Santa Barbara & Oxnard August 2017

We had been looking forward to our Santa Barbara visit. My grandmother lives out there, and it’s always a treat to visit with her. The girls adore seeing their Great-Grandma and, of course, the beach time that goes with visiting the coast.

Sadly, the beach was not meant to be. Our second day there, Goose fell off her scooter and broke her wrist. That stopped all our plans in their tracks, but we persevered and had a great time anyway.

We also had our first ant battle on the road. I pride myself on my ability to fend off ants. Unfortunately these little buggers defeated me. I could not find their entry point. Finally, Bear figured out that a branch was touching our awning and they were coming in on the roof! Argh!

After our trip to urgent care, we considered our alternate options. Santa Barbara has the Stern’s Wharf, filled with shops and a very small aquarium. We met my grandmother for lunch and then took our field trip to the aquarium.

As mentioned, the aquarium is small! It does have beautiful tide pools for kids to explore, and a neat jelly exhibit. I love my jellies!

The following day, we explored the Santa Barbara Zoo, where we met the usual zoo animals, including some chatty parrots. We even spotted some dinosaurs! The girls and I really enjoyed this dinosaur presentation, it was completely unexpected and right up our alley.

Despite the scooter mishap and the ant invasion, we had a great time. It was wonderful to visit so long with our family, and we got to see a part of Santa Barbara we usually pass over for more beach time. Although we were bummed about missing the beach, I reminded the girls, and myself, that come November, we’ll be on the Atlantic Shore!

June Lake – July 2017

June Lake is an Eastern Sierra lake, slightly southwest of the more famous Mono Lake. We’ve camped here before and usually enjoy the experience. This time, heavy smoke from local fires shut down all outdoor activity. It cleared after a few days, so we did get a few hikes in. In addition to the dismal air, the loudest group of campers, ever, showed up for the second half. We’ve decided that this campground is bad luck for us, and will only return after seven years, on a blue moon, after a solar eclipse.

Despite the poor conditions, we still got to enjoy the lake. It’s a popular destination, but we didn’t feel too crowded.

The camp is pretty close to Mammoth, a ski town. We have a few favorite spots to stop for grub, and we certainly took advantage of the situation. Roberto’s Cafe serves good food and delicious margaritas, so we hit that right away. On a related note, lunch time margaritas translate directly to afternoon naps! We also stopped at The Eatery, which is part of the Mammoth Brewery. I thought the food was overpriced, but it was really yummy. On a related note, lunch time beers translates directly to afternoon naps.

Our first, and usual, hike was to Parker Lake. The first quarter of the trail features steep climbs and gets the pain over fast. Once clear of the climbs, the hike goes through high Meadows and conifer forests.

It gets close to the river a few times, and it’s a good place to wet your hat and cool off. Move quickly though, the bugs like it there too. We stop at Parker Lake, a pretty typical Sierra lake, with a frame of sheer granite mountains. A treat here is a clear view of the Falls that feed the lake. The trail actually continues over the feature to Mono Pass.

We did two hikes in the Horseshoe Lake area , outside of Mammoth. The Mammoth Pass/Crater Meadow Trail took us to a ridge overlooking Reds Meadows, part of our beloved John Muir Trail. The hike was a steady climb towards the overlook, and an easy downhill back.

We returned to do another trail that went past MCleod Lake, and down towards a cinder cone. We didn’t have a set destination , so once we found a nice view of the cinder cone, we stopped.

We spent one afternoon walking around Mono Lake. This highly photogenic gem features a unique ecosystem, salt water, and awesome formations -Tuffas. This year, thanks to the wet winter, the lake was fuller than we had ever seen. Add some fair skies with scattered cumulus clouds and it was a great visit.

We will definitely return to the area, there is always a lot to do and see. Considering our experience at this campground, we’ll probably pick a different one the next time we visit. There is no shortage of beautiful destinations in this area.