We found a nice spot for a view above the clouds in the National Park. The road was magnificent, windy and narrow, with drops of over 100metres looking down across the hills and over the ocean. We saw the sunset over the clouds and rise over the mountains before some toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, coffee and hot chocolate campsite breakfast. We headed back down the dirt trail and further inland through the forest as we circled around the missing coastal highway which was taken out in last year’s avalanche.
We saw some deer, a coyote, lots of birds and, yes, squirrels. We passed through an unmanned army checkpoint and into dry grasslands of the army base on the detour road. We abided by the sign instructions to keep to the paved road and no photography. There was a base, boot camp obstacle course, shooting range, tank and what looked like bomb testing or field training areas, more shooting ranges, more tanks and jeeps, a memorial service area and finally after about ten miles we were on the other side of the quiet base and into foggy, cool climate wine vineyard territory around Lockwood and Lake San Antonio, CA.
We arrived at the Hearst Castle info centre around 11am and caught the shuttle bus to explore the dream views, grand rooms and gardens. Being the youngest on the tour by 30+ years in our 30s, we had a few frowns and strange looks bringing a toddler along for the ride to a place that doesn’t have change tables and sees over 750,000 visitors a year. It’s such a twisted shame the building isn’t finished even today, the grandeur that it is, even more so that the gold embellished swimming pool, tennis courts, 38 bedrooms and guest houses lay unused for decades, the long central orchard pergola is bordering on dereliction and the fountains, although they work, seem to be part of the ghostly whispers of possibilities of a time-locked money-pit of a could be residential museum or venue full of life, prosperity and wonder. Magnificent architecture.
We headed inland to the country’s largest oil producing area, the city of Bakersfield, passing millions of almond and pistachio trees, stopping for some wine tasting, hundreds of oil derricks, and an armadillo. It was here we tried our first American fried chicken at a Rusty’s Pizza place, and our first visit to Walmart. We found a super clean RV park to camp the night, and then discovered we’d left the roof crank somewhere on the mountains…so we opened it with the tyre change kit and spent Wednesday morning searching Bakersfield for a replacement part.
After finding someone who could make it in 15mins, we had lunch and set off for Joshua Tree National Park. East of Bakersfield we passed a number of solar farms, wind farms, airports and airforce bases. We stopped in Barstow for lunch and groceries, especially water after being advised not to drink the gas zone tap water.
We camped at Black Rock, and set off for a hike through hidden valley around 7:30.
We headed up Keys View to see through the haze over Palm Springs. Isabella decided to have a 10am nap, so Kieran did the Barker’s Dam loop walk alone. Joshua trees are very odd, and the desert here has much more water than the Nullarbor.