July 17, 2015, Oak Grove, CA– “Don’t go telling people this is Aguanga. We’re Oak Grove! The sign even says so.” Thus did a campground host admonish me, when I was describing my location to someone on the phone. This little village is darned proud of its identity, and never mind that the mail is addressed to Aguanga, six miles to the northeast. I stopped here for the night, at what has become my go-to campground, when en route to visiting my son, who is in the Navy, in the San Diego area.
My journey started in a more timely manner than previous SoCal trips, with my getting out the door by 9 A.M. I was in Blythe by noon, affording me a nice lunch at Rebel BBQ, my favourite venue in Riverside County’s eastern gateway. It offers south Texas-style barbecue fare, including brisket prepared with a Mexican-German sauce blend. They offer something called vinegar slaw, which sounds like sauerkraut, but I opted for creamy slaw, with my meal.
It was 102 F, in Blythe, so I headed quickly uphill, getting to Hemet, a higher desert town, by 3. I spent a bit more time here than I have in the past, and for the first time, I checked out Hemet’s downtown, starting with its library, where I spent an hour or so.
The town also has a lovely Children’s Museum, on the southern edge of downtown. Not having a little one along, I didn’t go inside, but a local mother takes her children there, several times a year. This speaks well of Hemet’s regard for its rising generation.
The view towards Mount San Jacinto, 40 miles to the east, is spectacular.
I headed out of town, along Juan Bautista de Anza Historical Trail, which is paved as far as the Conservation Camp, named in de Anza’s honour. The route passes several orange groves, which remain a staple of Hemet’s economy, while having faded in other parts of southern California.
Bautista Conservation Camp, run by the State of California, is used as a staging area for fire suppression efforts. Painfully, not so far away, on the north side of San Bernardino County, a serious fire is wreaking havoc, destroying a small hamlet and threatening other areas. I hope the hurricane remnants, that are forecast for tomorrow, bring soaking rain to the region.
Between Bautista Camp and the Cahuila Indian Reservation, one goes along a narrow, unpaved road, and is treated to exquisite views like this:
I can only imagine these will be even more gorgeous, once the rain comes. Now, to sleep under the stars, before that happens.