Tuesday, April 26, 2016

We're Volunteers!

Post by Henry

Back when we first hit the road, we decided our first year would be strictly for traveling only, but that the next year we might try some volunteering along the way.  We'd heard of folks volunteering and performing various duties in exchange for a free campsite.  The best resource for finding these positions is on volunteer.gov.  Back in January, I started browsing volunteer possibilities in California, Oregon, and Washington and sent out a few emails inquiring about positions.  We received several responses and after a short process we snagged a volunteer gig for April and May.

Newly Minted Volunteers

We are currently volunteers for the US Army Corps of Engineers on Pine Flat Lake located about an hour east of Fresno, California, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains!

Our Site at Pine Flat Lake
Piedra, CA
Pine Flat Lake

We give twenty hours of time in exchange for a full hookup site, the use of a washer and dryer, and access to a freezer.  Our duties consist of light outdoor maintenance in the recreation areas of Pine Flat Lake. There are four recreation areas, two boat ramps, a main campground (where we are) and a smaller 'tent only' campground.  The park Rangers have been great to work with and we don't have an exact set schedule. Mostly, we try to work four five-hour work days.  So far, it's been great!

This area is incredibly beautiful and we probably have the best campsite with views in all directions of the mountains and the lake. There are several locations in the campground where you can see the snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains looming beyond these foothills.

Distant Snow Capped Sierra Nevada Mountains

It's a nonstop nature show, too, with hawks, osprey, and bald eagles soaring above us and rabbits, squirrels, and quail scurrying about on the ground.

One of our Bunnies

There's quite a few birds, too, with Western Scrub Jays, Western King Birds, Western Blue Birds, Acorn Woodpeckers, constantly flitting from tree to tree, as well as several kinds of Hummingbirds.

Western Scrub Jay

It took less than 5 minutes for the hummingbirds to discover the feeder Loretta hung up.  At night, the hooting of owls can be heard coming in from all directions.

Hummer 1

Hummer 2

We seem to have timed our arrival here nicely to coincide with the wildflowers blooming and Loretta is really enjoying that - especially since a lot of them we've never seen before.

Unidentified Wildflower

Blazing Star

Popcorn Flower

If there's a 'down side' to where we're located, it's that it's about forty (40) miles to gas stations and grocery stores in Fresno.  To us, though, it's not much of a down side as it's a beautiful drive winding through the wildflower lined roads of the foothills and alongside the King River. Before we get to civilization, there's a stretch of road designated the Blossom Trail through numerous citrus groves. We seemed to have timed our arrival perfectly for this, too, as these trees were all blooming and the scent in the air was indescribably heavenly!

Citrus Blossoms

There are several National Parks not too far from here.  Sequoia and Kings Canyon are about sixty miles away and Yosemite is 125 miles away.

King's Canyon Entrance

We've made a couple of day trips to Sequoia and Kings Canyon where we saw the majestic sequoia trees, including two of the largest trees in the world, the General Grant and the General Sherman.

General Grant Sequoia
King's Canyon National Park

General Sherman
Sequoia National Park

Henry the Tree Hugger

Some of these trees are 2,000-3,000 years old and HUGE!  The sad thing is there used to be thousands of these trees until they were logged in the late 1800's.  I just cannot imagine wanting to chop down something so awe inspiring, but thankfully, they are protected today.

We don't have to travel to national parks for incredible scenery, as it's all around us.  We made a trip to Shaver and Huntington Lakes located at 5,000 and 7,000 feet in elevation.  This area appears to be the winter playground for the folks in snow free Fresno, as there were numerous areas signed for snowmobiling or Nordic skiing.  It was definitely past peak winter season, but there was plenty of snow still on the ground and Huntington Lake was mostly covered in ice.

Our Picnic View
Overlooking Huntington Lake

Still a Little Snow
Photo Taken April 12, 2016

We'll be here at Pine Flat Lake enjoying our first volunteer assignment until the end of May.  Looks like we'll be here at the perfect time as we've been told it gets quite hot here in the summer with temps of 105 and above not uncommon.  By then we will be continuing our West Coast 2016 Yahoo Ramblers adventures in the cooler Pacific Northwest.


Friday, April 8, 2016


Post by Henry

Yup, that's where we are.  The Golden State.  We arrived with flowers in our hair.

It was pretty gusty the day we left Yuma and our trip was headlong straight into the wind, which played havoc on the Ramblers fuel mileage.

Gusty Wind and Sand Blowing

The trip went smoothly, though, as we left behind the mostly brown desert of Arizona, and arrived in the very green San Jacinto mountains located in the coastal high desert of Southern California.

Green Mountains Covered with Wildflowers

On the ride in, we passed numerous wineries and nearby Temecula Valley is California's second largest wine region.

We spent nine (9) days at Jojoba (ho ho ba) RV resort in Aguanga (ah wan ga).

Welcome to Jojoba Hills

Jojoba Hills is an active 55+ community and is part of the Escapees RV Club.  There is a waiting list for Jojoba Hills membership, but for Escapee members like us, there are sites available to stay for up to 28 days a year. We had heard great things about this place, including seeing a 9.5 rating on the RV Park reviews website.  We were not let down.  What a place!

This is hands down the nicest RV park we have stayed at.  It is entirely built and maintained by Escapees volunteers.

Jojoba Hills
Built by Volunteers

The amenities here are outstanding.  There's a clubhouse with a huge pool and two spas.

Pool with a View

Hot Tub with a View

There's a library with thousands of books and videos.  There's an exercise room, card room, pool room with 3 pool tables, craft room, sewing room - including a long arm quilting machine.

There's more:

Tennis and pickle ball courts, horseshoe pits, bocce ball, miniature golf, and an airgun range.

Tennis/Pickleball Courts


Arts Center, pottery studio, fully stocked wood and metal shop, four laundry/shower facilities that have clothes lines for hanging your clothes for that wonderful fresh air scent!

The landscaping here is beautiful, with mountain views from every site and six (6) ponds with benches for relaxing and enjoying the mild temperatures.  There's even a couple of waterfalls!

Floral Landscapes and Ponds

Blooms Everywhere!

Jojoba Hills is alive with activities like yoga, games, meetings, dances, dinners, and assorted workshops.  We attended Easter Dinner that included ham prepared by a resident retired cruise ship chef.  It was fantastic!

Top all of this off with a community of the friendliest people we've met.  Our arms are sore from waving to all the members of the park.

For a sample of the energy at Jojoba Hills, check out this recently released Video

While staying at Jojoba Hills, we visited nearby Temecula and walked the streets of their old town section which included antique shops, restaurants, and gift shops, among others.

Old Western Town of Temecula

Antiques in Temecula

Modern Temecula City Hall

Another day, we got in a hike on the Dripping Springs trail in the Agua Tibia Wilderness.  There was an assortment of blooming wildflowers and up high you could see the views of the surrounding mountains.

Hiking in Agua Tibia Wilderness
California Poppies

White Wildflowers

Lavender Wildflowers

Lizard Friend on Trail

We made a trip to Palm Springs to visit with our friends from the UK, Stuart and Jackie.

Palm Springs

The trip took us across a 5,000' high mountain and then dropping nearly all that elevation on a twisting and winding road to the palm desert where the temperatures were about 15 degrees warmer than Jojoba Hills.  And we finally got to enjoy some fresh seafood!

This has been a good start to our west coast trip of 2016.  In fact, we like it so much we are considering returning here at the END of our west coast trip.  That's a long way off, though, as we now start meandering towards the Pacific Northwest for the summer.

We're in the Wild, Wild West!