Well, another year has come to its conclusion and we are looking forward to the new year. Hope your holidays were as pleasant and joyous as ours. It's hard to believe we have traveled more than 34,000 miles during the past year and have now visited 65 National Forests. We have had some great adventures, seen some fantastic sights, and met many interesting people. It seems appropriate we would spend most of the last month of '97 with family.
After spending Thanksgiving with Suzi's mother in Oxnard, CA, we headed for Lake Elisnore near Corona, CA. This lake is located inland on the eastern side of the most northern section of the Cleveland National Forest. For those who have never seen a man-made oasis in the middle of a desert let us briefly describe this one. Access to Lake Elisnore from any direction is across land so dry you wonder if it has ever known a good soaking. Chamois (the fancy name for greasewood) and rocks of various sizes appear
to be the only things produced by this land. Occasionally, you see a pocket of civilization - square building in the same shade of the dried earth, a grove of citrus trees, maybe a fast-food/gas station. And there is Lake Elisnore looking like a giant blue satin sheet spread across a parched land. Live Oaks, Sycamores, and Eucalyptus trees hug the sandy shoreline while dozens of different species of waterfowl reside nearby. Each morning these birds circle the lake, as if to confirm it is still there, making a joyous sound to celebrate another fabulous sunrise. Suzi found the sunrises so beautiful, she actually woke Fred on a couple of mornings to watch! With a grunt, he obliged her on both occasions and than returned to bed for a nap. One evening, the residents of the Lake Elisnore strung hundreds of lights on their boats of many sizes and shapes and paraded around
the lake. It was quite a sight - stationery lights in the sky and moving lights on the lake.
From Lake Elisnore we surveyed some of the Cleveland National Forest campgrounds. Two of the campgrounds were located in an area designated for Off-Road Vehicles (ORV). There was nothing "forested" about the chaparral environment we found. (Suzi's imagination had a field-day with plentiful and the oddly eroded "rotten granite" rock common to the area. She claims to have seen a stegosaurus meandering over a hilltop and a breaching humpback whale with barnacles on his chin.) The other
campgrounds were located far above Lake Elisnore along a tree covered highway. The contrast was amazing. While traveling from the open ORV area to the shaded family campgrounds we met Pete, a competitive hang-glider, standing at the very edge of a shear cliff. He and two factory rep's were testing some new gliders' design. To watch these three man-birds float, soar, climb, and glide above us with a total disregard of gravity was an awesome sight. About three weeks later, while surveying in the southern most section of the Cleveland, the image of these man-birds was recalled by the sight of a glider plane performing the same maneuvers.
We had hoped to do some of the Angeles National Forest from Lake Elisnore, but as you may have heard, they had a very bad week while we were in the area. It started with a snowstorm early in December. Then, a family of four was lost over an icy switchback (it took nearly a week to locate the wreck in the snow - all were dead) and finally a woman hiker got lost and was also found dead. We decided to visit the Angeles at some other time.
Suzi and FredWe headed for San Diego and our campsite in a suburb called Santee. The Santee campground was centrally located to both family and work and very comfortable, except for the ants. Oh, and a couple of nights when it got cold enough to freeze the water in our outside hose. But it was Christmas time and Fred's cousin, Karla Hertzog, kept our hearts warm. She generously shared home and her holiday spirit with us. All we can say is, it is a good thing Christmas comes only once a year or Karla and
her children would never make it to Spring. The woman even decorates her guest bathroom for the holiday!!! We had such a grand time. The icing on this holiday cake was seeing Fred's mother, Jane.
Between dinners at Karla's and Charleen Cobb (Karla's mother), gift opening and enjoying some amazing Christmas light decorations, we picnicked with Suzi's brother, David, and his family. We, also, enjoyed High Tea at the Hotel del Coronado with the family and an excursion into Tijuana, Mexico with Jane and Ted Cobb, Fred's uncle. Fred's mother knew exactly what she was looking for - a brown leather wallet with an exterior coin purse and a long silver chain. You know how it is when you know exactly what you are looking for? Well, we took a bus into the heart of Tijuana's business section and walked up one side of the boulevard and down the other checking in one little cubby-hole store after another for about two hours. Jane found her wallet and necklace (and bargained excellent prices for both). We were very happy we wore our walking shoes. Dispersed among the many tiny stores were doorways that led to either a second story or basement establishment which, in most cases, were girly bars. As we walked by with Jane and Suzi in the vanguard, the doorman would beckon "Come in and see the show." Boy, were these guys off base! But such occurrences are part of the Tijuana experience. Our tea at the "Hotel del" was quite the opposite. It was an elegant, white tablecloth experience. We were served individual pots of loose-leaf tea with our own strainer and a plate of finger sandwiches, followed by another plate of two bite-size portions of half dozen different desserts. The Hotel's interior was dominated by rich, dark wood and a feeling of hospitality. The centerpiece of the lobby was a twenty-five foot evergreen tree, decorated in a teddy bear theme. It was a wonderful experience and a family memory we will long cherish.
After a week in San Diego, Fred's mother returned to the quiet of Boston and we got back to working on the Cleveland National Forest. We soon realized the Cleveland was a forest of many contrasts. Two of its campgrounds were snowbound while all the others basked in the warmth of a late-December warm spell. Some campgrounds offer no shade for anyone taller than a four year old, while others contained grand old oaks spreading boughs across the site. From the harsh, rugged beauty of a land that appears to have little experience with rain to the gentle lushness of long-needle pine tree covered mountains, we were never certain what each new area would hold.
We welcomed in the New Year with our good friends, Rosemarie and John Hogan. Is there a better way to bid farewell to the Old and welcome the New than with good food, good conversation, and good friends? Wish you all could have joined us. Maybe next year? The first day of 1998 saw us on the road again, heading for Superior, Arizona but more about that in our next Wanderings. Hope we hear what's new from you all. Until then,
Suzi and Fred