills along the coast all day - and these hills seem especially vulnerable to erosion and mudslides.


In the interest of making progress, I skipped all the brown signs and didn't bother to look at the list of things to see in the area (now I'm kicking myself just a bit, but we did make progress?). When we drove through Huntington Beach, we saw quite a few oil rigs, both offshore and these. Bit of a change from the usual ritzy stuff.


Just north of the oil fields, I turned off at Bolsa Chico Ecological Reserve, mostly just to take a break from driving. It was still raining, so Mom decided not to get out of the car, but I thought I'd grab the camera just to see what was around. It turns out that this is a great place for bird watching, there are even a few birds out on a stormy day such as today. There were quite a few American Coots swimming around, I don't think I've uploaded a picture of a coot before, so figured it was about time.


I think I have uploaded a picture of a Northern Pintail Duck before, but this was special enough I thought I'd upload it anyway (from Bolsa Chico E.R. this time of course).


There were other ducks in the ponds today, but too far out to get decent pictures. I also saw a Great White Heron, but again too far for a good shot.

But this bird - I don't think I've ever seen before (although in all honesty, I don't think I was noticing much about birds before this trip either). It is an American Avocet, very unusual beak that bends upwards. There were a couple of these in the E.R., so I'm really glad I stopped.


We continued heading north and considered stopping at some of the beaches, but in the cold rain, it wasn't too enticing (also, most seemed to require payment even just to stop for a few minutes). As we drove through LA, Mom kind of wanted to visit the Queen Mary or a Lighthouse she saw on the atlas, but I was bound and determined to get past LA or else. (Or else what, I'm not sure, but I didn't want to try finding a campground in LA). It was somewhat interesting driving through the different parts of towns and seeing how different, yet similar, they could be. A lot of the homes have red tile roofs (not the lighter tiles like we saw in Phoenix). We also drove through an older residential neighborhood near Loyola Marymount University - nice looking homes, mostly from the 1950's or 60's, nothing too fancy. Then we saw one with an 'Open House' sign for only $749,000. I think I'll stay where I'm at (in Shelton, WA that is).

Regarding that little side trip, what happened is that when we got near LAX, I saw a sign saying there was a tunnel up ahead and all trucks or 'vehicles carrying flamable ' stuff were forbidden from using the tunnel. After our little experience with the Boston 'big dig', I figured this applies to RV's with Propane tanks and I had to take a detour around the airport. However, the third leg of the detour wasn't marked (or I missed the last sign?), so I ended up wandering around a little bit - not too bad, I knew we needed to head west, then north - but it was kind of nice driving through a neighborhood rather than just commercial districts.

Finally, Hwy 1 went through some sort of morph (we actually had to turn off Hwy 1, then take an onramp onto Hwy 1. Go figure?). We went down and around a bend and started driving between bluffs and beachfront houses into Santa Monica. This is considered a 'Scenic Highway' and a sign said it was 27 miles long (of the 'Scenic Highway' along the Santa Monica Mountains I think.)


I suspected at first that Santa Monica is one house deep for 10 miles, but there is actually a town also. There are just a lot of beachfront homes squeezed between the highway and the beaches. The bluffs come right up to the highway on the other side (northbound), which we were on, and there is usually no room for houses or anything else on that side. In fact, most of this portion of the drive had rock slide warnings (and loose rocks on the road). Santa Monica had some lovely public beachs also, but a $5 charge to park. If it had been a warm, sunny day and we had wanted to stay for awhile, I'd have parked, but since we were just passing through, I kept going. There were several area's where it was legal to park along the side of the highway, but Mom didn't want to walk across the road (and I'd have to advise her against it if she did) and neither of us felt is was worth playing the U-Turn game again, so we just enjoyed the beaches while we drove.

We also passed several state beaches and noticed that they all required a fee to stop there, so finally I decided to at least stop and check how much the fee was. We pulled over at Malibu Creek State Park, which had a ranger station. The sign said the day use fee was $9, but when I asked the young woman at the window about turning around, since I didn't want to pay that much just to stop for a few minutes, she said we could have a complementary pass for 15 minutes. So we finally got to stop at another beach for a few minutes. The creek, and path, runs under bridge for Hwy 1 that has been painted with all sorts of sea life scenes.


We walked under the bridge and enjoyed a few minutes of the waves breaking, surfers actually surfing, and typical beach scenery.


Trying to stay within my 15 minutes however, I had to encourage Mom to start heading back (I think she was enjoying the beach). On the way, we passed a small bird sitting on a branch in the creek. We think it's a flycatcher of some sort, possibly a Black Phoebe? But we're not sure (see how much damage the unknowledgable can do with a reference book).


Malibu Creek SP had camping, it was on the opposite side of the highway from the beaches, but it looked like a nice place. However since it wasn't very late yet - we thought we'd go farther north before pulling over. We did drive a few miles (2 or 3?) farther north, then saw what looked like a large sand dune. I'm not sure dune is the correct term, since it also looked more like an alluvial fan, but made out of sand and rock. (A dune is blown by the wind I think). Mom was really impressed by it so I stopped to take a couple of pictures. What was really odd was that there were some kids about 1/2 way up that had what looked like snow boards - and they were slidding down the sand on their boards. (Not fast). It had to be really rough on their boards - like sandpaper maybe?


So we settled back in the car for a nice long drive, maybe even to Santa Barbara or ???

But wait, are those RV's along the beach just past the 'sand dune'? Check this out - there is another state park across the road where the campsites are right on the beach (not on a 40' bluff above the beach, maybe an 8' rock slope). And there were lots of empty sites (it was raining earlier, but not now). And - the cost started at $20 and kept going down (less for seniors, less even more for disabled - which Mom has the mirror hanger for) - so we only had to pay $5.50 for this. It might be early, but I figured we aren't going to find many places like this to camp! Big waves have been breaking 50' from the rig all afternoon. We both enjoyed just sitting and watching the waves break.


OK - given all the photo's I've uploaded, waves may be a bit much, but they were quite something here so I had to upload a couple?


And finally, Mom found some reasonably dry wood that someone had left by the firepit and got herself a nice little campfire going! I had bought campfire forks just for such an occasion at one of our Wal-marts and Mom had picked up some marshmellows along the way somewhere - so we had quite a nice little campout tonight. No sunset worth photographing, but tasty marshmellows!



Miles Driven - 139, Cumulative 17,055
Camped at Point Mugu SP (I think, they don't have a brochure), CA Coastal Highway

Provisions Secured: a small amount of very expensive groceries

Wildlife Observed: Squirrels, ducks, birds (as listed) as well as many seagulls and pigeons.

Posted by jl98584 21:58 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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Nice to see you on the CA coast. Those shots are of areas I love. I think it was Bolsa Chico that I stopped at a few years ago when driving from farther south up to Redondo Beach to see a friend. I hadn't seen it before and wished I had more time to do some birding there.

I like your wave pictures, and you certainly found a good place to stay overnight. The last few times I drove along that coast, I was surprised (and a bit disgusted) at the fees all along the way. I often wished to stop just for a picture or two somewhere, but the fees pretty well preclude that.

by msj

I continue to be amazed at how many of these places you've been to. Wow - you really do get around! We're both enjoying the trip a great deal, but it might be nice to take it in smaller chunks, but be able to visit places more thoroughly before moving on.

by jl98584

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