Julian to Petaluma, CA

Bird of paradise
Bird of paradise

Arriving at Julian, CA we found a whole new world.

This world was filled with apple trees and vineyards with lush green valleys and hills.

Originally Julian had been a gold rush town but when that petered out they found that it was a perfect location to grow apples.

Now they have reinvented themselves with wine tasting, apple cider and artists.

Lovely town to explore and walk through except we were there about 7 am and nothing was open.

So much for breakfast.

Just before you come into Julian there is an area called Banners and the Banner Ranch.

You could rent a tiny house or relax in a covered wagon. Very bright and colourful as you pass by the ranch.

Finally, we ended up in Ramona and had breakfast at a Denny’s.

An hour and a half later we were at Oceanside, walking on the sandy beach and watching the surfers.

Rob on Oceanside beach
Rob on Oceanside beach

We didn’t make it very far after that as we stopped at every beach along the way following the coastal highway and finally ended up in Laguna Beach.

Hotels go for $250 a night but we figured as we had saved on camping that we could splurge for the night.

Going for a walk down to the water to watch the sunset we found there was a long pier with a rollercoaster and Ferris wheel

Sunset at Laguna Beach
Sunset at Laguna Beach
Ferris wheel at Laguna Beach
Ferris wheel at Laguna Beach

It was a ways away down the beach but it was all lit up for the evening’s fun.

Getting back onto highway 1 we again stopped at beaches, sat in the sand and watched the world go by.

As dark was settling in we found a campsite called Sycamore Canyon Campground and even though it said it was full there were numerous campsites empty so we claimed one.

Only to find out an hour later that all the sites had been reserved whether they were there or not and we would have to go.

But… there were no hotels around and the next campsite was full as well so Rob pulled out the senior and disability cards saying he just wasn’t able to drive any further and basically we weren’t leaving.

The warden finally said that in the day-use area they sometimes let RV’s park there but as we weren’t self-contained we wouldn’t be allowed.

But, we assured her. We were self-contained so the next question was do you have a toilet?

And we said yes we did (pee bucket but we didn’t tell her that) and we got the go-ahead to park in the day parking area.

By this time it was dark and we set up the thunder range, boiled water for the hot water bottles and snuggled into bed.

As I slept I could hear the sound of waves crashing on the beach and it lulled me to sleep.

Awaking the next morning I wondered if I had dreamed the waves as I didn’t think we were that close to the water.

Further inspection showed us if you went under the road through a tunnel there was the ocean and it made a roar as the water met the sand.

As we stood on the other side of the tunnel the water was coming right up to the edge of the wall and as we stood there a small seal came out of the water and headed onto the beach on the other side of the wall.

Seal on Sycamore Canyon Beach
Seal on Sycamore Canyon Beach

If you timed it just right when the waves were out you could scamper around the wall onto the beach beyond.

Rob went first and scared the little seal back into the water as it was just on the other side of the barricade.

I went next and saw this wonderful beach stretching out in front of us.

And… better yet there were shorebirds actively feeding.

The birds turned out to be some Marbled Godwits and a willet.

Marbled Godwit on Sycamore Canyon Beach
Marbled Godwit on Sycamore Canyon Beach
Willet on beach
Willet on beach

Pelicans were doing flybys and seagulls dotted the beach.

Out on the water, we could see the fins of two dolphins as they raced through the water to parts unknown.

Good thing the tide was going out so we made it back past the wall and up to the van seeing some yellow-rumped warblers along the way.

Yellow-rumped warbler on Sycamore Canyon Beach
Yellow-rumped warbler on Sycamore Canyon Beach

Heading out of the campground we almost drove over a Cooper’s hawk having a bath in a mud puddle.

It just sat there and let me take pictures until a lady on a bicycle scared it away.

Cooper's hawk bathing
Cooper’s hawk bathing

Back on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), we headed up to just above Santa Barbara and took highway 154 and headed away from the coast.

Stopping at Cachuma Lake Recreation Area we had a lovely lunch under a large tree overlooking the lake.

Looking out over Cachuma Lake
Looking out over Cachuma Lake

They said it had been four years since they had any significant rainfall and the lake was at 47% of its capacity.

Back on the road highway 154 turned into highway 101 and we ended up at Pismo Beach for the night.

It was such a beautiful beach we decided to spend the night on it.

You could drive on the beach and about 2 miles down they had an RV camping area. This consisted of just finding our spot in the sand and camping out.

Before we headed down the road we went back into town to get something for dinner (sushi) and then much to Rob’s delight we drove down the beach, pulled out the camping chairs and sat and watched the sun dip below the horizon.

To my delight waking up in the morning, there were plovers, sandpipers, egrets, long-billed curlew and other assorted birds.

Long-billed curlew at Pismo Beach
Long-billed curlew at Pismo Beach
Pelicans at Pismo Beach
Pelicans at Pismo Beach
Snowy Plover at Pismo Beach
Snowy Plover at Pismo Beach
Snowy egret catching crabs
Snowy egret catching crabs

As Rob packed up I ran up and down the beach taking as many pictures as I could.

We continued on highway 1 up to San Fransico and over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Rob at Golden Gate Bridge
Rob at the Golden Gate Bridge

The fog was in abatement and we could see Alcatraz from the lookout on the other side of the bridge.

Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island

There were over 150 people there and we were one of a couple of people wearing masks.

Taking the PCH the drive was full of twists and turns, cliff and no guard rails.

A bit of a hairy drive.

At Olema, we turned right on Sir Francis Drake Blvd and then left on Platform Bridge Road into Petaluma after a long day of driving.

Now Petaluma is an interesting town as the streets don’t run straight. They circle and curve and although we could see some hotels it was almost impossible to get to them.

Along with it being dark and we were tired it made an interesting hunt for a place to sleep.

Rob lucked out on a road that led to a hotel and we settled in for a well-deserved rest.


  1. Oh my goodness, you guys are having great adventures every turn along the highways and byways. Great pictures, I had never even heard of some of those birds. Love the bit about ducking under the bridge and then being surprised by all the wildlife. Keep the fun coming. Good pictures of Rob.


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