Lake Wohlford, CA

Stop 64: SoCal Holidays

Flowers found in SoCal

Our last stop in 2018 — and the break between our first leg of our cross-country road trip and the second leg — was all about spending time with family over the holidays, from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

Our goal was to spend quality time with Jen’s mom, taking in her stories of her life — including her time growing up in Sweden, especially her early years on Gotland. We spent half our time during this stop staying in her home (visiting, helping with repairs, driving places together) and the other half in our wonderful little travel trailer in a rural and very pleasant RV park in Valley Center (Woods Valley Kampground).

SoCal's Carlsbad beaches

Of course, while visiting North County San Diego, we had to take advantage of several beach walks — and we love the beaches of Carlsbad, which offer opportunities for hiking, biking, surfing, and people-watching! Ran has biked this stretch of the Coast Highway (101) several times, including from Oceanside, but on this visit, we mainly hiked the beaches just south of Carlsbad Village, near Tamarack Avenue. Many house/condo rentals are available in this area and several state campgrounds are located right along the coast. We loved how the folks decorated along the beach for Christmas!

But there’s more than just the beaches in North County! During our visit to the area, we hiked around two lakes… or, rather, reservoirs. We started at Dixon Lake, managed by the city of Escondido. The lake is fairly pretty and offers a picnic area, concessions, and boat rentals. In the upper areas of the park, we discovered some wonderful camping sites — including a small number of full hookups for RVers… but we unfortunately found about them too late for this trip. The lake is located off East El Norte Parkway, north of the city.

Our other hike was along Lake Wohlford, also in Escondido, and located just off Valley Center Road to the northeast of the city. Hiking along the south side of the lake offers multiple opportunities, including a shoreline trail (probably mostly used by people fishing) and the Egret Trail (which goes into the oak trees and offers scenic views of the lake). We were lucky to see a variety of waterfowl, including black-winged pelicans (seen floating in the lake in the collage).

Hill Top Ranch Winery

Finally, what would one of our stops be without a couple of things. First, through our favorite site,, we found a local egg farmer — Anna’s Family Farm — from whom we purchased 4 dozen farm-fresh eggs. Yummy and such dark yolks! It is wonderful knowing the where your food comes from and supporting these folks.

Second, we ordered a wonderful selection of pasture-raised and grass-fed and finished filet mignon from a California ranch that does it right. We strongly encourage you to check out Richards Grassfed Beef, which ships all throughout the state.

Third, just a few miles from our campground in Valley Center, we found a winery and decided to go for a tasting. Hill Top Ranch Winery has three things going for it: first, the tasting room is beautiful; second, the views from the tasting room are wonderful; third, there is not much local competition as the Temecula wine country is about 30 miles north. We did a flight of reds for $20, which we found a bit pricey since they do not even offer a free tasting with purchase as many other wineries do. Their Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are nothing special (in fact the Merlot is very tart), but we did enjoy the Sangiovese and especially liked the Syrah (so much so we bought a bottle of their 2016). The family-owned winery has more than 30 acres planted with 15 different varietals, and is the perfect place for weddings and corporate events; they even have a gourmet kitchen, which we did not sample.

One final note on this visit to North County. No visit would be complete without a little massage therapy with the extremely talented Brooke Pollind at Carlsbad Heritage Wellness Center. She is a truly gifted practitioner.

Next up we conclude 2018 with a summary post of our first year on the road, including fun statistics about our adventures. As we near 2019, we are back on the road in New Mexico.

Leave a Reply