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San Mateo Campground

It’s been way too long since I last posted, so let’s catch up!

CA-3 - our campsite until April 1 at San Mateo State Park

CA-3 – our campsite until April 1 at Mateo State Park

 

For the past several months (since December 1st), Mike and I have been camp hosts at San Mateo Campground near San Clemente, California.

 

Rainbow over the MOUT site at Camp Pendleton with San Mateo Campground in the foreground

Rainbow over the MOUT site at Camp Pendleton with San Mateo Campground in the foreground

 

 

 

San Mateo Campground is part of San Onofre State Beach but it’s about 1-1/2 miles inland, nestled in the pretty rolling hills right next to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. We’re often able to watch military training conducted right next to the campground, specially at the MOUT site (a recreation of an Iraqi village used for training).

 

Each time we camp host is a little different from the last and that’s true this time as well. Mike is working as a Maintenance Host here at San Mateo Campground, which means he helps keep the campground clean and repaired so the campers can enjoy it.

While we love the natural beauty of San Mateo Campground and its surroundings, the beach town of San Clemente is just a ten minute drive away. One of our favorite spots to visit is San Clemente Pier, especially at sunset when the surfers are catching that one last wave.

San Clemente Pier at sunset

San Clemente Pier at sunset

 

Surfers have to hike up the trail to their car

Surfers have to hike up the trail to their car

But our favorite activity at San Mateo Campground is hiking the trail to Trestles Beach, a world-renowned surfing beach. You have to REALLY want to surf at Trestles Beach because there’s no parking at the beach – everybody has to hike or bike in and out while carrying their surfboards. There are usually plenty of surfers at Trestles Beach, though, so it must be worth the effort.

Surfers at Trestles Beach

Surfers at Trestles Beach

 

Mike and I don’t surf but the beautiful views of the ocean, Catalina Island in the distance on a rare clear day and the bay towards San Clemente are more than worth the hike.

Looking north towards San Clemente at Trestles Beach

Looking north towards San Clemente at Trestles Beach

Trestles Wetlands Natural Reserve

Trestles Wetlands Natural Reserve

 

Best of all, San Mateo Creek flows just east of the campground to Trestles Beach. A short walk from the beach are riparian and wetland habitats known as Trestles Wetlands Natural Preserve. It’s hard to believe this peaceful area is so close to the I-5 and the commuter train that gives Trestles Beach its name!

 

Wetland near the mouth of Mateo Creek with an AMERICAN COOT

Wetland near the mouth of Mateo Creek with an AMERICAN COOT

David and Giant

Mike & I enjoyed meeting David, who is camping with his service dog Giant. Giant is a Great Dane who helps David in many ways. One is that Giant pulls David along in his wheelchair. Giant doesn’t seem to mind a bit and the affection between David and Giant is very apparent.

David with his service dog Giant

David with his service dog Giant

David with his service dog Giant

David with his service dog Giant

Coleman Valley Road: Beauty Before Breakfast

Just a mile or two north of Bodega Dunes Campground along Highway 1, there’s a turn-off for Coleman Valley Road. Most drivers, mesmerized by the beauty of the Pacific coastline, drive right by. But signs that read “Winding One Lane Road” are like catnip to us. It takes longer than half an hour to drive the ten miles between Highway 1 and the tiny town of Occidental (not counting all the times we stop to take yet another photo) but it’s our favorite drive in Sonoma County.

On one of those rare days when the weather is clear, the views of the Pacific coastline are spectacular.

Magnificent view of the coast looking towards Jenner from Coleman Valley Road

However, this is what it looks like today.

Fog in the coastal range along Coleman Valley Road

We start out a little disappointed that we can’t see the gorgeous view, but as we drive through the coastal range, we begin to appreciate this gentler, more elusive beauty. Cattle appear like apparitions in foggy pastures.

Cattle in the fog along Coleman Valley Road

When we crest the coastal range, the fog begins to clear. The landscape changes from pasture to forest. Redwoods line the road and form a living canopy over us.

Redwoods along Coleman Valley Road

Finally we reach our destination: the tiny town of Occidental. Howard’s Station Cafe in Occidental is hands-down our favorite restaurant for breakfast. We love to sit at one of the tables on their front porch, chat while we sip our Taylor Maid coffee, and linger over a hearty breakfast. Besides omelettes like my favorite Smoked Salmon Omelette Florentine, Howard’s has the best Eggs Benedict, banana-walnut or blueberry pancakes, and an excellent breakfast burrito. If your tastes run more to “healthy alternatives”, you can order dishes like Tofu Rancheros or Organic Brown Rice Scramble. And I haven’t even started on their extensive espresso and juice/smoothie bar!

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http://www.howardstationcafe.com/

And did you notice? There’s an excellent Patrick Amiot “junk art” sculpture of a train and its engineer right below the Howard’s Cafe sign.

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Junk Art In Sebastopol

Mike & I love “junk art” – scrap metal, bits & pieces of broken machinery, damaged household items, and other “junk” transformed into three-dimensional artworks. Luckily, the nearby town of Sebastopol and the surrounding area is a junk art mecca.

The front yards of the houses along Florence Avenue in Sebastopol are filled with junk art scuptures by Patrick Amiot (who lives and works in Sebastopol). You can drive slowly down Florence Avenue to see the artwork but we prefer to walk so we don’t miss anything.

But not all junk art in Sebastopol is found on Florence Avenue.

Junk Art by Patrick Amiot in front of the Sebastopol fire station

Junk Art by Patrick Amiot in front of the Sebastopol fire station

 

 

You can see this sculpture in front of the fire station on Bodega Avenue

 

 

 

and this wonderful Noah’s Ark can be found in front of the Community Church.