Jaunts With Jackie

Fill your life with adventure. Have stories to tell and not things.

Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point

Early Saturday morning Sally and I set out to hike to Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point. We parked on a residential street. Parking is limited so go early unless you don’t mind a long trek on the sidewalk. The hike starts on the corner of Lake Ave and Loma Atla Dr. in the city of Altadena.

Park along one of these streets.

The History of Echo Mountain

Today if you want to get to Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point you need to hike, but from 1893- 1936 you could ride on the Mount Lowe Railway. The railway was a combination of a Funicular like Angel’s Flight that took passengers up the canyon and then a narrow gauge trolley that took them to the resort at the top of Echo Mountain. It is crazy to think that in its heyday the Mount Lowe Railway was the number one tourist attraction in California. More people went to the top of Echo Mountain than Yosemite or Catalina. Ultimately, the resort burned down in 1936 and the railway tracks were damaged in a storm in 1937. Today all that is left are the ruins.

Historic Photo of Mount Lowe Railway

The Cobb Estate

The hike to Echo Mountain starts at the Cobb Estate which is supposed to be haunted. At one point the Marx Brothers owned the estate. They were sure it was haunted and they tore down the property. The Marx Brothers tried to build a cemetery on the haunted land, but the neighbors were opposed. Eventually, a private donation allowed the city to purchase the land.

The Cobb Estate

Hiking to Echo Mountain

We started our hike by walking through the “Haunted Woods” of The Cobb Estate and luckily we didn’t feel anything weird. Our hike to Echo Mountain started on the Sam Merril Trail. It is a little over 2 1/2 miles to the top of Echo Mountain. The trail is rated as moderate and it is a single track. The elevation gain is almost 1,500 feet, but the switchbacks feel gradual. There are posts marking the 1 and 2-mile mark. You are half-way up when you are directly under the power transformer.

At the top of Echo Mountain

You know you are close to the top of Echo Mountain when you see the giant gear. The ruins are all that have survived from the Lowe Mountain Railway and the Great White Resort. This is a good place to stop and take a rest and there are usually people hanging around looking at the ruins and having a snack. Depending on the weather you might have an amazing view all the way to Catalina, however, if it’s foggy your view will be a blanket of clouds. In addition to the view, history buffs are in for a treat because there are plaques and signs with information about the Mount Lowe Railway. If Echo Mountain is your final destination then you will return on the same trail back to your car.

Hiking to Inspiration Point

After hiking to Echo Mountain we chose to continue on to Inspiration Point. We backtracked a little way to Castle Canyon Trail. The Trail is 2 miles in length and takes you to the Inspiration Point. It is rated hard and has steep inclines and you will gain about another 1,500 feet in elevation. We hiked in the winter and the trail was overgrown and there were a lot of trees down that make for interesting obstacles. You will see far fewer people on this trail than on the Sam Merrill Trail. Because the trail is in a canyon it isn’t possible to see the top of Inspiration Point until close to the end of the hike. When you have hiked about 1 3/4 miles you turn a corner and look up and see the shelter at Inspiration Point.

The Top of Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point is not actually a point, it is in a saddle between two canyons, however, on a clear day the views can be amazing. There are picnic tables and plenty of spots to rest. Viewing pipes have been installed and they are labeled with the locations you are viewing. On a clear day, it is possible to see all the way to Catalina. We hung out at the top and ate our lunches and took pictures.

We made it to the top of Inspiration Point.

Hiking Down

We decided to take a different route down from Inspiration Point. Castle Canyon Trail is step and it has lots of loose gravel and that can make it tricky to hike down. Instead, we opted for the Sam Merrill Trail. I can’t stress enough the importance of doing your research and to be on the lookout for the sign for the Sam Merrill Trail. The first time I did this hike I missed the sign and ended my hike far from my car. This trail is pleasant and meanders through a canyon forested in large trees, however, the one downside is the mountain bikers. You need to keep an ear out for them so you don’t get run over. Castle Canyon Trails is 2 1/2 miles and it passes some ruins along the way such as Sunset Peak and an old observatory. The trail ends at Echo Mountain.

The sign for the trail back to Echo Mountain.

Hiking Down From Echo Mountain

From Echo Mountain we hiked down the same trail we had come up in the morning. In the afternoon there is barely any shade and the day we were there it was only in the low 70’s, but it felt really hot. Although it is only 2 1/2 miles down the trail seemed endless. Make sure you bring at least 2-3 liters of water even on a mild day because you will be working hard. When we made it to the bottom we still had to walk about 1/2 mile to our car. Our round trip from for the day was over 12 miles and we were ready to take off our boots and put on some flip-flops.

Mt Lowe Brewing Company

Sally and I have a hiking rule any hike over 10 miles and we stop at a local brewery and get a beer. Today we stopped at Mt Lowe Brewing Company in Arcadia. Mt Lowe Brewing Company has a cool vibe, it’s big, clean and the one beer I tried was good. I had to try to the Inspiration Porter because of its guarantee to ease my sore hiking muscles and my chapped lips. I love the giant pictures of the Mt Lowe Railway that they have hanging inside their brewery. The afternoon we were there a large crowd was playing bingo and a food truck was serving nachos and tacos. I will definitely be back and it was the perfect way to end our hike to Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point

Beautiful Art Deco

A Walking Tour of DTLA

One Saturday in February I decided I would be a tourist and do a walking tour of DTLA. To avoid trying to find a parking place I decided to take the Metro. I boarded the Gold Line at the Azusa/Citrus College stop and because it was Saturday parking wasn’t a problem. After I parked I used the vending machine to pay $3 to park for the day. Next, I used another machine to refill my TAP Card and I decided on the all-day unlimited pass for $7.00.

First Stop: Union Station

I rode the Gold Line from Azusa to Union Station and when I arrived I chose to look around instead of immediately transferring to the Red or Purple line. Union Station is a busy place. Over 100,000 passengers pass through on a daily basis. The architecture is beautiful it is a mix of Art Deco and Mission Revival and there are some restaurants and bars in case you want to hang out and people watch.

Second Stop: Bottega Louie

My next stop on my walking tour of DTLA was Bottega Louie. Bottega Louie is a gourmet market, patisserie & café. The patisserie part of Bottega Louie is filled with delectable treats. The restaurant portion is large and they don’t take reservations. I stood in line at the counter to order my cappuccino and pain au chocolat. After paying I received a number and I picked a small table for two in the section that has open seating. A waiter brought out my drink and croissant and for a few minutes, I was able to pretend I was back in Paris.

Third Stop: The Biltmore Hotel

My third stop on my walking tour of DTLA was the Biltmore Hotel. I was curious to take a peek inside because the popular Disney ride Tower of Terror is modeled after the Biltmore. Stepping inside definitely reminds me of the Tower of Terror. I wandered around the lobby and hallways checking out the photographs of all the dignitaries and celebrities that have all stayed at the Biltmore.

Fourth Stop: Los Angeles Central Library

The Los Angeles Central Library was my fourth stop on my walking tour of DTLA. Saturday was my lucky day because I was able to join a free docent lead Art and Architecture Tour and I learned that the library was built in 1926 and its theme is the light of learning. The inside walls of the library are covered in murals and the ceilings are painted to resemble wood, although they are actually made of concrete. A fun fact about the library is that the entire building is made of concrete and that is what kept the library from burning to the ground in 1986 in the most epic fire in Los Angeles history. On my way out of the library, I ran into a machine that prints out either a 1 minute, 3 minute or children’s story for you to take with you.

Fifth Stop: Grand Central Market

If you are walking around DTLA, do yourself a favor and stop at Grand Central Market. The market is a Foodies dream. You can get every possible type of food there. Grand Central Market is perfect if you are with a group of friends because everyone can pick out what they want to eat and then you can all meet back at one table and enjoy your food. Today I tried Egg Slut for a late lunch and McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream for Dessert. Egg Slut is having a moment and the line is usually long. I waited 30 minutes to order. I ordered a regular breakfast sandwich without the bacon and I was lucky to find a barstool at the counter and I was able to watch them make my sandwich, which was an over-medium egg with cheese sandwiched between a brioche bun that is toasted with butter. Delicious!

Sixth Stop: The Bradbury Building

The Bradbury Building is across the street from the Grand Central Market. In 1971 the Bradbury Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Currently, the building is used as offices and tourists are allowed only in the lobby. The Bradbury Building is famous for its ornate ironwork and atrium and it has been the location for several movies including the original Blade Runner.

Stop Seven: Angel’s Flight

The entrance to Angel’s Flight is across the street from the Grand Central Market. Angel’s Flight originally opened in 1901 and is the shortest operational railroad. It is possible to board the cars at either the bottom or the top of Bunker Hill. I rode it both ways and it was free with unlimited TAP card without a Tap card it is $1 to ride each way.

Stop Eight: Little Tokyo

I walked to Japanse Village Plaza at 335 E. 2nd St. The plaza is busy and there are many shops and restaurants. In the plaza, there is usually some sort of entertainment going on such as karaoke or a performer. I watched a woman though a window making little cakes and I went inside to ask what they were. The man at the counter told me they were Red Bean cakes and he assured me they are delicious. I bought one for $2 and took it to go. I was too full this trip, but my favorite Ramen restaurant Daikokuya is across the street from Japanse Village Plaza and I highly recommend stopping in there for some amazing ramen.

Heading Home

After Little Tokyo, I decided it was getting cold and I was tired so I walked to the corner of First and Alameda and I waited for the Gold Line. There is lots more to explore in the area, but it will have to wait for another day.

Camping tent Anza-Borrego State Park

Desert Camping Anza-Borrego

Anza-Borrego Desert offers a multitude of camping options. There are four developed campgrounds with over 175 sites. These campgrounds also include group sites and Tamarisk Grove has primitive cabins for rent and if you really want to get away from it all Anza-Borrego allows roadside camping.

Camping amongst the cacti.

Anza-Borrego State Park

Anza-Borrego State Park is located about 2 hours away from both San Diego and Los Angeles. The park is open 7 days a week and there is a $10 fee for day use. After paying the entrance fee your first stop should be the visitor’s center. Inside volunteers and rangers have a wealth of information about the wildflowers, cacti, palm groves, and wildlife you might encounter in the park. They can also provide maps and current conditions for hikes. There are a small gift shop and restrooms located outside the doors.

The Cactus Bloom in the spring.

The Best Season to Camp at Anza-Borrego

Winter and Spring are the preferred seasons to camp at Anza-Borrego. Reservations can be made through Reserve California. Weekends in February book up far in advance. A regular site is $25 a night. Each site includes a picnic table, a shade awning, and a fire ring. There are a variety of bathrooms spread amongst the campsites including some pit toilets, some flushing toilets, and a few you just have to see to believe.

Tamarisk Grove in Anza-Borrego State Park

I have camped in Anza-Borrego State Park two times. The first time the only reservation I could find was at Tamarisk Grove for a cabin. I was leery about the definition of a cabin, but I made the reservations. The cabins cost $60 a night and are basically a large shed with a door and two windows. There is room for 8 to sleep and inside are bunk beds and a loft, however, there are no mattresses provide. You need to bring an inflatable or you will be sleeping on plywood. There are a table and two chairs, no electricity or running water and the door locks. Overall, the cabin provided protection from the howling wind and it was a cozy place to spend the night.

A Cabin in The Desert

We were able to hang our hammocks outside in between the poles of the shade awning. The hammocks were a perfect place to relax and read a book. When it was time for dinner we set up my jet boil on the picnic table and cooked ontop. After dinner, we made a fire in the fire ring and made s’ mores. The bathrooms at Tamarisk were nice, clean and they flushed. Because we only stayed one night we didn’t try the coin-operated showers. There are two easy hikes that start across the street from Tamarisk. They are the Yaqui Well Nature Trail and the Cactus Loop Trail.

Desert Camping

For our second overnight, we stayed in the main campground for Anza-Borrego State Park. We stayed in February during the rainy season and we didn’t make reservations, because we thought it was going to rain and we would have to cancel. When we arrived at the main gate they told us that they were completely booked for the night. We asked them lots of questions about the group site or the hike-in site and the ranger decided to let us camp in a hike-in site. Again at this site, we had a picnic table, a shade awning, and a fire-pit. The bathroom by our site did not have a roof and it had two toilets with a wall in between, but no doors. Not a toilet for the modest. We decided it was best to go to the bathroom in pairs and use one person as a look-out.

The craziest toilet I have ever seen.

A Hike That Leaves From The Campground

There are various hikes that start throughout the campground. One of the most popular hikes is Borrego Palm Canyon Trail. It is a moderate 2.9 miles roundtrip hike. There are signs warning you of the importance of bringing enough water with you for this hike. There is no drinkable water and you wiil not find any shade until you get to the palms. In the spring if it has been a rainy year there is a stream that runs down along the trail. It is possible to see a variety of animals on this hike including iguanas, Chuckwallas, and Bighorn Sheep. Once you get to the palms you will feel like you have made it to an oasis. The palms are huge and tower over you. They provide the much-needed shade from the scorching desert sun.

A Small Desert Town

The little town of Borrego Springs is right outside the entrance to Anza-Borrego State Park. In the center of town is Christmas Tree Circle. Here you can find a grassy common area, bathrooms, and free wi-fi. There are a few restaurants, gas stations, and little stores, however, be sure and check the hours, because of some of the places close early.

The Ocotillo were almost ready to bloom.

Dragons in the Desert

During your camping trip make sure you leave time to visit some of the 130 life-size art sculptures that are located around the town of Borrego Springs. The Chamber of Commerce has a map that shows the locations of the sculptures and because they are spread out you will need to drive to see them all. If you are camping with kids, this should be on your list of fun things to do.

The Sea Dragon

Free Dispersed Camping in Anza-Borrego

If you would like to camp in Anza-Borrego and are not able to get reservations you are allowed to camp for free as long as you follow the rules. Your car can’t be park more than one car length off of the road, however, your tent can be further you just need to walk. Another rule to remember is that you need to be at least 100 yards away from a water source. Furthermore, if you plan on having a campfire you need to have it in a metal container. No ground fires are allowed and lastly, you are responsible for hauling out your trash.

Staying in Anza-Borrego

Anza-Borrego has a lot to offer. There are plenty of both hiking and 4 x 4 trails. If you plan your visit right you might see the desert wildflowers in full bloom and at nighttime, you will get an amazing view of the stars. The desert just might surprise you, so get out there and start exploring.

Anza-Borrego Desert
Anza-Borrego Desert

Life-Sized Art Sculptures in the Desert

You never know what you might find when you visit Anza Borrega. Anza Borrega is located in San Diego County about 2 hours from SanDiego, Palm Springs, and the Inland Empire. The area is known for hiking trails, wildflowers, remote camping, and art. The ideal time to visit is during the Winter and early Spring. The summer months bring the scorching desert heat.

The Art of Borrego Springs

The small town of Borrego Springs is home to over 130 larger than life art sculptures in the middle of the desert. Artist Ricardo Breceda created these sculptures to resemble the creatures that might have roamed these deserts millions of years ago. The sculptures are made from welded metal and some of the intricate details such as whispy hair. The late Dennis Avery owned the land that is now referred to as Galleta Meadows and he had visions of free-standing art doting the property.

On the road to Anza Borrega

Locating the Sculptures

The sculptures are spread out and you need a car or possibly a bicycle to visit them. Most of the creatures are located off of Palm Canyon Drive. The Chamber of Commerce and some of the local businesses have free maps to help you locate the sculptures. To reach some of the sculptures you will need to drive on unpaved roads, however, the roads are fine for a 2 wheel vehicle.

A lone horse
Lots of Jeeps in Anza Borrego

Grasshopper vs. scorpion.
The Chief
A prospector and his mule.
The Sea Dragon

After Seeing the Sculptures

If you are not camping at Anza Borrego State Park or remote camping in Anza Borrego there are a few hotels located in Borrego Springs along with some restaurants. After a long day of exploring we ate at Carlee’s Place. Carlee’s is a typical “Dive-Bar,” however, the service was spot on and the food and drinks were both good. The night we ate at Carlee’s there seemed to be a good mix of both locals and tourists.

ART-O-MAT in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is not only about drinking and gambling. While visiting in January with my daughter and my best friends we stumbled upon something unique and fun. We read about old cigarette machines that have been refurbished into dispensers for original art.

Art-0-mat

Artist Clark Whittington came up with the idea of the Art-0-mat in 1997 in Winston Salem, North Carolina. He used the vending machine to dispense his art for $1. There are now vending machines scattered across the United States. Each machine dispenses original works of art.

The Art-o-mat in the Cosmopolitan Hotel

An Art Scavenger Hunt

There are Art-o-mat machines in the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. We were staying at Treasure Island and we chose to walk down the strip to the Cosmopolitan and although it was 40 degrees outside we stopped at Fat Tuesday for frozen drinks. I had a drink that tastes like a creamsicle. They serve the drinks in a cute acrylic to-go cup. And Vegas being Vegas, I took my drink with me on the walk.

Drinks to go from Fat Tuesday

Finding the Art-o-mat Machines

There are six refurbished cigarette machines in the lobby and hallways at the Cosmopolitan. Finding the machines is half the fun. After walking around we found the first one. First, we made change, because the machines only accept $5 bills. With money in hand, we had the hard choice of what artist to pick. I inserted my $5 and pulled a lever. The art comes out in a small 2″ x 3′ box. My first piece of art was an abstract mounted on a block. Nicole put in her $5 and got a pair of cork earrings. Feeling successful we wandered on a looked for the next machine.

Ready to try their luck

Nicole with her art.
Robyn trying her luck.

Art At The Cosmopolitan

The Cosmopolitan is filled with art. The walls have large-scale murals, photographs, and sculptures. The Cosmopolitan wants their art to be interactive and accessible. In other words, some of their art is in the middle of the hallway and it looks like it is meant to be touched consequently, we enjoyed walking around looking at all the art while we were looking for more Art-o-mat vending machines.


One of the many sculptures in the hallways.
We interacted with the art.

Hunting For More Art

As we continue on our hunt for more Art-o-mat vending machines, but we have better luck with some machines than others. A few times we put in our $5 bill and we get nothing in return. We don’t let it deter us. Nicole is in charge of locating all six of the Art-o-mat machines and I’m happy to say that we found them all. We love the pieces of art that we collected. The Art-o-mat is helping to make art accessible for everyone. For $5 you can be an art collector too. Therefore, now that we experienced a fun scavenger hunt, our interest is piqued and we are planning more trips to find Art-o-mat vending machines in other states.

Checking out our new art.
Nicole trying her luck again.
Robyn was so disappointed that the machine took her $5 and didn’t give her any art.
All the art we got out of the vending machines.

Out and About in Riverside, California

Riverside, California

Riverside, California is located in the Inland Empire about 55 miles East of Los Angeles. Downtown Riverside is home to the University of Riverside, the famous Mission Inn, and Mount Rubidoux. There is plenty of street parking and parking garages or there is a Metro Stop that offers shuttles to local downtown areas.

Mount Rubidoux

Mount Rubidoux has been designated as a park and a landmark. At one point the land was purchased by the owners of the Mission Inn. The land is now owned by the city of Riverside. Mountain Rubidoux is known for its Easter Sunday services. In 1909 the first non-denominational outdoor Easter Sunrise Service in the United States was held at the top of Mount Rubidoux.

Parking at Mount Rubidoux

It is easiest to park your car at Ryan Bonaminio Park. The address is 5000 Tequesquite Ave, Riverside, CA 92506. Ryan Bonaminio is a sports park and it has a lot of parking spaces. From the park, there is easy access to the mountain. Head up the street about a quarter-mile from the parking lot, and you will reach the start of the trail. There are no bathrooms at Mount Rubidoux, but there is one at Ryan Bonaminio Park. At the beginning of the trail at Mount Rubidoux, there is a place to fill your water bottles and there are trash cans along the trail.

Hiking in the City

Mount Rubidoux boasts over 3 miles of hiking trails. There is a 2.7-mile round-trip trail. The trail is paved which makes it a great choice for days when your normal trails are covered with mud. The trail only gains a little of 350 feet in incline, so it is rated as easy. I have seen numerous people pushing baby strollers up to the top. When you get to the top there are a few areas to explore. The World Peace Bridge is a beautiful place to stop for a photo.

The World Peace Bridge
Under the World Peace Bridge

The Top of Mount Rubidoux

Once you reach the top of Mount Rubidoux there are plenty of places to stop and take in the view. There is built-in seating in the rocks for the sunrise services. We climbed up to the stairs to the base of the cross. The cross is dedicated to Father Serra. According to some old newspaper articles there was some controversy about the separation of church and state and now the small plot of land that holds the cross is owned by a conservancy that is responsible for its upkeep.

Lunch at Tio’s Tacos in Riverside

After hiking back to our car we decided to drive over to Tio’s Tacos. I had driven past Tios when I was on the way to The Mission Inn and the large art out in front of the restaurant piqued my interest. The restaurant is located at 3948 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, CA 92501

Tio’s Taco

Eclectic Art in Riverside

We found street parking across the street from Tio’s Tacos. We wandered around the entire outside before we ordered out lunch. The art is all made from upcycled materials. One of my favorite pieces of art at Tio’s is a Christmas tree made from recycled Dos Equis beer bottles. There is a little chapel complete with an altar and pews. I could have spent hours wandering around looking at all the little details.

You can’t miss the art from the street.
A Christmas tree made from Dos Equis bottles.
Popeye The Sailor Man
Inside the chapel
Information about the artist.

Lunch at Tio’s Tacos

After hiking and walking around Tio’s looking at the art we were hungry. There is both seating inside and outside at Tio’s and the day we were there it was chilly and extremely windy so we opted for inside.

We went to the counter to order and although it was after 1 pm, I asked if I could order breakfast. The good news is they serve breakfast all day. I ordered Chilaquiles with green sauce. Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish with fried corn tortillas simmering with green or red sauce topped with an over-easy egg, sour cream, and cheese. I was happy to see an Aqua Fresca Bar at the front counter therfore I ordered a Mango Agua Fresca and it was very sweet but tasty. After ordering they give you a number and you seat yourself. I am a Chilaquiles connoisseur and my lunch was good, but definitely not the best Chilaquiles I’ve eaten. I would go back to Tio’s again just to see the art and maybe I’ll try a taco next time.

Chilaquiles Verde

Exploring Riverside

We had a good morning exploring Riverside. Mount Rubidoux was a scenic place for a hike and we all enjoyed the art and our lunch at Tio’s Tacos. We will have to plan another day to see some of the other things Riverside has to offer.

Road-Tripping to June Lake

June Lake is just a short 5-hour drive from the Los Angeles area on Highway 395, but it seems a world away. June Lake is popular in the spring and summer with the fishermen, during the fall for the leaf peppers and during winter for skiers. The first weekend of October we took a trip to June Lake over a long weekend. We were a little bit early for the peak leaf viewing, but it was beautiful.

Breakfast on the Road

We left the Los Angeles area at 5 a.m. Our first stop was at Great Basin Bakery in Bishop. Great Basin Bakery is a small bakery that bakes delicious, breads, cookies, pastries and serves breakfast and lunch. If you want to avoid the busses full of tourists at Schat’s Bakery, then Great Basin is your place. I ordered two breakfast bagels with eggs, coffee and two giant cowboy cookies to go. I’ve had both breakfast and lunch at Great Basin and both times everything I’ve ordered has been delicious.

Hiking at Little Lakes Valley

After leaving the bakery we continued driving to Little Lakes Valley Trail. The exit is off of 395 at Tom’s Place Resort. After passing Tom’s Place you drive on Rock Creek Rd to Mosquito Flat Trailhead. In the summer I backpacked all over Little Lakes Valley, but this day we were there for a day hike. We hiked into Heart Lake. Dylan spent the morning fishing in the beautiful Alpine Lake and I spent the morning reading. In the afternoon we hung up our hammocks and ate our cowboy cookies and took a little nap. When the wind picked up and we were frozen we hiked back down to the car and drove to June Lake.

Heart Lake
Little Lakes Valley
Little Lakes Valley

June Lake Motel

We had reservations at June Lake Motel. Our room had 2 beds and a small kitchen. During the night a vehicle struck a power transformer close to the Nevada border, but the entire area lost power. We woke up with no power, but the owner of the motel used her generator to make coffee and tea for all the guests. She also told us that they had lanterns for us if the power didn’t come back on before nightfall. I highly recommend the June Lake motel and I will definitely stay there again next time I’m at June Lake.

Gull Lake

The first night we were starving after all of our hiking and skipping lunch. We walked from our motel to The Tiger Bar. It is the quintessential small-town bar. They serve bar drinks, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was packed when we arrived. They had the Dodger playoff game on the television and people were shooting pool. We finally got a table. We ordered a couple of beers a burger and a sandwich. The food was good and the servers were friendly.

Saturday morning when we woke up to no power we walked around the town and there was nowhere open to serve breakfast. The hotel owner told us that we should be able to get a sandwich at the June Lake Junction Cafe. She said that they run on a generator. We drove over there and unfortunately they were not serving any food. We bought some gas station snacks for breakfast and we learned an important lesson. Always have cash. They couldn’t process any payments except for cash and there were cars parked outside at the gas pumps and unfortunately, they don’t work without power.

Passing the Fall foliage on the way to Parker Lake.

Hiking to Parker Lake

We had a full tank of gas so we headed out to hike to Parker Lake. The trailhead to Parker Lake is located at the end of the June Lake Loop. After the turn off there is a 2-mile dirt road, that is passable with a normal car. The trail is 3.6 miles out and back. The first mile is the steepest part and then it levels out. The trail is suitable for all levels. The trail starts in the sagebrush and then heads into a nook in the canyon. We were there in October and we walked through a grove of Aspens that was changing colors. After the Aspens, the trail runs parallel to a stream and then straight into a forest. The payoff of the hike is the lake. Parker Lake is on the backside of Yosemite and the views are jaw-dropping. We spent the day fishing and exploring. There were a few people that were camping at the lake. There are no bathrooms and fires are not permitted at the lake. At the end of the day, we hiked back down. We were treated with great views of Mono Lake off in the distance.

Parker Lake
The view on the hike back to the car from Parker Lake.

Dinner at June Pie Pizza Co.

We drove back to the hotel through the June Lake Loop. We got to look at the other lakes in the loop and the fall foliage that was just starting to turn golden. After driving around all the lakes we parked at our hotel and walked over to T-Bar Social Club. We were following the signs for June Pie Pizza Co. The pizza place is downstairs inside the Social Club. We sat at a table for two and ordered a local hard cider and a beer that were both on tap and a large Margherita Pizza. Our expectations were not high for the pizza and fortunately, we were 100% wrong. That was some of the best pizza that we have ever had. The crust was thin and it was cooked perfectly. It tasted like authentic New York Pizza.

June Pie Pizza Co.

Breakfast To Go

Sunday morning I woke up and took a walk around the village. All the stores had pumpkins sitting out front and looked very festive. I walked over to The Lift to get some breakfast to go. I wanted to pick up 2 breakfast burritos that they usually have in the case, but even though it was only 8:30 a.m. they were already sold out. Instead, I order 2 breakfast sandwiches and a latte. I waited 30 minutes for my sandwiches, but they were tasty when we at them and everyone that works at the Lift was very nice.

Time to Head Out

We had an amazing time in the June Lake area and I can’t wait to return. The village is quaint with amazing scenery, comfy accommodations, and a few good restaurants. I’m looking forward to planning my next trip to June Lake.

While In Paris Take Time For The Little Things………

When visiting Paris it is easy to get caught up in the feeling that you have to rush around and see everything. You can not visit Paris without waiting 3 hours to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, right? Wrong, although I did wait a long time even with prepurchased tickets to go to the top of the Eifel Tower my favorite memories are of the little things that Nicole and did that did not involve long lines or huge crowds. Picnicking on the Siene and at Luxingburg Gardens were the perfect Parsian experince. 

Our first full day in Paris we took a food tour in the Montremarte area. Our tour guide was fun and knowledgeable. On our tour we walked around Montremarte collecting items for a large feast that we eventually ate in the wine cellar of their building. Along the way we learned how to pick out chocolates, cheese, meats, bread and wine. We used Secret Food Tour and I highly recommend them. We tasted things we might not have found on our own (like the truffle chesse that I’m still dreaming about) and we had a enjoyable family stlye meal with wine and lively conversation.  

Wine that we tasted during our food tour.

The next day with our new found knowledge from the food tour we decided to collect items and have a picnic on the banks of the Seine looking at Notre Dame. I brought a small packable blanket with me from the United States just for such an occasion. 

Butter, Butter, Oh Salted French Butter….

We learned on the food tour that most Parisians buy their butter from the local cheese shop. The magic occurs from the addition of the salt crystals. Parisians use butter in recipes for both savory and sweet dishes. They also use it for slathering onto bread. 

French butter with salt crystals is delicious. I never appreciated butter until I visited Paris. Our first morning in Paris we walked up the street to the neighborhood bakery. We went inside and the sweetest guy took our order. Our French was rusty and he did not speak English, but we were able to order two croissants. The first bite was pure heaven, light and flaky and we could taste the butter. We stopped in every morning that we were in Paris and tried all of their different croissants and pastries. He became one of our favorite people we encountered in Paris.

Bread is baked fresh every morning. Ask any Parisianer and they will tell you their favorite boulangerie to buy a fresh baguette. We bought two baguettes. One traditional and one La Rustique. The La Rustique has multiple seeds and grains mixed in and is darker than the tradional baguette. 

Our favorite Boulangerie

A baguette to go.

We of course had to buy some salted butter to slather on our baguette and we also bought some spreadable cheese. It was good, but it did not come close to the truffle cheese we had on our food tour. 

Farmer’s Market

We passed by a farmers market. We bought a basket of strawberries. They were so sweet and ripe that the bees were hovering above the fruit like a cloud. I am allergic to bees so I had to stand back and have Nicole pick out and purchase our berries. 

Perfect berries from the Farmer’s Market.

Boucher

We stopped by the boucher and bought some sliced prosciutto. We figured that would be okay to carry around in our bag without being refridgerated. 

Wine & Utensils

In Paris like in the United States there are little convience stores mixed inbetween the adorable shops. We stop at a Franprix. They sell a little bit of everything. We picked out a bottle of wine. We did not have a wine opener with us. I asked the lady at the register if she could open our wine and she did without a problem. I was also able to purchase from her plastic utensils and two plastic cups. The price was equivalent of 10 cents each. I have heard that you can also ask waiters on the sidewalk to open your wine for you. There is not a law about drinking in public in Paris.  

The Ultimate Picnic Locations

Our first day of picnicking was on the banks of the Seine overlooking Notre Dame. We spread out our blanket and sat down with our legs hanging over the edge of the wall. We watched the passing boats. We had multiple conversations with people in our broken French. People were either strolling by or having pinics or cocktails along the banks as well.  

Another evening we had a picnic in front of Notre Dame. We had everything spread out and we were enjoying our wine when a one eyed rat jumped out of the bushes and tried to ambush us. He was too much for us and we had to pack up and relocate. 

Cheers in front of Notre Dame.

Our last night in Paris we had a picnic in Luxemburg Gardens and it was beautiful. We were sitting in chairs looking at the garden and the fountain. We watched a man wrangle his ponies from the pony ride and countless couples on dates. We had been at Versaille the day before and this was 1,000 times more peaceful and it was so pretty. I’m sure we would have stayed in the gardens longer, but at sunset guards came around and rounded everybody up. The garden is closed at night. This was the perfect way to end our trip to Paris. I am so glad that we took the time to do the small things in Paris, because those are the memories I am going to cherish.

We had our last picnic at Jardin du Luxembourg and this was our view.

Little Lakes Valley

Little Lakes Valley is a little slice of Heaven located outside of Bishop, California. Driving up 395 on the way to Little Lakes Valley there is no indication of the beauty you are about to encounter. On the drive up you see Mt. Whitney and the surrounding mountains, but directly out the car window is isolation and Rabbitbrush. Heading North you exit 395 at Tom’s Place and head up Rock Creek Road. Rock Creek Road is a winding, steep 10-mile, two-lane road that heads straight up. From late spring to early winter you can drive all the way to the trailhead at Mosquito Flats. When there is snow on the ground the road is not plowed and it becomes impassable.

Making Reservation

Little Lakes Valley is a chain of lakes that were carved by a glacier. Today the area is used by hikers, backpackers, and fishermen. Permits are required for all backpacking trips and can be reserved up to 6 months in advance at Recreation.Gov. Day hikers and fishermen do not require a permit.

The Begining of The Trail

In July my friend and I set off for a backpacking trip from Mosquito Flat to Gem Lake. The hike is considered moderately strenuous and that is mostly because of the elevation. The trail starts at 10,000 feet. We spent the first night at the backpacker’s camp at the beginning of the trail. The mosquitos were relentless. The trailhead definitely lived up to its name. The next morning we loaded up our backpacks and started up the trail to Gem Lake. Our backpacks were extra heavy because bear cans are required in this area. There are no bear boxes once you start up the trail. On the way up you are walking alongside a river. We went in 2019 and that was a high snow year. Many parts of the trail were covered in water and we were thankful that we wore waterproof boots.

Balancing On A Log

We made it past Box Lake and then we had a water crossing that we were uncomfortable with. We eventually made it across, but Sally got really wet. It is hard to balance on wet logs with a 35-pound backpack on your back.

Picking The Perfect Camp Site

When we got to Long Lake, we met a couple that said it was not a good idea to head to Gem Lake, because there was too much snow. We chose to hike around Long Lake until we found the perfect place to set up our tents for the night. The view of the lake is awe-inspiring. We did some exploring and filtered water and generally just soaked in the beauty. There are no fires allowed in the area. We were able to use our stoves for cooking. We took our stoves down to the shore of the lake and made our dinner and ate watching the fish jump in the lake.

Cooking dinner by the lake.

Mosquitoes Are Not My Friend

Unfortunately, by 6 pm we were in our tents with nothing to do but read. The mosquitoes were a force to be reckoned with and no amount of Deet would keep them away.

The next morning we took our daypacks and headed off for Chickenfoot and Gem Lakes. We made it to Chickenfoot without any problems. Getting to Gem was a lot harder. We climbed through giant mounds of snow and it was hard to see the trail.

Using Microspikes

Sally gouged her leg on a sharp branch and we almost gave up after that. While she sat down and bandage up her leg I scouted around looking for the trail. I eventually found it. We made our way to Gem Lake and it was beautiful.

Gem Lake

For the longest time, we were the only two people there. The weather was nice. The wildflowers were in full bloom and the best part is all the snow was keeping the mosquitoes away. After a beautiful afternoon, we headed back to our tents at Long Lake.

Long Lake

After staying at Long Lake we packed up and headed back to Heart Lake. It is a pretty alpine lake with views of Bear Creek Spire as its backdrop. We set up our tents on a hill overlooking the lake. We spent the rest of the day hiking and exploring.

The End Of Our Trip

The next morning we packed up and hiked back out to our car. This backpacking trip was Plan C for us. 2019 was just a high snow year and our Plans A & B were not safe so early in the year. Although this was plan C we had a great time. Little Lake Valley is perfect for day hikes or extended backpacking trips. We saw a lot of people in the daytime and then by late afternoon it would just be the two of us. I’m sure there were other people camping around the lakes, but we never saw anyone after 4 p.m. Other than the mosquitoes (that are no joke) it is the perfect place for a little getaway.

The Best French Macarons in all of Paris.

Foods That Live Up to The Hype in Paris…

Should You Believe the Hype?

Just mention to family or friends that you are planning a trip to Paris and you will get a long list of must-try food and drinks. My daughter Nicole and I spent 10 days in Paris and we tried to eat our way through a long list of hyped foods.

Bread and Croissants

We found the perfect way to start our morning was with a croissant and an Espresso from Alexine. Alexine was down the street from the hotel we stayed in and it quickly became one of our favorite places. The staff was extremely kind, patient and welcoming to us. Their croissants are fabulous. My favorite was the chocolate croissant and Nicole’s favorite was the almond croissant. Throughout our 10 day stay, we tried many different pastries and they were all amazing. For lunch, we loved to have a picnic with a baguette, butter or cheese, fruit and a bottle of wine. Viva la France.

Our favorite bakery, Alexine.
Fresh berries, bread, and wine.

Croque Madame

A Croque Madame is basically a fancy grilled cheese. It is the perfect remedy after a late night of drinking lots of French wine. Nicole and I stopped in Le Vrai Paris. It is an adorable French bistro in Montmarte. We were able to sit outside on the sidewalk. I ordered the Croque Madame and a Cappucino. The cappuccino had a perfect froth of foam and was dusted with powdered chocolate. We had been drinking Esspresso on the run while we were in Paris, so this was a nice treat. A Croque Madame is a large slice of bread covered with gruyere and parmesan cheese, and a slice of ham. The whole sandwich is then put under the broiler. After the broiler, a cooked egg is added to the top. The Croque Madame lived up to the hype and Le Vrai is a lovely place to spend the morning in Montmarte.

La Vrai in Montmarte, Paris
Le Vrai in Montmartre, Paris
A Delicious Frothy Cappuccino
A Delicious Frothy Cappuccino
A Perfect Croque Madame
A Perfect Croque Madame
Le Vrai Paris

Macarons

Macarons are one of the most decadent and delicious desserts in Paris. Nicole and I sampled our fair share of Macarons during our trip, but we found the perfect Macarons at Christophe Roussel in Monmarte. French macarons are a meringue-based cookie that is surrounding a sweet filling. Each Macaron cost 1.60 euros. Nicole’s favorite flavor is the Passion- Fruit Tarragon. This is a special combination of bold and sweet. My favorite is Lemon because of the combination of sweet and tart. I don’t think they have a flavor that we didn’t like and we tried most of them. Christophe Roussel is where we stopped to buy macarons to take home to our family before we left Paris. Service at Roussel was on point. The ladies that work at Roussel were sweet about our choppy French, they spoke English and they packed up our macarons to survive the long flight home.

Christophe Roussel
Christophe Roussel
Nicole try to decide on which macarons to try.
Nicole trying to decide on which macarons to try.
The Best French Macarons in all of Paris.
The Best French Macarons in all of Paris.

French Onion Soup

I was sure that I couldn’t visit France without trying French Onion Soup, but there was one big problem with that plan. We visited Paris in August, not the best month for soup. On the last day of our trip, the weather cooperated with our quest and we set out to find some soup. Nicole and I chose Le Consulat in Montmartre. Le Consult is historic – and there is something so magical about dining in this tiny restaurant where some of the world’s greatest artists found themselves often. Some of the greats hung out at Le Consult like Van Gough, Monet, and Picasso. Nicole and I both ordered the french onion soup and when it arrived it was piping hot and the cheese was melted perfectly. The broth was rich and delicious and didn’t taste like the french onion soup I have eaten in the United States. We sat in front of the restaurant and had a perfect view of everything that was happening in Montmarte.

The historic Le Consulat in Montmartre, Paris.
The historic Le Consulat in Montmartre, Paris.
French Onion Soup With a View
French Onion Soup With a View

Escargot, Rosé, Risotto & Créme Brulée

I have tried Escargot before, but this was Nicole’s first time. Escargot is really just an excuse to eat butter and garlic on bread. We chose to eat at Les Antiquaires for an early dinner. We ordered Escargot and the shells were served on a slice of bread. The waiter brought us a basket of bread that we used to dip and scoop the Escargot. Each bite was a perfect combination of butter and garlic. I wouldn’t want to eat Escargot every day, but it really was delicious. At Les Antiquaires we were able to eat outside at a bistro table. Nicole and I had found out that we like the dark red wines of France, but we looked around and all the other tables were drinking Rosé so we ordered a bottle of Rosé. It was lighter and fruiter and I see why Rosé is considered the summer wine in France. For my main course, I ordered mushroom risotto and it was amazing! The risotto was creamy with large mushrooms and freshly shaved parmesan. We shared a Créme Brulée for dessert. The top was a layer of hardened caramelized sugar. Underneath was a rich custard base. We loved this dessert and highly recommend Les Antiquaires.

Escargot
Mushroom Risotto
Crème Brûlée

Chocolat Chaud

Chocolat Chaud is Parisian hot chocolate and Angelina is the place to try it. Angelina is a beautiful Parisian tea parlor and it is extremely popular, however, they do take reservations. We arrived early and were able to get a table for two without waiting too long. Nicole and I both ordered Le Petite Déjeuner. Our breakfast came with Chocolat Chaud, a mini croissant, a roll with jams and fresh juice. The Chocolat Chaud was thick and rich. It was not overly sweet and it came with freshly whipped cream. This hot chocolate is the best, hands down. What can be said about this rich, thick, intensely chocolate sip of heaven that has not already been said? Words do not do it justice and the hype is justified this is one stop you won’t want to miss on your next trip to Paris!

Angelina, Paris
Angelina, Paris
Chocolat Chaud
Le Petit Déjeuner
Le Petit Déjeuner

Charcuterie

Our first night in Paris we stopped at Au Rendez-Vous des Amis. We sat outside and ordered beers, a Charcuterie board, and French Fries. Nicole ordered a Picon Biére and she loved the way it tastes. A few days later we later found out that Picon Biére is the French version of a German Shandy. Picon is a French bitter orange liquor and it is added to the beer. The Charcuterie board arrived at our table with a variety of shaved and cured meats and pickles and it was served with a basket of fresh bread and butter. Our fries were thick and similar to steak fries in the United States. Au Rendez-vous des Amis translates as a place for friends to gather and it is located down the hill from Sacre Coeur. Furthermore, it is a little less touristy than eating in the square by the Sacre Coeur. Our dinner was simple and not fussy and it was perfect after a long day of traveling.

A Charcuterie Board

Crepes

Nicole and I wanted to try both sweet and savory crepes while we were in Paris. French crepes are made without leveling powder, this makes them light and delicate. In Montmartre, we went on a food tour and one of our stops was a crepe stand. I tried butter and lemon and the crepe was served folded and wrapped in a waxed paper square. In between the folds were butter, sugar, and fresh lemon juice. Nicole had butter and fresh raspberry jam crepe and she loved hers too. After tasting a regular crepe our food tour guide suggested that before we leave Paris that we should try a buckwheat crepe as well.

Savory Crepes

One night while walking around in the 4th arrondissement we stopped at La Ciderie du Marais for crepes and Cidre. I ordered La Bergere. It is a buckwheat crepe with warmed goat cheese, nuts, honey, greens, and balsamic vinegar. Le Bergere was served on a plate with everything piled on top and unlike, the street crepe I needed to use a fork and knife to eat it. This crepe was large enough that it was a whole meal. The buckwheat flavor stood up to the strong flavors of the goat cheese and balsamic vinegar. It was tasty and in addition to the crepe, the Cidre we had was great, unlike the ciders I have tried in the United States this Cidre wasn’t sweet it tasted crisp and clean and paired perfectly with the crepe.

Making Crepes in Paris, France.
French Cidre
Buckwheat Crepe

Final Thoughts

When I think of France, I think of fussy and complicated food, however, after my visit, I now know I was wrong. I’m sure there is plenty of fussy food in France, but everything we ate was uncomplicated and fresh with the emphasis on fresh. The fruits and vegetables were in seasons and amazing. Paris and the food we ate there lived up to all the hype and I can’t wait for my next visit to the city of lights.

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