Monserate Mountain Trail...

John Muir said, “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” Since leaving Tahoe, we have felt like we were missing hiking. We remedied that today.

In 2008, Steve and I hiked the Grand Canyon. Our training ground was this place- Monserate Mountain. Its Trail Loop is a 4.1 mile lightly trafficked path that is rated as difficult (it has a 1,381' elevation gain).
Monserate Mountain is one of a number of beautiful Preserves managed by the Fallbrook Land Conservancy. The trail takes a no-nonsense approach up the west side of the mountain through the typical mix of chaparral and coastal sage scrub, leading to panoramic vistas of Fallbrook’s avocado orchards, the Pacific Ocean, and surrounding mountains. Because the trail is steep and exposed, it is best enjoyed in cooler temperatures. When we began it was 60° and 2.25 hours later it was 84°. We should have gone earlier. That said, I made exceptionally great time for not having done any sort of hiking in ages.
All along the path we found markers remembering 9/11. It was very moving and gave us cause to pause and think (and catch my breath).
Mr. Muir is so right! Fun morning in SoCal.

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Time in Tehachapi...

Having a base in Temecula puts me in a whole new radius of fun. I am only 3½ hours from my friend, Leslie.

Steve had a weekend full of business chores so this was the perfect getaway, timing-wise.
This is a series of images captured during my time in Tehachapi.
It was just me and this hummingbird who were awake for the spectacular sunrise.

If I'm in town on a Saturday, the Sabbath for Leslie, I attend church with her. I found the choice of hymn so timely. It was 501 years ago that Martin Luther wrote The 95 Theses, a list of questions and propositions for debate about the Catholic Church. Popular legend has it that on October 31, 1517 he defiantly nailed a copy to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church (which we visited in 2000). Interesting timing.
Leslie's son, Ivan, came up from Bakersfield for lunch and an aggravating game of Aggravation. I've been in his life since he was one. It is always so meaningful when he takes the time to visit me. Leslie's mom, Barbara, joined in all the fun, too.

Loved this license plate.
Eager and joyful expressions were on the faces of more than a thousand Tehachapi residents, and their friend, who took tours Sunday afternoon of the soon-to-open, new Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley Hospital. Many people have waited years for the facility to become a reality. With us is Taylor Laurie, the chaplain for the hospital.

This new, beautiful hospital will replace the current downtown facility, which was built in 1954 (love this photo of that groundbreaking). The groundbreaking for the new hospital was in 2013, although planning and various bond measures have been passed to fund the hospital since 2003.
The 25-bed critical access hospital comes equipped with 13 emergency department rooms, operating rooms with state-of-the-art equipment, four intensive care unit beds costing $30,000 each, gastrointestinal lab rooms, radiology, imaging, X-ray, ultrasound, CT and mammography services, a lab and cafe. The hospital construction cost to date has come to more than $102 million. What a huge gift for this community. I was so happy to be a part of this historic day.
And how beautiful is this chapel? There is great hope for this community.

I'm looking forward to the onsite restaurant to open. The Mountain Café, with its vegetarian menu created by an executive chef, is going to be a food destination. Yum.

Long walks, dinner out, crafts, gaming, ambling conversations and much laughter... it is always great to connect with an old friend.

"An old friend never can be found,
and nature has provided that he cannot easily be lost."
-Samuel Johnson

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Laguna Beach for Memories & Monsters...

Laguna Beach is a special place for Steve and me. We went there on our very first date and we were married there as well. So when we have an opportunity to return to this magical seaside town, we go.

We spent the day meandering its familiar streets and shops.
A side detour took us to the almost hidden Brown's Park. This wonderful Laguna Beach park was donated by Joseph E. Brown after his grandfather's beachfront 1920's era home was destroyed by a winter storm in 1998. It is an oasis of calm with bronze statuary chairs, a dedication plaque and poem, and spectacular stained glass fencing where the walkway culminates in a fantastic oceanview overlook.
 Let me live in a house by the side of the sea,
Where men and women wander by
Where there is beauty and grace and excitement that's free
On the beach, in the sun let me lie
Let me listen to ocean's melodious roar
And its rhythm, so soothing to hear
As the foam-covered waves seem to reach for the shore
Under skies that are sunny and clear.
-Joseph E. Brown

We were delighted by a number of the outdoor art pieces we found as we explored. I wish you could see this one more clearly. Los Angeles-based artist Douglas Turner has installed the temporary sculpture Nine Billion on Forest Avenue. The installation references the projected world population growth of 9 billion by 2050. To me, it is also a nostalgic nod to the old days when 'kids' would have competitions of how many people they could cram into a thing. Phone Booth Cramming was a late-1950s fad with a simple premise: cram a phone booth full of dudes (and/or ladies) and take a picture before the people on the bottom suffocate. As you can imagine, this pastime was most popular among college students, and led to international rivalries. Yes, kids, this is the kind of thing we thought was fun back before we had video games...and when we still had phone booths. Love it.
We came to Laguna, specifically to attend the Pageant of the Monsters... "Just when you thought it was safe to go backstage, the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters brings a monster of a good time back to Laguna Beach! Only returning to the Festival grounds every five years, it offers attendees a frightfully fun time with ghoulish tricks and treats."
What was super cool was the fact that part of the night allowed us to go backstage through the workshop labyrinths and behind-the-scenes catacombs to follow the footsteps of legendary archeologist, adventurer and treasure hunter “Cincinnati Smith” on a whimsical and haunted spoof of a popular movie series. Cincinnati was on a perilous quest to recover the greatest treasures from exotic locales across the globe. He set his sights on the holy grail, a golden idol, and the arc of the covenant all while allowing us to go places we never thought possible in a place we have visited numerous times as patrons of the arts, not explorers. What fun.
The Scarecrow contest was like none we had ever seen before. Each was incredibly unique and awesome.

Joan Crowford got our vote. Wow, right?

If you are not familiar with the Pageant of the Masters which happens here every summer,  you are missing out. Famous works are recreated, in a human tableau with lifesize paintings. We found it truly amazing that the backdrops for many of the 'attractions' were paintings from the pageant. We loved The Demented Chef and the nod to Venice.

Yes, we even witnessed an Alien autopsy! There was something for everyone.
Just another one of those diverse days which make life unforgettable. Fun stuff.

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Ogling Oceanside...

For our last full day of being tour guides, we headed west.

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is a former Spanish mission, surrounded by the present-day city of Oceanside. The mission was founded on June 13, 1798 by Padre Fermín Lasuén, and was the eighteenth of the Spanish missions established in California. Named for Saint Louis,as previously mentioned, the mission lent its name to the Luiseño tribe of Mission Indians.

The current church, built in 1815, is the third church on this location. It is a National Historic Landmark, for its pristine example of a Spanish mission church complex. Today the mission complex functions as a parish church of the Diocese of San Diego as well as a museum and retreat center.

An early account of life at the Mission was written by one of its Native American converts, Luiseño Pablo Tac. He lamented the rapid population decline of his Luiseño people after the founding of the mission, "In Quechla not long ago there were 5,000 souls, with all their neighboring lands. Through a sickness that came to California, 2,000 souls died, and 3,000 were left."

A cool side note I learned from Brady's blog was the fact that this old Spanish mission was used by Disney, in the late 1950s, as a filming location for the Zorro television series. A skull and crossbones at the cemetery entrance, added by Walt, still exists.

This is the oldest living Pepper Tree in California. The first pepper trees in Alta California were planted by Fr. Antonio Peyri using seeds brought to San Luis Rey in 1830 by a sailor from Peru.
We made a brief stop at the Lavanderia, an intricate water system where the Indian neophytes washed their clothes.

We even stopped at the gift shop.
This was our picnic spot for lunch. Pretty spectacular.
The City of Oceanside was founded in 1883. Just five years later, the construction of the first wharf began. It was largely paid for by subscription, by pledges, by people hoping to make a buck. Promoters of the wharf felt Oceanside could rival San Francisco or Los Angeles—if the city had a wharf. Work started but slowed almost immediately. There were lawsuits, unpaid subscriptions, delays and damage from storms. In December of 1888, a huge storm tore away several planks from the pier and washed lumber down the coast. Records are not clear, but the all-wooden pier, the southernmost oceanfront wharf in the state, continued to be built. By August of 1889, Oceanside asked citizens to raise a final $4,000 and promised completion of the wharf in 40 days. No one seems to know if the pier actually met its goal of extending out more than 1,200 feet into the blue Pacific. It is known that winter storms first reduced the wharf to a length of 940 feet before a storm in January of 1891 destroyed all but 300 feet of the pier. As for today's pier, a $100,000 bond issue in 1926 paid for the fourth (and final) pier. It is made of wood and concrete and extends out 1,900 feet. It was dedicated on July 4, 1927, amid a three-day celebration that attracted over 20,000 people to Oceanside. The pier and its productive fishing waters quickly became a favorite haunt for anglers (and us tourists).

The Thursday Night Sunset Market was our ultimate destination.
It was extra special because it was haunted with tons of darling costumes and the DJ playing only Halloween themed music!

Brady and Eric even strolled down for a meet-up and the last get together before they become parents. Wow.
"A baby is something you carry inside you for nine months,
in your arms for three years and
in your heart till the day you die."
Each night, at the end of the day, the four of us played our fun dice game. It was a wonderful way to wind down. Having Casey and Linda here has been an amazing start to our SoCal guest season.

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