Point Mugu Missile Park in Oxnard

Point Mugu Missile Park is one of the most unique parks I have been to in Southern California. Where you would expect to see a field of grass with structures for children to play on, this park has a collection of planes and missiles all arranged for you to walk around and explore. It’s a great quick stop, especially for history buffs or for families, here is all the information.

Details

  • Free
  • Sunrise to Sunset
  • It takes about 15 minutes to see
  • Location: 10A Naval Air Rd, Port Hueneme, CA 93041

Getting There

The easiest way to access the park is from Pacific Coast Highway. After you leave the shade of the Santa Monica Mountains, you will see the Point Mugu Naval Base on your left. The missile park is off Wood Road. You will turn left and will drive over the freeway and see the park. There is a small parking lot for 5 – 10 cars.

The Missile Park

The park itself has one path that takes you down the two aisles of planes and missiles.

I didn’t know much about any of these, so I appreciated the plaques that most of them had to tell you what you were seeing. A few of the displays had lost the plaques though over the years.

The highlight for me was the Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile, which looked like something you would see go into space.

The large planes were also cool to see, and there was one on each end of the walkway.

All of the exhibits have small metal bars around them to keep you from getting close, and I would recommend abiding by these rules.

All in all, it’s a great 15 minute stop on the way up Pacific Coast Highway. There is a lot of history, and it is fun to see these missiles up close. Let me know what you think in the comments.

San Manuel Pow Wow in San Bernardino

The San Manuel Pow Wow is the largest of its kind in California, with hundreds of dancers descending on Cal State San Bernardino for a weekend celebrating Native American culture. Before being invited to the event, I had no idea how big it was and how much fun it is to attend. All of the music, dancing, and colors are overwhelming but in a good way, one that encourages you just to sit back and enjoy the event. We went on Friday, which was the opening night, but it went all weekend with each day having a grand entry which is the most fun part to watch. Here is all the information so you can check it out next year when it comes back to San Manuel or so that you can find one near you.

Details

  • Free
  • Friday Night through Sunday
  • Food and vendors on site

Location

The pow wow is usually held on the Cal State San Bernardino campus. Most often it is outside in the large grass area, but if there is too much wind, then it can get moved into the arena like it was for us.

The Food & Vendors

Before even watching the dancers, there are loads of vendors and food carts that you can visit. Most of the food carts were selling fry bread or “Indian Tacos.” I was told that fry bread is a very traditional dish, so it was fun to try it here.

Amie and I split a traditional Indian Taco and a dessert one. The taco is much like a tostada would be with loads of toppings on a fried, spongy bread. Amie and I both enjoyed it.

After eating we made our way into the vendor’s area to see what they had for sale. The booths had everything from arrowheads and jewelry to art and clothing. Many of them sold the same things but I was surprised that the prices were better then I expected them to be.

The Grand Entrance

After exploring the food and shopping options, we headed into the arena to wait for the grand entrance. The grand entrance is a 10-15 minute event where all of the dancers come into the arena and dance together.

It is one of the most popular events at the pow wow, and it is when the area is the most packed.

We went down to where all of the people were entering and waited as it was a great spot for photos.

After that, we walked all around the arena, heading upstairs and down to get different shots of the grand entrance. It’s loud and full of color which makes it fun for photos and video.

When the grand entrance was done, they started to have competitions, which are primarily based on age and gender. It was interesting to see even though I didn’t fully understand what was going on.

They also had an intertribal dance where all the tribes could dance together, and people from the audience could even join as well.

All of these songs are performed by the drummers and singers which sit around the central dancing area.

Watching them was one of my favorite things as they can make both the drums and their voices carry incredibly well.

We stayed for about 3 hours taking it all in, and I can easily say that it was a great, free experience in California. If you are looking for an exciting night out, then consider visiting a pow wow in your area, you can get a complete list of the pow wows around the state here.

Video

Here is a video I made of my time at the event.

Let me know if you have been in the comments and what you think.

San Manuel Pow Wow in San Bernardino

The San Manuel Pow Wow is the largest of its kind in California, with hundreds of dancers descending on Cal State San Bernardino for a weekend celebrating Native American culture. Before being invited to the event, I had no idea how big it was and how much fun it is to attend. All of the music, dancing, and colors are overwhelming but in a good way, one that encourages you just to sit back and enjoy the event. We went on Friday, which was the opening night, but it went all weekend with each day having a grand entry which is the most fun part to watch. Here is all the information so you can check it out next year when it comes back to San Manuel or so that you can find one near you.

Details

  • Free
  • Friday Night through Sunday
  • Food and vendors on site

Location

The pow wow is usually held on the Cal State San Bernardino campus. Most often it is outside in the large grass area, but if there is too much wind, then it can get moved into the arena like it was for us.

The Food & Vendors

Before even watching the dancers, there are loads of vendors and food carts that you can visit. Most of the food carts were selling fry bread or “Indian Tacos.” I was told that fry bread is a very traditional dish, so it was fun to try it here.

Amie and I split a traditional Indian Taco and a dessert one. The taco is much like a tostada would be with loads of toppings on a fried, spongy bread. Amie and I both enjoyed it.

After eating we made our way into the vendor’s area to see what they had for sale. The booths had everything from arrowheads and jewelry to art and clothing. Many of them sold the same things but I was surprised that the prices were better then I expected them to be.

The Grand Entrance

After exploring the food and shopping options, we headed into the arena to wait for the grand entrance. The grand entrance is a 10-15 minute event where all of the dancers come into the arena and dance together.

It is one of the most popular events at the pow wow, and it is when the area is the most packed.

We went down to where all of the people were entering and waited as it was a great spot for photos.

After that, we walked all around the arena, heading upstairs and down to get different shots of the grand entrance. It’s loud and full of color which makes it fun for photos and video.

When the grand entrance was done, they started to have competitions, which are primarily based on age and gender. It was interesting to see even though I didn’t fully understand what was going on.

They also had an intertribal dance where all the tribes could dance together, and people from the audience could even join as well.

All of these songs are performed by the drummers and singers which sit around the central dancing area.

Watching them was one of my favorite things as they can make both the drums and their voices carry incredibly well.

We stayed for about 3 hours taking it all in, and I can easily say that it was a great, free experience in California. If you are looking for an exciting night out, then consider visiting a pow wow in your area, you can get a complete list of the pow wows around the state here.

Video

Here is a video I made of my time at the event.

Let me know if you have been in the comments and what you think.

Yosemite Family Adventures Private Summer High Country Tour

At the beginning of 2016, I connected with David from Yosemite Family Adventures for a day trip to Hetch Hetchy in the winter. It was an epic experience, so we have been trying to connect for another adventure since then. Two weeks ago that happened, and Amie and I were able to go spend two days exploring the high country of Yosemite with David and the crew at YFA. They are a great outfit and set up everything you want to do with you beforehand so that the trip is just what you want. Here is all the information on what our two days entailed.

Day 1

We stayed at the Groveland Hotel near the northeast entrance to Yosemite. We have stayed here before, and it’s a nice quiet spot with a few restaurants and an excellent location near the park.

We headed out on our first morning with a two-hour ride into the Tioga Pass region and over to Tuolumne Meadows. Yes, this part of the park is slow to drive through.

From here we headed out on the trail to Elizabeth Lake and when we got there we had the lunch that YFA packed for us, sandwich, chips, Butterfinger and an ice tea.

From here we made the slow trek up to the summit of Unicorn Peak. This was a somewhat crazy hike, and I was glad to have a guide with us on it. You can read more about the hike here.

After submitting and hanging out on top, we started the long hike back to the car.

Last stop for the day was sunset at Olmsted Point, which is just a turn out on Tioga Pass Road but an epic place to see the backside of Half Dome.

When we got back to Groveland, we grabbed dinner in town at Fork and Love which you can read about here before resting up for day 2.

Day 2

For day two we got a later start since we were planning on staying out for stargazing.

We again took the long drive into the park and then David, who is a professional fly fisherman, spent the morning helping to teach us how to fly fish.

Fly fishing was one of the things I really wanted to do so I was glad to be able to accomplish it.

Amie and I both caught a fish during our morning of fly fishing the creeks thanks to David’s teaching.

After fishing, we made our way to Lukens Lake which is a short 1-mile hike and had a late lunch.

This area is beautiful and is not super popular, so it’s a great spot for a bit of relaxation.

After that, we went up to Tuolumne Meadows area to do our last bit of fly fishing for the trip.

This area is so pretty it was the perfect backdrop for fly fishing.

From here we went to our last adventure of the trip, which was a sunset hike out to North Dome.

On this hike we got to see a bunch of deer as we chased the fading light.

When we got to the top of North Dome, we ate a spread of cheese, crackers, fruit, and cookies that David had prepared and hiked up for us. It was a pretty spectacular place to eat dinner and watch the sun go down.

After dinner, we made our way up to Indian Rock Arch where we did some astrophotography.

Indian Rock Arch was a fantastic place for star shots since the arch was a great backdrop and it was so dark up there. Read more about it here. After that, it was a long hike out in the dark and a long drive back to the hotel.

I enjoy exploring with David from YFA because he does a great job of working with you to plan your experience and he even tried to find a bunch of things that I hadn’t done for us to do during our two days. Be sure to check out Yosemite Family Adventures if you are looking for a planned trip like this. Here is a video I made on our two days.

Check out more recommendations from Yosemite here and let me know what you think in the comments.

Disclosure: This trip was provided by Yosemite Family Adventures, all opinions are my own.

Fork and Love Restaurant in Groveland

In the town of Groveland, Fork and Love is something you would not expect to find. The food here is fresh, interesting and well prepared, with an interior that looks like you walked into a gastropub in San Francisco. The wood tones, copper metal chairs, and full drink menu is a welcome addition to the small town, and the food follows with unique dishes and massive flavors. This spot is one you shouldn’t pass up when looking for a good meal on the way to Yosemite. Here is all the info.

Details

  • Cost: $15 – $20
  • Location: 18736 Main Street, Groveland, CA

Getting There

The town of Groveland is only a few blocks on one main street. Fork and Love is right in the middle of town in the historic Hotel Charlotte. It’s hard to miss, and street parking is available around the hotel.

There were a few tables free on a Sunday evening in late September, so we settled down to look over the menu and ordered the below items.

The Food

Flaming Hot Cauliflower – They are not joking, this is a spicy cauliflower, but wow it’s good. It has a hot, salty, tangy flavor and the avocado purée serves as an excellent accompaniment to mellow it out a little. The cauliflower is fresh and breaded, not fried, giving it a good crunch without the grease. This is a must order for me but if you don’t like spicy food, watch out as it is “flaming hot.”

Market Fish – When we went it was a salmon filet that was served on a smoked salmon belly, corn and bean cassoulet. It’s such a comfort food taste and the smoked salmon is flavored well. My wife really enjoyed it.

Pork Spatzle – This dish is hard to describe other then to say the flavors are put together perfectly and it’s a great dish if you are looking to try something new. I would almost describe it as a deconstructed German sausage with the spatzle like a carb (if you don’t know it’s almost like small pieces of a soft preztel), the shredded pork the meat and the mustard, sauerkraut, and egg the toppings. It’s unlike any dish I have had before in a good way and I would struggle ordering anything else here but this local specialty. Even the sauerkraut, something I normally dislike is high quality (like a pickled cabbage) and works fantastic in this dish. Also, the mustard topping is a great way to finish it off. It has that strong flavor of a high quality mustard but in a way that doesn’t overpower the rest of the dish.

S’mores – Warm dark choclolate truffle, homemade jasmine flower marshmallow and a seasonal fruit, which for us was figs, form the base of this nontraditional s’more. You got to put it all together however you liked, and it was a pretty fantastic way to end the meal. I especially liked the homemade marshmallow that was charred like you would at a camp out. I would never think of adding figs to s’mores but it was pretty great and I don’t know if my wife is going to be able to go back to not having them.

As you can no doubt tell, Fork and Love is a great spot to eat near Yosemite’s east entrance. If you are staying in Groveland then be sure to give it a try and let me know what you think in the comments.

Disclosure – This meal was provided free of charge, all opinions are my own.

Unicorn Peak and Elizabeth Lake in Yosemite

Elizabeth Lake is a high altitude lake in the Yosemite high country, Tioga Pass region. This is a beautiful spot for a short hike and a great place to have a picnic and just take in the scenery. It sits at the base of Unicorn Peak as well, which is a challenging hike with not much of a trail. We set off to experience both of them with David from Yosemite Family Adventures last time we were in the park. It is an amazing hike, but not one that should be taken lightly as it is tough and somewhat technical if you want to get to the actual peaks. Here is all the information.

Details

  • 8 miles round trip to the summit, 5 miles to Elizabeth Lake
  • 800 feet to Elizabeth Lake, 2,300 to Unicorn Peak

Getting There

The trail leaves from the campground that is right next to the Tuolumne Meadows General Store. If the campground is open then you can drive all the way to the trailhead, if not then it is an extra 3/4ths of a mile each way. There is a small parking lot at the trailhead but this trail is not half as popular as Cathedral Lakes so it is usually a lot less busy.

The Trail

Leaving from the trailhead, you will being going uphill for most of the first mile. It is pretty gradual, but you are in high elevation so it can take a lot out of you.

Luckily the trail is shaded as you go up, so the sun isn’t beating down on you.

When you are about a half mile from the lake, you will start to hear the creek and can even see it off to your right.

It’s a beautiful spot to pull out for some photos if you are interested.

Continuing on, the trail reaches a split with one way heading east to the surrounding peaks and the other way going directly to the lake. I recommend heading directly to the lake so you can take in the views of Elizabeth Lake and Unicorn Peak in the background.

Elizabeth Lake

From here you can walk along the lake itself if you want to see all the views it has to offer.

My favorite view is at the base of Unicorn Peak on the west side of the lake, where you are looking back towards the trail you came in on. It is a beautiful spot to sit and take a break.

We decided to head on to Unicorn Peak though and if you do this I would caution you to be very careful. It is not an easy hike and there is no real trail so you need to know where you are going.

The good thing is that you can see the destination in front of you pretty much the entire time so as long as you are heading up and towards the peak you are generally good.

This is a very exposed trail though with little to no shade and with lots of slippery rocks depending on the time of year.

It took us a while to weave our way up to the saddle, but each new foot of elevation you gained gave you better views back at Elizabeth Lake behind you.

Eventually, when you reach the saddle, you will be blown away with the views looking out over the backcountry.

Cockcomb Peak is the most daunting, sticking up like a finger on the ridgeline behind you.

Its one of the most beautiful places I have been to in the backcountry of Yosemite.

If you want to summit Unicorn, I would recommend the South Summit only. It is the only one that doesn’t require some technical climbing to get to the top.

It is by no means easy though. You will be doing class 3 – 4 scrambling as you make your way up to the small peak.

It was beautiful when we got to the summit, with views over Tuolumne Meadows, Cathedral Peak and the peaks mentioned above.

You could also see down on the north peak of Unicorn as well and see how exposed it is from the back section. We stayed up here for a good 30 minutes before starting the trail back down.

Video

Here is a video I made on our time in Yosemite.

All in all, it was an amazing hike and one that I am so glad to have accomplished. That being said it was a total leg burner and not a hike to take lightly. Let me know if you have been in the comments and what you thought.

California State Parks Offering ADDITIONAL Campsites to Displaced Residents Affected by Northern California Fires

California State Parks announced today that it is opening additional campsites for displaced residents affected by the Northern California fires. 

El Departamento de Parques y Recreación de California anunció hoy que está abriendo campamientos adicionales en el condado de Mendocino para ayudar a personas afectadas por los incendios en el norte de California. 

 



View the official news release here.
Posted in Uncategorized

California State Parks Offering ADDITIONAL Campsites to Displaced Residents Affected by Northern California Fires

California State Parks announced today that it is opening additional campsites for displaced residents affected by the Northern California fires. 

El Departamento de Parques y Recreación de California anunció hoy que está abriendo campamientos adicionales en el condado de Mendocino para ayudar a personas afectadas por los incendios en el norte de California. 

 



View the official news release here.
Posted in Uncategorized