Red Hills Ranch Easter Picnic 2019

I have know Jack and Myrna Moyle for over 20 years.  They have treated me like family from the moment I met them.  Every year they have an Easter Picnic for their family and friends.  The picnic happens on the Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection Day (Easter) and about 150-300 people usually show up.  This past year we’ve had a lot of rainfall and the wildflowers were on spectacular display.  Please enjoy a few of the photos I took at the picnic!

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The big Easter egg hunt!

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Thanks again Jack and Myrna for making this such a wonderful year!

The Beauty In Our Backyard

We love to travel; to visit and see places we’ve never been.  Sometimes though, there are some pretty amazing things to see in your own backyard.  Maybe not your literal backyard but close to home, if you only look.

This past weekend Cristy and I took a walk through Oak Grove Park in Ripon, Ca.  It isn’t in the most pleasant part of Ripon being located next to their sewage treatment plant. But even there we could find beauty.

You can just make out the trail that runs off into the grove of oak trees for which the park is named.

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However, for this walk we stuck to the paved path that runs along the Stanislaus River.

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With all the recent rain our drought-stricken state has received you could easily mistake this for England.  This area is normally covered with brown grasses.  The Stanislaus River is running very high right now.  Normally these trees are not in the water.  Water managers are releasing a lot of water in anticipation of the thaw of the heavy snow pack we received in the mountains this winter.

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It’s hard to believe that at one time boats navigated these rivers. The rivers used to be so large that there were several ferries in the area to get people across them.  Agriculture and water management (dams) have pretty much turned the river into a canal.  Still, a very beautiful canal.

Be sure to stop and take a look you your backyard and see if you can spot the beauty that almost certainly is there.

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Calaveras Big Trees

Well, the day’s plan started out as being a drive up to Cottage Springs to survey the campsite for an upcoming Ham radio event in June.  I wanted to see if the location was suitable to bring our Lance travel trailer.  But those plans soon changed as we drove up into the Sierra Nevada mountains.

We drove north through Escalon to Farmington and turned right on Highway 4.  It was a beautiful spring day with wildflowers everywhere.  We headed up into the foothills and decided to stop for lunch in Murphys.  We decided on Alchemy Cafe.  I had a delicious Ban Mi sandwich and Cristy had a salad with a generous helping of pork bellys on top.  Hey, it worked for us.

After lunch we continued up Highway 4 until we got to the road leading to the campground.  Um…. no dice.  We won’t be checking on that campground today. Probably not for another two months.  So we took a few selfies and moved on.

 

So now we needed a plan “B”.  Since we had passed Calaveras Big Trees State Park on the way up we decided to head over there and do a little hiking.  When we got there we learned that only the visitor’s center and the nearby North Grove was open that day.  We decided to stop in anyway.  We’ve been here several times but we love coming back.  We’re certainly glad we did because as we were deciding what to do a park volunteer came up and asked what we’d like to see.  We told her we’d come hoping we could do some hiking.  She said most of the lower trails were muddy but even though the rest of the park was closed to vehicle traffic we could certainly hike up the road and see as much of the park as we liked.

So that’s exactly what we did.  We hiked up main road that wraps up and around the visitors center.  We came to the top of the hill and stopped at the scenic vista parking area which is just above the grove next to the visitor’s center.  We didn’t see anyone the entire time except for an elderly woman walking her dog at the top of the hill.  We really enjoyed the quiet hike.  We talked about how amazing God is that even in this little area there was so much diversity of plant life and all the animal tracks we saw in the snow.  He spoke all those into existence but lovingly scooped the dirt into His hands with which he made us.  We were taken aback by how even a fallen world can be so beautiful.  We can’t imagine what a restored Earth will look like.

We spent some time admiring the view but since we didn’t bring any water with us we headed back down the hill.  Round trip the hike was only about 4.5 miles but there was plenty of scenery and we got to stretch our legs.

 

Back at the visitor’s center we stopped off in the warming hut and were given free hot chocolate and hot tea.  I opted to make a donation anyway to make sure there was enough hot chocolate, hot cider, and hot tea for others in the future.  We then drove down to Valley Springs and stopped off for a quick snack (it was 4pm by now) because we hadn’t brought any with us.  Cristy needs her afternoon snack!  Then we enjoyed a nice leisurely hour and a half drive home through the backroads of California’s vast Central Valley where we live.  It’s so fun to take my wife on dates even after 31 years.

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Jackson Rancheria RV Park

We just got back from a two night stay at Jackson Rancheria RV Park.  Jackson Rancheria is a casino owned by a local tribe of Miwuk Indians.  I have to admit, we’re not casino people and we didn’t venture to the casino.  But the RV park is top notch and the owners should be proud of what they have created.  We were greeted warmly when we arrived and I did not have to ask a single question.  Christina, who checked me in, answered every question I had before I even asked!  The RV spots are spacious and there is ample room between spots.   We had a back in spot on the east edge of the park.  The wide concrete pad was level and was surrounded by grass.  We were also given a garbage bag when we checked in just in case we didn’t have any.

As I was setting up a familiar face walked into my campsite.  It was my old buddy Bob!  Bob and I were aviation buddies back in the day.  We even owned an aircraft together for a brief time until my OCD couldn’t handle it any longer.  We chatted for a bit and thin I finished setting up.  After getting set up we took a walk around the park on their nature trail, after visiting with Bob and his wife some more.  The trail loops around the perimeter of their park.  We stopped in the office and helped ourselves to free popcorn.  Then we headed back to make dinner and catch up on some movies.

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The next morning after breakfast we drove down in to Jackson and walked around their downtown district.  It was nice but not much was open on Monday morning.  Seems the weekends are their big days.  Afterwards we drove to Sutter Creek which had a larger historic district and more stores were open.  We had lunch, shopped a little, then drove to Lake Tabeaud Day Use Area for a little hike.  It was overcast but still kind of warm and balmy.  The landscape was rich and green with all the recent rains.  We drove home for more dinner and movies.

The following morning was “go-home” day.  We slept in, had a late breakfast then packed up and drove home.  We really enjoyed Jackson Ranceria’s RV Park and since it’s so close to home we’ll definitely be back many more times!

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Our Second Harvest Host Stay

img_20190223_165745Well, a mere one week after our first Harvest Host stay at Klinker Brick Winery in Lodi we stayed at another winery.  This time we stay in Merced at Vista Ranch and Cellars.  My brother was going to be staying the night after we did.  I would have liked to have stayed the same night but I had work the next day.  So we spent a nice afternoon walking around the vineyard and orchards, dodging the bees who where busy doing their jobs, and just enjoying the break from the rain.  We stopped by the tasting room but since I don’t drink, I had a bowl of lobster bisque.  It was delicious!  Cristy tasted some sparkling wine and bought something in the gift shop as a thank you for being able to stay in such a beautiful location.

Most Harvest Host locations are boondocking only, meaning, there are no facilities available.  You bring your own power and plumbing.  This winery is different in that they provide three spaces that have water and 50 amp electric service.  No sewer service or dump station is available.  However, having electricity is AWESOME!  And if I’d known they have water, I’d never have filled up my fresh water tank to save some weight.

We spent the evening reading and catching up on some TV shows I downloaded to our iPad.  We heated up the soup she had brought and enjoyed a nice quiet dinner.  Even though there was a high school dance going on at the event center also located on the winery grounds, it was still very peaceful

That is, until a train went by.  And they go by very often.  There is a very busy stretch of railroad right on the other side of the street.  At times during the night it sounded like some of the trains were going to come right through our trailer!  But I fell right back asleep each time.

The next day we slept in.  I cooked some eggs for breakfast, and then we watched our church live on their website.  Just as church was ending my brother and his wife showed up.  We caught up a little, gave them the grand tour of our little Lance, and then headed back up to the visitor center to have some lunch together.  After some great conversation I had to start packing up.  Amazed that three hours could pass so quickly.

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It was really nice catching up with my brother and just enjoying a quiet getaway to Vista Ranch.  We will definitely be back soon!

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Our First Harvest Host Stay

Many RV’ers take advantage of a website called Harvest Hosts.  It is a searchable map of wineries, farms, museums, golf courses, and assorted other attractions that allow RV’ers to stay overnight for free.  The assumption is that you will patronize their facility.  Cristy and I found Klinker Brick Winery in Lodi, CA through Havest Hosts and stayed there this past weekend.

They have a great facility with LOTS of RV parking behind the winery right next to their  vineyards.  It’s a beautiful view!  The only problem we ran into was that it had rained heavily off and on for the past two weeks.  This made for some very large puddles and some very soft ground.

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I did my best to find a high spot to park the trailer but we were tip toeing around puddles all weekend.  Still the folks at the winery tasting room were really friendly and understanding.  They offered to pull out their tractor if I got stuck in the mud. And the view during breakfast was outstanding!

After breakfast we took a walk before heading over to the tasting room.  I don’t drink wine and Cristy can’t drink wine so it was a short visit.  However, since we wanted to support them Cristy bought a T shirt.

We really enjoyed our stay at Klinker Brick and can’t wait to try another Harvest Host location.  Which, incidentally, will be next weekend when we stay at Vista Ranch and Cellars in Merced, CA.  We’ll let you know how that went.

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Beautiful walk!  But COLD!