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Archive for the ‘California State Parks’ Category

California State Park Worth Saving: Palomar Mountain State Park

October 28th, 2011 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in California State Parks


A Peek at Palomar Mountain State Park, San Diego California

At the end of our summer adventures, our family discovered one of the jewels of San Diego County.  Palomar Mountain State Park is a an world away from the hustle and bustle of  San Diego.  It sits at one of the highest points in San Diego County and one of the real treats of our trip was visiting the former fire lookout and surveying San Diego below us.  The kids also learned a lot about lives of children who lived at the fire lookout station.  Sounds like it was lots of fun.


View from Palomar Mountain State Park

The Palomar Mountain Rangers at this park were fantastic.  They lead us on a very informative hike where the kids got to sample a number of different berries.  Palomar Mountain has amazing terrain,  it has the feel of Tahoe, and yet it is minutes away from the desert.  We camped among the oak trees, yet found ourselves hiking among beautiful towering trees and past running streams surrounded by greenery.  There is  also a lake that we will have to explore when we return (If we can, the park is scheduled to close starting next July as part of California budget cuts).


Destiny and her new friend the Palomar Mountain Ranger

Palomar Mountain State Park is a great example of why the state parks on the closure list are worth fighting for.  It has a very dedicated group of rangers and retiree volunteer camp hosts who work hard to welcome and support state park visitors.  The Ranger reported to me that the campgrounds are booked most summer weekends, and quite full during the summer weekdays as well.  They get many campers on autumn weekends as well.  This is all revenue that will be lost by the park closure.  In addition wild fire is a big concern in San Diego county, and a park that lacks visitors and vigilant caretakers will be make it vulnerable to vandalism, squatters, and other illegal activity that could lead to a forest fire.


Jared Takes a Break from the Junior Ranger Hike, Palomar Mt State Park

If you would like to help fight the closure of Palomar Mountain and other precious California State Parks the California State Parks Foundation is a very good resource.

Realizing that even if the park is saved, it will continue to operate with limited resources concerned citizens have also founded Friends of Palomar State Park.

Spread the word about the state park closures and the impact that they will have on your community.  Also, be sure to visit before July.  This often overlooked San Diego state park is worth exploring.

Happy Trails,


PS. Family Adventure  Guidebooks participates in Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday


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Move It Monday: The Newest Family Adventure Mobile plus a California State Park Bargain

March 21st, 2011 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in California State Parks, Camping with Kids, RV Adventures
The Newest Family Adventure Mobile a Pop Up RV

The Newest Family Adventure Mobile- A New to Us Pop Up Trailer

This was a big weekend for the Smith Family.  Daddy brought home a new to us Pop Up Trailer, and I have a feeling the travels of the Smith Family may never be the same.  I’m hoping that this new way to travel will provide us with more opportunities to “Move It” on vacation (note the bike racks).  I’m excited to have a TV free zone with real beds and a kitchen to cook fast food alternatives.  We aren’t planning a big cross country trip or to check out and become permanent travelers like some of my blogging friends, but we are looking forward to local adventures to state parks and county campgrounds.  Perhaps we’ll even explore some cushy RV resorts with heated pools.  In any case, it will certainly make travel interesting and give us an opportunity to explore California’s natural beauty.  I’m dreaming of a family trip to Yosemite.  We went there when Justin was in kindergarten, and I have fond memories of family bike rides and hikes in this breathtaking national park.

On that note, call it “State Park Monday”.  I wanted to share with you the California State Parks Foundation  is offering a great introductory rate of $25 for their Park Sampler for new members.  Benefits include a subscription to Sunset Magazine, 7 day use  passes, and $5 off camping in state park camp grounds.  Such a steal and a great way to support California’s state parks.  I’m eagerly awaiting my membership card.

Here’s Jared dreaming of some camping adventures:

Jared Trying Out His New Bed

Happy Trails,


P.S. See Mother of All Trips for some more Monday Dreams


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State Park Thursday: Celebrating California’s Underwater Parks at the Sea Life Aquarium and Beyond

January 13th, 2011 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in California State Parks, Sea Life Aquarium, Uncategorized

A little known fact about California’s State Parks is that our state has several state parks that are underwater!  These have been set up to preserve the ecological and cultural heritage of California’s marine areas.  Once California’s Coastline was teaming with sea life and our economy benefited from it.  Whether sardines in Monterey or California lobsters in San Diego, the fisherman reaped the bounty of California’s waters.  A few months ago I had the opportunity to view a You Tube lecture by UC  San Diego Researcher Dr. Milton Saier on “Our Oceans: a History of San Diego Sea Life”.  The entire lecture is twenty minutes, but even in the first few minutes Saier gives a powerful description of the tremendous impact that over fishing has had on the San Diego Bay.

These protected park areas also include historical artifacts like shipwrecks and Native American midden sites.  Divers  are encourage to respectfully  explore these underwater historical wonders.  Look, but don’t touch!

California’s Underwater Parks are protected areas for fragile marine ecosystems.  Visitors can still swim, surf, and dive in these areas, but fishing may be restricted.  If you visit and plan to fish be sure to research  the rules of that particular area.  Families should take care to respect these protected marine  areas by  observing the animals without removing them from tidepools , staying off the dunes, respecting historical sites, and packing their trash.

Building a Lego Sand Castle, Sea Life Aquarium Carlsbad, Ca

This Saturday the Legoland California Sea Life Aquarium is celebrating “Underwater Parks Day” to educate families about California’s underwater parks.  Kids will have a chance to create their very own marine habitat to take home.  Families can attend a mini Conservation Expo and interact with local marine protection organizations including  I Love a Clean San Diego, San Diego Coast Keeper, and the San Diego Oceans Foundation.  Be sure to catch the 11 am dive show and learn about San Diego’s Underwater Parks from a Sealife diver!

Artist Teresea Espaniola who created the amazing mural that you see above in collaboration with the students of Jefferson Elementary School will have her “garbage art” on display.  Ms. Espaniola does amazing collage/paintings to raise awareness about the impact of marine trash.  If you can’t make it to the aquarium be sure to visit her gartbage site and take a look.

Last  night I was reading Sweet Thursday the sequel to Cannery Row by John Steinbeck.  What I love about Steinbeck is that his deep understanding of America and Americans made him a something of a prophet.  So many things that he predicted for our country ring true today.  I leave you with this quote the stresses the need for protected areas off of our California shores and gives us something to think about in terms of other ways that we impact our environment.

The canneries themselves fought the war by getting the limit taken off fish and catching them all.  It was done for patriotic reasons, but that didn’t bring the fish back.  As with the oysters in Alice, “They’d eaten every one”.  It was the same noble impulse that stripped the forests of the West and right now is pumping water out of California’s earth faster than it can rain back in.  When the desert comes, people will be sad; just as Cannery Row was sad when all the pilchards were caught and canned and eaten.  The pearl-gray canneries of corrugated iron were silent and a pacing watchman was their only life.  The street that once roared with trucks was quiet and empty.

We have a lot to learn from the ecological mistakes of the past.  Let’s teach our children to respect California’s Underwater Parks so these marine treasures can be shared with generations to come!

Happy Trails,


Family Adventure Guidebooks participates in Trekaroo’s Spotlight Thursdays.  This week Trekaroo is featuring activities that honor Dr. Martin Luther King throughout the US.  I am hoping to honor Dr. King’s Legacy this month with some posts on how to use travel to teach kids about the roots of racism as well as attending an event at the library.   How will your family honor Dr. King this month?


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State Park Blog Rally Wrapup: How We Move Forward

November 9th, 2010 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in California State Parks, Uncategorized

Cleaning Up Carlsbad State Beach

Needless to say I’m a wee bit disappointed at voters in the State of California.  We have passed up a golden opportunity to improve access to our state parks, attract more tourists, and preserve these natural treasures for future generations.  That said, I was amazed by the overwhelming support for California’s state parks throughout the blogsphere.  Thanks to Delicious Baby, Trekaroo, and Traveling Mom for hosting blog roundups and twitter parties to rally for this important cause.  Thanks to all the other bloggers who shared their love of state parks through blog posts.  I treasured every one.

This week I found myself asking, “How can we continue to support our state parks in the midst of these trying budget times?”

Here are some thoughts:

Visit California’s State Parks!

California’s politicians aren’t going to consider this a budget priority unless they see that the majority of Californians visit state parks on a regular basis.  So, go to the beach, take the kids camping or hike through the redwoods.  Make California’s state parks a family destination.

Do Service Projects

One of my family’s favorite things to do is go clean up our local state beach.  My son’s cub scout troop does this twice a year.  In my study of the state parks issue, one thing that stands out  is the dedicated service that thousands of Californians perform for their state parks.  The volunteer docents in costume at Wilder Ranch State Park made for one of our most memorable state park visits ever!

Donate a Symbolic $18 to the California State Parks Foundation.

Visit the California State Parks Foundation  website to make a donation or buy a membership.  Some levels have pretty great perks.

Stay Informed and Inspired

In addition to the California State Parks Foundation, I have found Folks 4 State Parks to be a great place to be reminded of why we advocate for our California State Parks.  Stop by to see some breathtaking videos of Christopher’s state park journeys.

Buy a State Parks Pass

A current California annual day use pass is a heck of a lot more than $18, but it’s still cheaper than a family trip to Disneyland.  Rumors are swirling about dramatic increases in day use fees in order to fund the parks,  so buy your California State Parks Day Use Pass now.  Prices range from $90-$125 depending on the parks that accept the pass.

Once again thanks for all the blog love for California State Parks.  The rally is over, but the crusade must continue ;) .

Happy Trails,



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To do list for today: Vote Yes on Prop 21!

November 1st, 2010 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in California State Parks, State Park Sundays

Well, I’ve been blogging in support of California State Park Intiative for almost 10 days straight (though I did take the weekend off), and I’m plum tuckered out.  I’m headed to the polls in the morning with my kids to drop off my absentee ballot.  I’ve done everything I can possibly do.  Now it’s your turn.  Get the word out to your friends by e-mail, twitter, facebook, and phone.  Be sure you cast your vote as well. 

Take a minute to watch this beautiful, award winning video “21 Reasons I’m Voting Yes on Prop 21″.   California Native Christopher Grant Ward took two roadtrips visiting and filming over 100 California State Parks.  His video is an eloquent reminder of why our parks need to be preserved. 

Visit and read their Proposition 21 FAQ.  It will address any concerns you may have about voting for Prop 21.

The  Travel Bloggers for State Parks Blog Rally may be coming to a close, but hopefully tommorrow a new day will dawn for California State Parks.  Looking foward to some state park road trips with the kids this summer.

Happy Trails.  Don’t forget to vote!



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Traveling Mom State Parks Twitter Party Tonight! 6pm PST #TMOM, #SOS Parks

November 1st, 2010 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in California State Parks

I am so grateful to receive such generous response to my call for a State Park Blog Rally last week.    Bloggers around the country featured state parks posts.  You can find many of these fantastic posts at the blog roundups at  Trekaroo and Delicious Baby .

With election day fast approaching,  we need to have one more big push to get out the vote on behalf of California State Parks.  That’s why I am so excited that Traveling Mom has generously offered to dedicated their weekly Monday Night twitter party to the subject of state and national parks.  If you haven’t checked out you really should.  They have lots of great content. Favorite posts that I read this morning were  The Guilt Trip the joys of traveling with sick kids and posts by  Middle East Traveling Mom who is relocating to Dubai to teach English with three kids in tow! 

Click on the highlighted links for details for tonight’s  Traveling Moms State Parks Twitter Party  as well as twitter party etiquette  for twitter party neophytes like me.

Talk to you tonight!

Happy Trails,


P.S.  During the twitter party Traveling Mom will be giving away PDF versions of my Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook  as well as some of My Busy Kit’s great apps.

PPS.  Love this FAQ about Prop 21 by our friends at Folks4State Parks.


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Photo Friday: Suffragette Parade at Wilder Ranch State Park, California

October 28th, 2010 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in California State Parks, Photo Friday, Santa Cruz County Adventures

Suffragettes at Fourth of July Parade, Wilder Ranch State Historic Park

One of the things I love about state and national historic parks is that they serve as a tangible reminder of our nations colorful and sometimes bitter history.  I also appreciate the many dedicated rangers and docents who make history come alive for their visitors.  In 2009, I was lucky to attend a Fourth of July Celebration at Wilder Ranch State Historic Park  in Santa Cruz, California.  A group of dedicated volunteers ranging  from high school students to retired teachers made history come alive for their visitors at this annual event.

One of the highlights that will always stay with me was a Fourth of July Parade led by a group of suffragettes whose ages ranged from 6-69.  Their presence was a poignant reminder of the reality that when my grandmothers were youngsters in 1909, women could not vote.  The struggles of these brave suffragettes, their hunger for the vote, makes our freedom to choose our elected officials at the ballot box possible.  Because of their sacrifice, voting is a responsibility that I take very seriously.   I expect those running for public office to do the same.

This election day all California voters have the ability to go to the polls and to vote for Proposition 21 which will  keep state parks like Wilder Ranch open.  The passage of this proposition would secure the future of the  California’s state parks and give all Californians with registered vehicles the opportunity to explore California’s great historic parks.

Thanks Ladies!

This weekend take a minute to honor these dedicated State Park volunteers by sharing the news about Prop 21 with your friends and family.  Blog about it, retweet it, post info on Facebook.  Together we can make a difference.

Happy Trails,


P.S.  Coleen Lanin of Travel Mamas has a nice post up about two state parks that I really must visit, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Torrey Pines State Park.  Pay her a visit to find out about her adventures in two very different parts of California.

P.P.S.  Thanks to Debbie at Delicious Baby.  She doesn’t even live in California, but she has dedicated her Photo Friday blog round up to state parks posts this week.  I love the pictures that are up so far. They reflect the diversity of California’s State Park system. Debbie’s Photo Fridays are a great way to share your favorite travel pictures with the world.  If you blog, stop by and add a post and photo about your favorite state park today.


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Camping Solo With Kids: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, California

October 28th, 2010 by bsmith | 5 Comments | Filed in California State Parks, Family Adventure Guidebooks, Outdoor Adventures, Santa Cruz County Adventures, Smith Family Adventures, Spotlight Thursday

Hot Dog Roasters, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

 I did not grow up in a family of campers, but I have always loved the outdoors.  Lucky for me my parents found a way that I could enjoy camping while they stayed in the comfort of their own beds.  I spent my summers on YMCA campouts led by caring enthusiastic volunteers who loved to camp.  These adventures were  my first introduction to camping in California’s diverse state parks.  I had the chance to visit Bodie State Historic Park and Emerald Bay State Park in Lake Tahoe.  I rode horses, went river rafting, and even houseboated down the Sacramento Delta.  On each of these adventures I learned a few new colorful swear words from my peers (sorry that I briefly brought them home,  Mom and Dad).  Much more importantly my experiences with the YMCA inspired my love of travel, my appreciation of the natural world,  and my devotion to environmental advocacy.  Trying adventure sports like waterskiing and river rafting increased my confidence as I mastered new tasks that were hard.  These adventures also deepened my spirtuality.  The  first time I concretely felt the presence of God was sitting on a boulder watching the sunrise during a YMCA camp out.

As a mom I want to give my kids the gift of  similiar experiences.  I know that time spent in the outdoors will help them to learn and grow in ways that I will never truly understand.  I want them to learn how to be self sufficient, to set up their own tents and cook their own food.  Even though it is uncomfortable and exhausting for us to sleep together tucked in a single tent, I want them to have that experience as well.  Frankly, I want them to be able to sleep anywhere under any conditions so that some day they can travel the world learning about other cultures points of view without always staying in the most comfortable American based hotels.

In theory, this is what I want for my family.  In practice camping can be very tough, especially with a little one who thrives on routine and enjoys  the unique smell of his own mattress as he lulls himself to sleep.  That’s how I found myself in a tent in  the middle of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Parkwith two wailing children wondering if my commitment to giving my kids camping experiences was worth it.  At the time I had my doubts, but with the benefit of hindsight it was worth every moment of adversity.  Here are a few of the high points of camping alone with kids:

Hiker Boys, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Justin, my  oldest showed off the amazing skills he has gained through his involvement with Boy Scouts.  He lit all the campfires and set up our tent.  He loaded up a heavy backpack and headed out on a hike.  He was a shoulder to cry on when things got tough.

Destiny and Friend ,Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

We spent our first night camping with my amazing friend Joellen and her two kids.  It was the first camping experience for the three of them.  My kids had so much fun sharing their wealth of camping knowledge.

Destiny and Friend, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

The boys roasted hot dogs and the girls cuddled with their stuffed animals in the tent.

I had the chance to see that  Gabriel, Justin’s best friend from kindergarten had grown into a young man. The two boys headed off for a hike in the redwoods with Gabriel’s dad. Gabriel’s mom helped keep Destiny entertained as I talked Jared down from a post nap tantrum.

A Tired Jared at the End of His Hike, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Joellen and I took a long “big kid hike” with one four year old, two five year olds, one six year old, and one eleven year old.  We survived thanks to walking sticks, snacks, and a sense of humor.

Will I go again?  You bet!  Joellen and I are already planning a campout for summer 2011 and we are inviting more friends to join us.  But here’s a thing, with the budget chaos here in California local state parks like Henry Cowell may not be open for camping adventures in 2011.  If you live in California you can make a difference by voting yes on Proposition 21.  Not only will you keep state park campgrounds open for camping adventures, you will also get unlimited day use parking at most Calfornia State Parks.  Now that’s a travel bargain!

Family Adventure Guidebooks is so excited to be participating in the Trekaroo Spotlight Thursday Blog Roundup, Save Our State Parks edition.  Please support my fellow travel bloggers by paying them a visit or even adding an account of your own state park adventures.  Most importantly tell your friends about proposition 21 so all of our kids can enjoy camping in California State Parks.

Happy Trails,


P.S.  My friend at Go Explore Nature has a great post up about birdwatching at Malibu Lagoon State Park.  I also loved Pit Stops for Kids post on Jedidah Redwoods State Park.  Can’t wait to explore both these great state parks with my family!


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Wordless Wednesday: Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz California

October 26th, 2010 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in California State Parks, Santa Cruz County Adventures, Uncategorized, Wordless Wednesday

The Natural Bridge at Natural Bridges State Beach (Others were washed away by erosion)

A day with friends at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz, California:

Chilly Summer Picnic, Natural Bridges State Beach

Justin's Kelp Flag, Natural Bridges State Beach

Watching the Waves, Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz

 Happy Trails!


P.S. Check out Travel Savvy Mom’s post on saving California’s State Parks


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Family Adventure Guidebooks on You Tube: Save our State Parks, Yes on Prop 21

October 25th, 2010 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in California State Parks, San Diego Beaches, San Diego Family Travel, San Diego State Parks

Last year I tried my hand at amateur film making in support of our state parks.  Check out my cute family at South Carlsbad State Beach!

Check out some great posts about the California State Parks by one of my favorite bloggers Sharlene  of Double the Adventure.

Happy Trails,


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