Our Winter Vacation


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Angels Camp

Angels Camp is a small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, between San Francisco and Yosemite National Park.
I must admit to knowing nothing about the place before we arrived. I chose it as an overnight because of its proximity to Yosemite and because I had never been there before.

Now, I know that Angels Camp is home to to the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee. This is the location Mark Twain claims to be the source of his short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”.
Calaveras County was one of the destinations of the California Gold Rush. The creeks around Angels Camp were very productive apparently. Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, was in the area as a writer for the local newspaper.

The area around Angels Camp is quite pretty, even in February. We took a tour and tasting at the Ironstone Vineyards in Murphy, CA, which, given that this was a vacation trip, took most of a day. We enjoyed the venue, nice gardens, big amphitheater, and a museum. The wine, not so much.

The Ironstone Heritage Museum is a must visit. They have a piece of crystalline gold on display that is amazing. The Kautz Crystalline Gold Specimen was discovered by Sonora Mining near Jamestown, CA. This is a few miles south of Murphy and Angels Camp.
The Specimen weighs in at 44 pounds. Approximately 1568 ounces of crystalline gold. The largest of its type in the world. It is impressive, and my photo does not do it justice.

I think I will put Angels Camp on my list as a place to return to. There are lots of little shops and restaurants in Angels Camp and Murphy that are worth another visit. The old town facades are well preserved and present an opportunity for me to improve my urban landscapes and architectural photography.


Oceanside is a popular spot on the beach just north of San Diego, and at the south gate of Camp Pendleton, the US Marines training camp.

Most of our time here was spent ferreting out fabric and sewing shops. June had a list :). Between Elinor Burns’ shop Quilt in a Day, in San Marcos, and a few others. For those who don’t know, Elinor Burns is a celebrity in the sewing world.

It was Valentine’s Day, and we did get down to the famous Pier. Liddy and I went down to the beach to capture a grand sunset shot. The pier was cooperative, not so much the weather.
For those who are into the techniques of photography, this is a six second exposure at f/18. The sun had just dropped below the horizon without much splash. The lights on the pier were not lit. I have brightened them up in post processing. I like the soft feeling to the surf, and the repetition of the pilings. I think the couple standing at the rail on the right are a great focal point.
There are so many opportunities in the area, and lots of great places to eat. We will be keeping Oceanside on the list of places to revisit as well.

A gray evening on the beach at Oceanside CA.


Everybody has heard of Napa. The center of the wine industry in America. Why would we not want to spend a day or two in Napa when we have the opportunity.

The area has been hit by wildfires and drought just like everywhere in California. The impact on the vineyards has been significant. While chatting with the tasting room staff at our longtime favorite, Markham Vineyards we learned that they are having to take some drastic measures as their wells are no longer providing enough water.

Another tasting room we visited in the area has a somewhat different product. The Jelly Belly headquarters, and factory is located in Fairfield, CA, a short 20 minutes east of Napa. These photos aren’t the best… hand-held, bad light, through glass (any excuse right).
June and I found the self-guided tour fascinating. We think you would too. Put it on your bucket list.

I did take a morning to slip away with Liddy to the Grizzly Island State Wildlife Area. This is a vast area north east of San Francisco Bay just south of Fairfield. It is covered with marshes and lagoons making it a magnet for waterfowl. We enjoyed driving through the preserve, and getting out for some walks among the marshes. I think I will make point of coming here at least one morning every time we visit Napa in the future.


We had a nice relaxing several weeks driving the western states. Visiting new places, revisiting old. We put almost three-thousand miles on Princess Prius. Long miles to some enjoyable locations. Traveling in our own vehicle, we saved because there was no air fare or car rental expenses. We had no pressing schedules to keep so it was a stress free trip (I5 from LA to Redding is one of the most boring highways.)

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