Pretty Damn Nice! travel blog

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We have spent more than three months this winter camping at Jalama Beach in Southern California. This was our second time here and we love it even more than we did the first time two years ago when we first started out. It is our favorite place to stay so far and our favorite beach. When we were here last time, there were a few other couples who had been camping here who were "old timers". This time, we are the old timers. The rangers remembered John from our previous visit and greeted him with "Pretty Damn Nice"!

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We settled into Site #114 up on the top level of the campground where we had a 180 degree view of the ocean and beach out our front windshield and an overview of the rest of the campground below us. John - and the cats - really love sitting and watching what the rest of the people in camp are up to, where everyone is parking, who's coming in and who's leaving. Some days, we would take our books outside to read only to end up sitting and watching the people or the ocean, not reading more than a page or two.

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The ocean and beach constantly surprised us with the daily changes that occurred. Sometimes on a clear, sunny day, the water would be a deep sapphire blue. Other days, there would be a stretch of turquoise water where the kelp bed lays just off shore, a sign of shallow water and sunlight reflecting off of a sandy bottom. Other days, the sky would be overcast and the water would have a silver sheen to it, with shades of greys and lavendars in the clouds overhead. Those colors were my favorites. Some days, the surf would be so calm there was only one wave lapping ashore while the next day, there would be a series of waves stacked out beyond the kelp. The sound of the pounding surf was constant but at times, it was almost deafening, especially at high tide at night.

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The beach would have piles of rocks one morning only to have them all washed away by the following day. We had to climb over rocks to get around the point, but during our last week, there was so much sand we could simply walk around the point without climbing over anything. People would report that they had never seen rocks before on the beach at Jalama - nothing but sand - but we saw mostly rock outcroppings with little to no sand. But the beach changed every day. It was never the same.

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And of course, there were the sunsets. We got to see some pretty spectacular ones in January, but in the last month or so, either the sunsets were just ordinary or we were getting jaded. John also took some special pictures of some sunrises, although I have to admit, I do not believe I was actually up out of bed for any of them. The cats and I enjoy laying in the sunshine that would stream in through the back window in the morning. I also enjoyed the moonlight that came in through that window and John tried to capture the beauty of the full moon shining on the waves. None of our pictures actually show the range of color or capture the beauty adequately.

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We were honored and privileged to watch several whales and many dolphins during our stay. One week, there was a pod of 12 to 15 dolphins that just hung around right off shore in front of the rig. They were swimming together closely, very slowly, as if they were teaching the youngsters how to feed and swim. On other days, we saw the dolphins playing in the surf, catching the waves like the human surfers that were out there with them. We also saw some sea lions and sea otters. Some of the surfers said it was pretty alarming to be sitting out there and have a sea lion suddenly appear right next to you. We saw two elephant seals come up onto the beach and a couple of sea lions. We were hoping that they were not sick or injured and they eventually all left.

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We were fascinated by the young surfer dudes and the different types of toys that they used to enjoy the surf. On windy days, in no time at all, the surf would be full of wind surfers or kite surfers. These guys would literally fly across the waves at full speed. Other days, there would be a group of surfers just floating on their boards, hoping for a wave that never seemed to come. I enjoyed just watching the young firm bodies running down the beach. Once in a while, John would get to see a bikini, but mostly, I got to do the looking.

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The drive to Jalama is almost as spectacular as the beach in its beauty. We got to watch as the hills went from a soft winter green to a vivid emerald green as spring approached. There were several people who gave accounts of seeing wild animals on this drive: deer, wild pigs, a cougar, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons - but we never saw anything other than black cows, except on the day we left, a deer crossed the road in front of us. The hills now are returning back to a soft green and the beautiful yellow flowers that were everywhere for a while are dying. It would be disappointing to see it all turn brown with the summer weather, but spring here at the coast is incredible.

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Besides the most spectacular beach in the country, Jalama is famous for Jalama Burgers served at the Jalama Cafe. Don and his son Mike and grandson run the popular eating spot. We fell in love with the patty melts and breakfast burritos. We saw groups of motorcyclists and bicyclists come into the park just for the purpose of having a burger - and the occasional sheriff would make the trip too.

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And of course, there were the shells. John and I would try to walk on the beach daily when the weather permitted and on the way back, I would stroll slower and look for and find shells. During the three months, I collected probably twenty pounds of shells, way over the five pound limit John usually imposes on me. It was fun sharing my passion for shells with our neighbor, Colleen, who ended up taking home probably 200 lbs. of shells. There are lots of abalone shells in the area which indicates to me that there must be abalone living somewhere out there on the rocks off shore. I always had hopes of finding a shell with a live abalone in it but no such luck. But I will treasure and enjoy my collection in the months to come.

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When we first came to the beach in December, John and I felt we were already living a pretty stress-free lifestyle and that we were totally relaxed. However, after three months of living in paradise, we both feel we have reached the ultimate level of inner peace. John brags about having a full set of fingernails for the first time in his life. The cats too have relaxed and have learned to trust and love us. It would be hard to see whether Rocky is more relaxed but Mimi definitely has come out of her shell and is more enjoyable - most of the time.

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But, even though we thoroughly enjoyed the beach, we have decided it is time to return to whatever reality is for us. We are excited to get moving again and to get to go explore new things. That's what we love about our lifestyle. And it really is Pretty Damn Nice.



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