Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Turlock Lake State Recreation Area

   Sixty six roomy sites are shaded by large oak trees. They’re nicely spaced but have limited privacy. Amenities include tables, firepits, food cupboards, potable water, restrooms, showers, boat ramps, and a swimming beach. There isn’t a dump station.

   None of the sites are designated as accessible but many are usable. The paved parking pads are short (27’ trailer limit) but wide enough to deploy a lift. The tables are concrete with extended tops. The food cupboards are low enough to reach from a seated position. The tables and cupboards are located in the grass which has little burs that stick in tires, hands, and shoes. Park  37.63049, -120.58138
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Monday, April 29, 2019

Boondocking on Hwy 49

   Hwy 49, also known as the Golden Chain Highway, travels more than 300 miles along the western foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. It passes through historic gold mining towns and serves as a gateway to Yosemite National Park. It’s a very scenic road with drop offs and blind curves. It can be very busy on weekends and during the summer.
   We drove a small portion from Oakhurst to Coulterville. Most of the land along the southern section is private property with no boondocking options but for seven miles going north from Bagby the highway runs through BLM land. We found this beautiful spot with great views just 500’ off of the highway. The dirt road has one spot that gets muddy but it should be navigable by any vehicle.Traffic is light along this section of Hwy 49 and it’s hardly noticeable from the boondocking spot. A network of old roads can be used as hiking trails. The area is recovering from recent forest fires so the view is wide open. Highway   37.65297, -120.15183

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Mariposa Museum & History Center

   This small museum is stuffed with artifacts and information about the California gold rush and all of the people who participated or were affected – Native Americans, Chinese miners, shop keepers, Americans hoping for a rich strike, and adventurers from around the world. One of the largest exhibits is Gagliardo General Store which includes the counters, displays cases, and all of the merchandise that didn’t sell over the years but was squirreled away in storage rooms. The store operated from 1854 to 1958 so there’s a lot of stuff. Another display features John Fremont, explorer and trailblazer, who bought seventy square miles of land a year before gold was discovered. Fremont's $3,000 investment was suddenly worth millions.
   Old mining equipment is arranged on the grounds surrounding the museum. There are four buildings on the south end of the museum property – an 1870s house, a newspaper building, a blacksmith shop and a broom shop. We didn't know about the buildings so we missed seeing them but I think they’re only opened for school tours and special events.

The entrance has a short ramp and a door that opens out so entering is a bit difficult. The museum interior is accessible. A sidewalk allows viewing of most of the mining equipment.

   RVs can be parked across from the museum or in the long spaces in the rest area adjacent to the museum. Museum  37.48894, -119.97098
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Friday, April 26, 2019

Fresno Flats Historical Park

  Fresno Flats is a small village created by relocating historic buildings. The two houses demonstrate very different building styles used by settlers. The Laramore-Lyman House was built with vertical planks and no studs, a common practice in 17th century New England. The William Taylor House is a log dogtrot, a style from the southeast with a breezeway used for cooling. The other buildings include a blacksmiths shop, portable jail, giftshop, and a school that houses a museum.
   Guided tours are conducted Tuesday through Sunday if volunteers are available. Self guided tours can be taken dawn to dusk every day. Recordings activated by push buttons are located at some of the buildings.

   A paved walkway accesses the grounds. The museum and the William Taylor House have ramps; the Laramore-Lyman House and the giftshop do not. The other buildings look like they’re accessible but they were closed during our visit so I’m not sure. Some of the push buttons are too high to reach from a seated position.

   Small RVs will fit in the lot. Larger RVs can be parked around the corner on Indian Springs Road.  Fresno Flats  37.32998, -119.63977
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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino

  Follow the signs for the RV parking area which large and level. There a gravel and grass section that can be accessed by hopping a short curb plus plenty of parking on the asphalt. We parked on the outer edge for a view of the valley and to put some distance between us and the noisy generators.  No need to check and no time limit posted.
   The casino entrance is pretty far away from the RV parking area. We did not see any shuttle buses. To get to the entrance walk/roll to the hotel building then follow the sidewalk to the left and up the ramp.

   Many of the chairs are fixed in place so only the end machines can be easily reached. Even on those it may be hard to reach the money and card slots.  Casino  37.21339, -119.7022
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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Arte Américas

   Arte Américas was founded to promote Latino arts of Mexico, Latin America, the Southwest, and California. The galleries feature changing exhibits. The exhibit when we visited explored the journey of the Central Valley’s Latino community which began with the arrival of the Spanish in 1772, continued through the Mexican Revolution, the Mexican- American War, California statehood and concluded with current issues. Both Latinos living in the valley for generations and newer residents who arrived in waves of immigration were affected by these changes.Their stories were told through family photos and personal histories.

  The museum is accessible. The elevator to the second floor exhibits is down a hallway and not obvious. There’s also an exhibit gallery in the same area which would be easy to miss.

   Small RVs will fit in the parking lot. There’s plenty of on-street parking for large RVs. Museum  36.74116, -119.79531
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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Fresno Chaffee Zoo

   The zoo was founded in 1929 and has been upgraded and enlarged over the years. Most of the enclosures are very good. Some such as the African Adventure area and the Tropical Rainforest are excellent but there are still some old cramped enclosures. Mature trees provide shade in most areas.

   The zoo is fairly accessible but it’s large and rambling with up and downhill slopes so wheelchair users may need assistance. The pavement in the older sections is lumpy and uneven. It’s difficult to see into some of the enclosures due to fencing. The doors to the aviaries are heavy.

    The zoo parking lots are pretty big but they fill on busy days. There’s also parking along the park roads but there are few sidewalks so walking/rolling along the roads or across the grass is necessary. Judging from the condition of the grass this is a common occurrence. Zoo  36.75315, -119.82392

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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Pixley National Wildlife Refuge

  This is what we found at the end of the road to the refuge. The bridge was removed in Feb. 2017 to prevent flood damage from rain-melted snow. According to the website the refuge is officially closed but there aren’t any signs saying that. People still visit the refuge and a temporary road has been constructed for local people to use. We parked off on the side and went to check it out.

   Most of the refuge is closed to visitors so the only access is a short trail to an accessible, elevated observation deck – 1.5 miles out and back. The refuge is managed to provide a seasonal wetlands for migrating birds especially sandhill cranes. The portion that we could see had already been drained and the birds we saw were small songbirds and hawks.
   It’s a bit tricky getting to the trail. The temporary road is rough for rolling and the beginning of the trail is very overgrown but just a short distance west on Deer Creek Ave there’s another road over the channel. Duck under the chain across the road and from there the trail is in better condition. The trail is surfaced with large, rough gravel. Wheelchair users may need assistance. Refuge  35.90646, -119.37591

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Friday, April 19, 2019

Carrizo Plain National Monument

  The enclosed basin of Carrizo Plain is about 50 miles long and 15 miles wide. Drainage from the mountains flows into Soda Lake which is dry most of the year. The monument is undeveloped with a few historic sites under preservation.

   Soda Lake Road, which travels north to south, is 45 miles long, paved at both ends with gravel in the middle section. Hundreds of miles of high clearance and 4X4 roads access remote areas. Fill your gas tank before venturing into the park. For visitors without a high clearance vehicle or the ability to hike on rough terrain this is a drive through park.There are very few opportunities to park along Soda Lake Road and explore because the handful of parking lots are small and the road does not have shoulders. We did not want to drive the 20 miles of unpaved road so we did the southern section and the northern section on separate days.
    Our main reason for visiting was to see the wildflowers but we were a little late and the flowers on the hills had faded. They were still pretty nice at the north end outside the monument along eastbound Route 58.
  At the southern end you can get a good view of the San Andreas Fault.

   The monument has two primitive campgrounds. We stayed at Selby Campground which has about a dozen sites with camping  allowed along the edges if the sites are filled. There are shade covers over the tables, fire rings and vault toilets. The sites are close together with no privacy but the view of the plain is nice. The road in is five miles of washboard.
   Very little is accessible. The Goodwin Education center was not open during out visit but I believe it is accessible. All of the campground tables have extended tops and the ground is hardpacked. None of the short interpretive trails are accessible. We walked/rolled on the Soda Lake Boardwalk which has a rough sandy path to access it then a step up to get onto the boardwalk.  Monument  35.26318, -119.93344

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

West Kern Oil Museum

     Dropping down into the Midway-Sunset Oil Field plain, after spending a month of enjoying the green hills and wild flower displays in southern California, was a shock to our eyes. The oil field, the largest in California, covers more than 30 square miles and has produced 3 billion barrels of oil. For years Native Americans used natural seeps of thick oil as a glue and waterproofing material but it wasn’t until 1889 that the first well was drilled in the valley.

   The museum covers many aspects of the area and the oil industry including Native American history, the excavation of prehistoric animal bones from tar pits, and company oil towns. The outside display features a replica of an 1917 oil rig that originally stood on the museum grounds plus all types of old oil equipment and assorted junk.
   The threshold at the entrance to the museum has a short step up. The interior is accessible with a long ramp to the second floor. The grounds are hard packed sandy soil and fairly accessible. Museum 35.13293, -119.44733
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