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December 31, 2019

Legoland - Carlsbad, CA

Legoland opened 20 years ago and I’ve never been.  Among our guests this year is son Michael and family.  Including grandson Jm who is a Lego-holic! for Christmas this year he wanted to visit Legoland.  So the three of us guys were off on a Lego adventure.

Michael was on the hook for $25 parking and the entrance tickets, and he also paid for my entrance.  THANK-YOU!  It’s not cheap, Disneyland actually costs less.

There are some fun and even amazing sections to the park.  Scattered along the paved pathways are fun Lego creatures.


Lego is known for rides but they are geared toward the younger kids, and those under 42” often need to be accompanied by an 18+ adult that is over 48”.  Pretty funny restriction.

We didn’t do much with the rides.  After waiting for the Coastersaurus, a little roller coaster, the set of coaster cars a couple ahead of our turn to load stalled!

There can be a long wait for the rides, to catch as many as possible a ‘VIP Pass’ would be required, which has its own line.  The ‘Reserve-N-Ride’ app also helps, by virtually reserving a spot in the long line using a smart phone app and receiving a message when it’s time to board the ride.

The ‘Star Wars’ area was amazing.  Each of Episodes I – VI had their own display.  To top it off Jm knew many of the characters, locations, starships and story lines.  Worth the price of admission.

Miniland includes many US cities, and a display depicting the ‘SoCal’ life.  

Wine country

San Francisco

SoCal camping

New Orleans

Washing DC

This was my favorite section of the park.  Everything is made out of Legos with informative signs of the time taken and Legos used.  Las Vegas, New York and the mansions of Ferndale are also represented in Legos.

While here we took the Coast Cruise ride to see the displays from the seaside.


Jm and dad looking over the map to be sure nothing is skipped.

Personally I felt the park was a bit below Jm’s attention span, although he could have spent all day at the Star Wars exhibit.

We took the Coast Highway back home, where we discovered Encinitas has a Handel’s Ice Cream.  Best ever! and made fresh at each of their locations.  Voted 'Best Ice Cream' 6 years in a row.

December 20, 2019

Marian R. Bear Memorial Park - Urban Hiking San Diego

Marian Bear Memorial Park is located in the San Clemente Canyon between I-5 on the west and I-805 on the east, about 5 miles distant.  Along with Rose Canyon and Tecolote Canyon these three open space areas are collectively called the Tri-Canyon Parks.

In the 1970s when Highway 52 was scheduled to be located along the base of San Clemente Canyon, Marian Bear was the driving force to have the roadway built along the northern wall of the canyon.  Thus preserving the canyon as a natural preserve for future generations. 

This section of the canyon is dedicated to her efforts.  The plaque reads:
Marian Bear Memorial Park - Rededicated by the City Council of the City of San Diego on behalf of this City who are indebted to Marian Bear for her energetic and unselfish efforts as a planner, naturalist and conservationist and her lasting contributions toward the preservation of open space for future generations. July 31, 1979.
I last blogged San Clemente Canyon nearly 4 years ago HERE.  At that time, I parked at the Genesee entrance and hiked east to 805, before returning to the western park boundary.

On Wednesday the Canyoneers led a walk around the Nature Trail loop on the western side of the park.

On a chilly Wednesday morning, I met up with the Canyoneers near the restrooms at the Clairmont Mesa entrance.  This outing is again organized by Jerry, a very knowledgeable naturalist, from the  San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park.

Note: I have never seen the self-guided trail map that should be provided at the trailhead.

The Coastal Oak trees are common along the creek.  Many have benches under their sweeping canopy for a place to relax while bird watching. 

Here is Jerry explaining the native uses of oaks.

The Toyon Tree with its red berries is a common sight throughout SoCal.  Also known as California Holly the plant was so popular for Christmas decorations it is now illegal to take cuttings.

There several foot bridges over the creek crossings, which were not here a few years ago.  A nice touch.

Some of the old twisted and knurled Sycamore Trees look they could be from a Harry Potter scene.

The sycamore buds of next year’s growth are protected by the leaves, until they fall.

This section of the park is noted for its Poison Oak.  All those shoots reaching through the sycamore leaves is a stand of poison oak.  This stand rivals any of those found in the county.  I have seen a larger stand on Palomar Mountain, but do not wish to measure either one.

The Urushiol remains with the stem and berries even after the leaves have fallen.

One of the more interesting finds Jerry showed us, was the that of a Trapdoor Spider.  The ‘D’ shape of the door has a hinge on the straight edge, with the round sides fitting snugly into the opening.

On the north facing side of the canyon is a large field of Wild Radish.  Although the young plant looks like a radish, the seed of the wild radish is above ground.

Once the radish plant dies, the stalk retains no moisture, thus allowing fire to spread rapidly.

The Nasturtium is a non-native invasive plant, but they do look nice in bloom.

The various gourds found in the valley are not poisonous, but Jerry mentions they taste pretty awful.  I'll take his word for it.

A couple parting photos


John and Sharon of On the Road of Retirement are in San Diego, they had this outing on their calendar too.  Although they did not make the hike, check out their blog for the other adventures they did enjoy.  And hopefully they will not need to identify Poison Oak, without the leaves, as they move on to Arizona. 

December 19, 2019

Alabama Hills - Follow Up

This is a follow-up to my last post on changes coming to the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area which can be found HERE.

In  this week’s edition of California BLM NewsBytes was a link to an article in the Inyo Register detailing the public input sessions held in Lone Pine and Bishop.
I have pasted the entire article below, or you can follow the link below to view a PDF of the newspaper.

Or follow this link and sign up to receive your own copy of the weekly California BLM NewsBytes:

The Inyo Register
Thursday, December 12, 2019

Alabama Hills comments focus on camping and toilets
Feedback touches on uses, users and compromises

By Jon Klusmire Register Correspondent

Dozens of comments collected at two public meetings shared a common theme: There needs to be some changes in the management of the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area.
The most extensive comments centered around limiting or regulating camping and better oversight of vehicle use, including quads and ATVs, in the Alabama Hills. Adding toilets of some sort in the area also was a top-tier comment.

The Bureau of Land Management Bishop Field Office hosted the meetings in Lone Pine and Bishop, which attracted about 75 people interested in commenting on what they thought should be included in a new management plan for the Alabama Hills. The recent Congressional legislation creating the Alabama Hills Scenic Area directs BLM to develop a new management plan that will guide the use and preservation of the unique public lands west of Lone Pine.

The legislation states current uses of the Hills will remain in place. However, a significant increase in visitors to the Alabama Hills over the past 10 years has created concerns and a new set of issues in the popular area. Seeking “a balance and weighing trade-offs” between the varied uses and users in the Alabama Hills will be the primary goal, and challenge of the new management plan, said Bishop BLM Supervisory Resource Management Specialist Sherri Lisius.

The range of uses and users in the Alabama Hills is a fairly unique mixture, ranging from rock climbing, hiking and photography to RV camping and OHV use to movie and television filming. In addition, the management plan will seek to preserve such qualities as scenic values and solitude and protecting natural, historic and geologic resources. Lisius said the BLM wants to hear from the public about specific issues or problems and, more importantly, potential solutions before it starts to draft the management plan. The management plan will cover the entire 28,700 aces of the current Alabama Hills Special Recreation Management Area, which includes the Scenic Area designation, which consists of 18,610 of those acres.

“The Alabama Hills is a really cool place, and we have a chance to make some long-term changes to make sure we can preserve and enjoy them far into the future,” Lisius said.

Comments about management of the Alabama Hills will be accepted by the BLM until Dec. 23, and can be filed online or via mail (see below for details). A draft management plan should be ready for additional public comment in the spring of 2020, with the final plan slated for completion in the summer of 2020, Lisius said.

At the public meetings, participants wrote comments on various topics on large sheets of paper. The comments below were primarily taken from the Lone Pine meeting, which drew about 50 people to comment on the future of the Alabama Hills, which have been called, “Lone Pine’s back yard.”


Drawing the most attention was camping. Currently, “dispersed camping” is allowed throughout the Alabama Hills. There is no fee and car campers, tent campers, RVs and camp trailers can all set up on rocks, dirt patches and other areas. Virtually all the comments suggested some new restrictions on camping. Those ideas included: restricting camping to designated sites only; charging fees for camping; restricting “multiple-vehicle” and multiple-day camping; creating sites for horse camping; using a reservation or permit system to manage and limit the number of campers; strict limits or bans on “large RVs” and trailers; only allowing tent or car camping in some areas and limited RV and trailer camping in other areas.


Recreational rock climbing has seen a surge in users in recent years. One person commented several times about the need to limit new routes and new bolted routes in hills, and to even take out bolts and older routes. On the other hand, numerous commenters countered that all existing routes should be protected and there should be no restrictions on existing or new routes.

Vehicle use and trails

The Alabama Hills are laced with dirt roads, parking areas and hiking trails, some of which lead to popular sites such as the Mobius Arch. That network should be completely inventoried and rated for each type of use, was one comment. Others were more specific, such as: clearly designate with signage OHV (dirt bikes, quads, 4WD) roads versus non-motorized routes, for mountain bikes, for example, and hiking trails and enforce different uses on different roads and trails; create designated parking areas and ban parking alongside roads; keep all existing roads with no restrictions; add equestrian trials for saddle and pack animals; restrict OHV use to a limited number of roads; ban dirt bikes, most ATVs and quads; impose a toll on vehicles entering the hills to help generate revenue for maintenance; impose quotas or limits in the number of vehicles allowed into the Hills; and create a speed limit on main roads.


There was nearly total agreement that increases in all types and kinds of visitation have created a need for toilets. Suggestions centered around appropriate locations for several sets of toilets, and techniques to shield, hide or make the facilities blend into the surrounding area. Suggestions for what type of toilets would be appropriate ranged from vault toilets, to pit toilets to composting toilets to portable toilets. There were also numerous comments on the need for trash cans.

Visitor education

Numerous comments were directed toward enhanced efforts to educate visitors and locals about the Alabama Hills’ history, geology and rules and regulations. Suggestions included increased ranger patrols using a mix of volunteers/ docents and BLM rangers and installing informational kiosks or panels in easy-toaccess locations. The most ambitious suggestion was to build and staff a visitor center to provide information.

Written comments about any aspect of the management or use of the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area can be made from now until Dec. 23 online by logging into https://bitly/20wt8yd or sent by email to blm_ca_ alabama_hills_planning@ blm.gov, or by mail to BLM Bishop Field Office, 351 Pacu Lane, Suite 100, Bishop CA 93514, ATTN: Alabama Hills Management Plan.

December 07, 2019

Alabama Hills - National Scenic Area

My blog has been focused on our personal experiences.  However, with continued loss of ‘Snowbird Habitat’, today I will mention a story that I’ve been following.

On March 12 2019 congress officially redesignated the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, CA from a ‘Recreation Area’ to the ‘Alabama Hills National Scenic Area’.

The legislation states: “The purpose of the National Scenic Area is to conserve, protect, and enhance for the benefit, use, and enjoyment of present and futures generations the nationally significant scenic, cultural, geological, educational, biological, historical, recreational, cinematographic, and scientific resources”

Included in the legislation is the transfer of 132 acres of land to the indigenous Paiute-Shoshone people.  This under the Natural Resources Management Act (S.47), signed by President Trump.   Also known as the Dingell Act, which directs all National Parks, National Monuments, BLM lands and wilderness to participate in a unified plan to balance recreation and conservation.

The Alabama Hills are now part of the National Conservation Lands, which includes some 34 million acres to offer the American people "exceptional" recreation opportunities.

The official dedication ceremony took place on October 5th.  A YouTube video can be found HERE.

For the past several months replanting of areas where "semi-primitive campsites" have expanded has taken place.  This will continue, using native vegetation.

So why am I sharing this information now?  Owens Valley residents are used to looking at vast open spaces with no people in the picture. With the current dispersed camping in the Hills, local eyes see an RV as a scar on that landscape.

The BLM is hosting a series of workshops seeking public input.  All workshops are being held in the Owens Valley between Lone Pine and Bishop … in winter!  There is no webpage for comments, but this BLM notice allows for email.  

Currently dispersed camping is still allowed.  On weekends a camper might encounter a BLM volunteer ‘suggesting’ it might be more appropriate to camp at Tuttle Creek...

Download the current BLM guide for the Alabama Hills from their website HERE.  Note that it no longer mentions dispersed camping, and specifically states it is “best suited for day use.”

I hope dispersed camping will still be allowed, even if reduced, but I’m not overly optimistic.  Altho we're normally the only folks at Fossil Falls it might be nice to have some company :)

I’d like readers to visit the Alabama Hills forewarned changes are coming, and I look forward to their blog posts.