Lifetime Memories Made At Thousand Trails This Summer
We went camping at Thousand Trails in Santa Barbara this month. It was our first time there and we weren’t sure what to bring. I checked the website to learn more about the location and the amenities offered. What I didn’t expect is how amazing it was. Everything was clean, well taken care of and topnotch. All of the staff was sincerely nice and helpful. We had a blast and will definitely be going back. It is deep in Santa Barbara so we packed for the beach when we should have packed more for hot weather. We also brought too much food (never a bad problem). We stayed in a cabin (WOW, but more about that later) but there are lots of other options.
So, first thing you’ll need to do is pick a Thousand Trails location. You can pick based on location, travel time, amenities, etc. I liked Rancho Oso because it was fairly close (1 1/2 hours away) and had horseback riding. I also like that it was in the middle of the mountains. We were away from freeways, traffic and other city life yet had others on site and a general store in case we needed anything.
Some Details About Our Cabin
The cabins come in a few sizes. All have kitchens, bathrooms, tv with cable and are fully furnished.
Our cabin had a loft upstairs with two twin beds (kids slept here).
From the loft looking down was the living room (and porch at the top of the photos). The kitchen table sits four chairs and the couch has a hide-a-bed. The bedroom had a queen bed, closet with dresser drawers, end table and tv. It wasn’t huge but was big enough to have everything fit in it comfortably. The kitchen was fully stocked with pots, pans, dishes, seasoning, etc and the bathroom had linens and soap. The kitchen even had a knife block, dish soap, dish rags, a sponge to do the dishes, etc. View from patio looking back. Loft upstairs. Entertainment center and tv on right. Kitchen and than bathroom and bedroom. there is a pantry and full-size refrigerator too.
Lots of shade! I love how the trees are fully grown and are all over the place. Even on a hot day there is a nice breeze too.
So Many Ways To Get Exercise and Explore
There is a lot for families to do outdoors. Here is horse shoes, tennis courts and pickleball courts. Plenty of things for kids too. Playground fun to tire kids out and make friends. There is also Golden Horseshoe Hunts, Scavenger Hunts, family movie nights, card games, wagon rides and more. Miniature golf greens. Putters and balls can be checked out for usage. Basketball hoops on the right. There is also two pools and a jacuzzi. We wandered around and explored the campgrounds. It was a great way to meet other people and get in a nice walk.
If you have an RV you can bring it and hook it up. There are also options to leave the RV at Thousand Trails and come back to camp without having to drag the RV home and back again.
A Place To Ditch The Kids
We found the Adult Lounge too. A nice building for some adult-time without kids. Everyone must be 18-years-old, or older to hang out here. It has a living room with couches, tv, a fireplace and exercise equipment, a billiards room, a room with puzzles and board games and wifi! Yes, I said wifi. The rest of the campgrounds don’t have wifi, so if you want your kids to unplug and jump in a pool or ride a horse, just don’t tell them the password. The mountains surrounding the camp are so big that regular internet is spotty. The Adult Lodge has wine tasting on Saturdays for those over 21 too.
More Outside On The Site
For those staying long-term or in tents there are a few buildings with restrooms, soda machines and washing machine and dryers to use. Our cabin was two story and had a picnic table for outdoor dining. It also had a barbecue on the patio.
Camping, RV-ing, Glamping, Cabins And More. Stay in so many ways and yet have a store, pool, playground, etc.
Forget something like sunscreen or charcoal or want a candy bar? The Country Store has it all. The Stone Lodge is where kids can go to check out sports equipment, play ping-pong and families can purchase meals and dine in the mesh hall or outdoors. There is a large amount of horses at Rancho Oso too. Some are for families to rent for riding (they have little kid rides or hour long rides for older kids and adults). Campers can bring their horses here to be able to ride while on vacation. Some people board their horses here too. We got to see some cowboys teach kids about riding rodeo cows (they used young calves and a stuffed animal rider). The kids and adults were entertained and educated by this. Some alternative options for lodging. I seriously want to come back and stay in every single one!
First there is the corrals. These are like cabins but smaller. Not sure but I think they are empty inside. Than you have the option of covered wagons. These are so cool! There is steps to get inside and I also saw one with a wheelchair ramp. Finally, you can sleep in a teepee. They have beds inside too! The teepees and wagons are in a large circle with picnic tables and barbecues on the side of each one.
I love how gorgeous it is at Rancho Oso. The grounds are in excellent condition with no trash, debris or anything else on the ground. The view is spectacular in every direction. No wonder why this is a popular vacation spot! The kids even said they wanted to stay for ever.
We also saw other livestock wandering around. Chickens and turkeys were hanging out near the horse corrals and there are goats and a large amount of cattle. There were a few different species of butterflies and some ground squirrels. Shady path to the Adult Lounge and Member Services (you can go in there and talk to Martin to learn more about becoming a member at Thousand Trails and all the benefits and perks that comes with it. Martin Turner firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-572-6246. You can contact him to save money on a 1-year or 4-year membership and learn more about getting 2 free weeks a year! Members can visit other Thousand Trails locations too. Random selfie enjoying the grounds. The Stone Lodge has a history of its own and is a unique building to explore. On the right is the recreation room, middle is the mess hall and left is a room for teens to play ping-pong or hang out. There is also arts and crafts for younger kids and to the left of the stone lodge is a church with services on Sunday. Inside is roomy with couches and where food is served. There is a row of picnic tables inside and outside for dining. I like that I could buy breakfast, lunch or dinner Friday-Sunday. We had dinner one night (just to try it and hang out with other families. Plus I suck at cooking tri-tip). My son and I had the tri-tip and my daughter had the vegetarian lasagna. There was also a huge salad, corn, beans and garlic bread. For younger kids there was also a choice of chicken nuggets. The meals vary depending on the day but you can get a menu selection while you are staying there.Other fun family activities are the ice cream social. We got to choose from three flavors and add nuts, whip cream and cherries. Lots to shop for inside the Country Store. Groceries, gifts, ice cream and more.
Got the kids to smile in front of a giant cactus. Some bees pollinating the cactus flowers.The chapel is a general domination service held every Sunday at 10am.
Horses & Hikes
Kids and adults can take a 1-hour trail ride around the outer trails, through the streams and exploring with a guide. Riders must wear helmets and be under 200 lbs.
The horses were the kids’ favorite part. I didn’t ride but did get to pet the horses. They are very mild-mannered and are great for new or experienced riders.
Guests of Thousand Trials can get a Walk The Trails Mileage Log and keep track of miles walked while on hikes. They can turn in the cards at any Thousand Trails location for prizes. We explored a few trails including one to the Rancho Oso Waterfall, to a stream (the one they rode the horses on) and there is even a swimming hole (we didn’t find it).
It was hot outside but the trails were nicely shaded for most of the hike. We passed a few people hiking but I liked how quiet it was and how we could hear all the birds and nearby animals running around in the bushes.Throwing a rock in the stream to see how deep it is. It was too deep for us to cross on foot (didn’t want our shoes wet). I was surprised how much water there was in June.Picture on the way to Chumana Lake to go fishing. Just goes to show there are a lot of residence in the area outside of Rancho Oso but they are somewhere further back in the hills and trees.
Sign leaving… We will definitely be back. This was a wonderful place to make lasting summer memories with my kids. I love that every since person we came across (employees and other families) was delightful and friendly. I can’t wait to visit again.
Hints & Tips For A Wild Camping Experience With Family
If you really want to see the country in all its glory, nothing can give you more insight than a wild camping experience. Forget about the comforts of a campsite and the luxuries of a hotel, this experience will be raw, visceral, and can be uncompromising – but ultimately, it’s a lot of fun for all the family.
However, there are a few dangers involved with wild camping, of course. And we’re going to go through a few of the essential things you must do and check before you take your family away into the great outdoors. Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know about taking a safe and secure wild camping vacation.
Choosing the right spot
Be careful that you go through your potential destinations carefully. The last thing you want on your wild camping trip is to get into trouble with the law or a landowner who doesn’t appreciate your presence. Just because a beautiful site is in open land doesn’t mean it won’t belong to someone, unfortunately. At the same time, be wary of pitching up too close to any wildlife. Bears, coyotes, and other dangerous animals are a big issue for campers across much of the country that will have their interest piqued by the smell of your food.
Bring the right kit
There is a lot to bring with you for your wild camping experience – too much to list in this particular post. In simple terms, however, the idea is to bring as many of your home comforts you think you will need for everyone – particularly the kids – to enjoy their trip rather than endure it. Check out this list of camping essentials to get you started, and always remember that this experience should be about having fun, not an endurance event.
Upgrade your vehicle.
As partsengine explain, you need to consider a different way of driving when you try and take on the great outdoors. You will need to look at upgrading your suspension, swapping your tires for something more appropriate to rough terrain than roads, and you should never assume that just because you own an SUV or Jeep, it can take you anywhere. Most of the new SUVs you see on the streets these days wouldn’t last five minutes offroad. Don’t forget about buying or hiring a trailer, too, especially if you have a lot of camping gear.
Leave everything as you found it
Make sure you are keeping the site as clean as possible, and always clear up after eating, dispose of waste correctly, and keep food covered to avoid giving off scents to the local wildlife. It’s a good idea to pitch up near fresh water, too, so you always have access to hydration – but stay around 200 yards or so from the banks as the environment around water can be a little on the delicate side.
Communicate your location
Finally, always tell people exactly where you are going. In the event of an emergency, it could make a big difference to the health and safety of you and your family. Have a great trip!
5 Unique Attributes to Living in Austin
Being in Austin is close to being in a place of diverse of things to do and experience. Considered as one hot city in Texas, the place seeks coolness and entertainment, paired with gastronomic ventures all year round. Being in a place like Austin is distinctly different from other cities in the Texas state. But you are probably living in it when you see and observe these five things.
- Barbecue everywhere
Living in Austin means you are also living with barbecue. In this side of Texas, barbecue is a way of life. Smoked meat in various joints are everywhere! You should try out and review each to know where is the best and the worst.
After indulging in barbecue, the next thing about an Austinite’s diet is Tex-Mex and margaritas.
The most popular names in this business are Matt’s Famous El Rancho, Chuy’s, Trudy’s, Vivo, and Maudie’s. Also watch out for food trailers offering these.
- Mini cars for transportation
Many believe that Austin is not good for city walking. While it is also known that Austin houses a lot of big tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Dell, it has made transportation a little difficult. Biking is one way to travel from point A to B. Because Austin is a spread out city (it has been dubbed by Forbes as one of the fastest growing cities as well), many busy people rely on mini cars for a better transportation system. Mini cars are vehicles you can use within the city and just leave it parked wherever for the next user. You need not return them after picking up.
- Parks and fitness centers
Austin living can be associated with getting fit. The place is known for more than a hundred parks where you can have an afternoon walk or an early morning jog. All in all, Austin has 220 parks. It also has lakes for water sports. Establishments offering fitness services also sprout within the city—there are about 250 gyms, restaurants serving healthy meals, and yoga studios for the fitness buff. Bike tours regularly happen too, with many tourists flocking to the city to witness.
- Barton Springs
Everyone knows that Barton Springs, a swimming pool, is being flocked to by people during summer time when the scorching heat of the sun embraces the city. Austin is known for its very hot temperatures during summer which can last up to six months. It is known for men and women who frolic by the pool and the grassy hill beside while half naked.
- Going to the movies is a lifestyle
Just like eating barbecue, moviegoers in Austin take films seriously. Live comedy, singing performances, and films are being celebrated like a special occasion. One popular movie house is the Alamo Drafthouse. Theaters like the Moody Theater, One World Theater, Zach Theater, and Austin City Limits Live are known for regular show performances.
Austin is also recognized as a haven for many artists with quite a number of galleries spread across town. Few art museums like Blanton Museum, Austin Museum of Art, and Umlauf Sculpture Gardens, are also some of the must-see establishments.
Road Trip To Hearst Castle & More
We recently took a new Mazda CX-9 on a road trip! It was an adventure getting there. Mud slides, road closures, heavy storms through out California. Took a lot longer than planned too. But we were comfortable and safe in the CX-9. Our trip included travel around the cities of San Simeon and Cambria and on the ‘must see’ list were Hearst Castle, the Elephant Seal Beach Sanctuary and NitWit Ridge. We saw a lot more and had a fantastic time. I hadn’t been up there for almost 20 years and the kids had never been. I love taking them on fun trips around California and making it educational is always an added bonus.
The drive was about 200 miles but with the storm that hit California all week we took it easy and gave ourselves plenty of time to get there and my friend and I took turns driving. We had fire trucks passing us on the freeway, a ton of car accidents on the road and even saw a car go off the side of the highway. It was definitely crazy weather for California.
We had an awesome navigation system in the Mazda CX-9 plus Serius radio with a ton of stations to choose from. We didn’t always agree but co-pilot had control of the radio.
Seals, The Beach & A Castle
When we got there we checked into the Silver Surf Motel, unloaded the car and went to the Elephant Seal Sanctuary (we visited here a few times). The motel had the cheapest rates in the area, was right by the beach and a few restaurants nearby. The peak of the season for the elephant seals is February so we were there in time to see a lot of them on the beach and a few males fighting. It was quiet wet outside and out umbrellas blew inside out but we made the best of it and enjoyed the sites. I love the backup camera on the Mazda! The parking lot was huge puddles and potholes from the rain and we had to navigate through it and around the other cars. We saw a few of these ‘Cow Art’ pieces too around the city. Not sure the name of them but they were interesting. I love the details, like the sand stars and barnacles on the legs.
View from the hotel. Looks like we could drive straight into the ocean. The car got wet, muddy and dirty and still looked great! If you drink wine you must drive up the coast to san Luis Obispo. They have a ton of wineries to visit. Next day we took a tour of Hearst Castle. They have four regular tours plus a nighttime tour to choose from and the tickets can be purchased in advance online. Parking is free and tickets are picked up inside the Hearst Castle Visitor Center. Inside there is a 30 minute movie about Hearst Castle and how it came about, gift shops and restaurants. After that we boarded a bus to go five miles up the hill to the castle. The weather was cloudy and a little cold but the rain held off and we had a fantastic time exploring the grounds and inside the main buildings. Beyond the clouds is the beach. Statues were everywhere on the grounds and inside. The whole place was amazing. Fascinating architecture and art. There was so much to see. I could easily have spent a few more hours there but the kids were going through it at a quicker pace. The outdoor pool, Neptune Pool, was being repaired and was drained but we saw the indoor pool. Above it is the tennis courts.
The outdoor walls, staircases and planters even had statues, decorations and more.Group photo of the four of us outside the main building at Hearst Castle. We ate lunch in Cambria at Linn’s (famous for their pies) and dinner at Big Sur Restaurant. All of the diners in Cambria are small, non-chain restaurants, mostly family-owned. Same with the gift shops and ice cream parlors.
The next day we went to the beach and explored. The tide was coming in and the waves were crazy from the storms. It was amazing to see that some beaches had no elephant seals at all and others had hundreds of them. I wasn’t sure what made the seals stay on certain beaches.Kids in the sand while the water was ebbing out.We drove back to the Elephant Seal Sanctuary and took the path the opposite way (day before we went left, this time we went to the right) and we hiked to the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. Tours are given at 9:45 am on Wednesdays and Sundays in the summer. We missed out on a tour but still had a fun 3-mile hike. I love how well the car navigated in these cities where I didn’t know the streets or how to get anywhere and the roads were a bit crazy.
That evening we had dinner at Robin’s Restaurant. The building, like most in Cambria, is an old house. The menu is a mix of all types of cuisines. They consider themselves a ‘handcrafted global cuisine’ and they aren’t kidding. I would love to go back there for their Sunday brunch. Their menu is a mix of Indian food, like naan and curry dishes, seafood dishes, kid-friendly, like pizza, and even Thai food. The prices weren’t cheap but the food was amazing and service spectacular. They have outdoor dining on a small patio too. Robin’s compensated us a free appetizer for dining here. I picked the cheese platter that included nuts, cheese, breads, fruit and local honey. My son ordered a Iced Mocha Float that included a fresh rose petal. The adults ordered the Cioppino, a seafood soup and the kids ordered pizza. Fresh bread was also served for everyone.
There was a line to get in as we were leaving. If you plan to dine here it is a good idea to make reservations. Cambria seems to have an abundance of ice cream shops too. Some service homemade fudge and trinkets too. The hills surrounding Hearst Castle have cattle on them from a ranch the castle runs and the hills in San Simeon and Cambria have more ranches. It is said that the Hearst Castle herds also have zebras in them, from when the castle once had a zoo (and the zebras were released). I looked the whole time we were there and never saw a single zebra. Water run off coming down the hills. California isn’t used to so much rain so a lot of it was running directly to the sea.
Historic Landmarks In Cambria
Cambria had a ton of small stores for shopping. Clothing, art, even a yarn shop. This one, Gallery of Wearable Art (GOWA) was once a house, built in 1880.
Up in the hills is a one-of-a-kind house, called Nitt Witt Ridge. It was built by Arthur “Art” Harold Beal (now deceased) over 50 years and is now owned by Michael O’Malley. For a $10 donation you can get a tour of the house and outside grounds. You won’t find this attraction on all the tour maps, since it is not a favorite among the locals, but it is worth the money and time. Beal took items from the dump and around town to build his house. It is upcycling and recycling before it was in and the arches and walkways are very unique.
Most of the house is built out of wood, rocks and stone, old beer bottles and tires. It is said that Beal carved the whole thing out of the mountainside with a shovel. Staircase with abalone shells. Nitt Witt Ridge was a maze or rooms with random toilets in odd places, including one on a rooftop. We really enjoyed O’Malley’s tour and hope he is able to maintain this landmark historic attraction for generations to come.
On the way home we pulled over at Peachy Canyon Winery just so I could sit in this chair. Check one thing off my bucket list. The drive back was a lot of traffic and more rain but the Mazda got us in comfort. Did I mention how roomy this car is? We enjoyed the scenic drive and hope to go back up there again soon.
Scenic Horse Riding
I grew up with horses on our property and lots of time to go riding in our yard and on the bike paths on the arroyo that was behind our house. We even had people board their horses on our property and my sister and I had our own pony. That all ended when my parents got a divorce. Since then I’ve had little chances to go horseback riding. Being able to grab a friend or two and take a scenic horse riding lesson is something everyone should do at least once. Children should too. Learning to ride a horse should count as a life skill, like being able to drive a stick shift or cook in the kitchen. Since my kids don’t have easy access to horses we like going to a place with a great reputation, good trainers and calm horses so we can do a day ride and enjoy our time.
For those wanting to check out a horse riding school I’ve found it is nice to find a place decent in size, with lots of property to ride on and different types of lessons, depending on age and ability of the rider. You might even split up and take different lessons. Someone that has never been on a horse would benefit from private lessons. A person that knows how to ride but is a bit rust might want to take a beginners trail ride. For me, I think I’d like to take a beginners trail a few times and then advance up to a harder group. If you have little kids in your group you might want to have them take pony riding lessons. That is what I did when I was a kid.
If you are not experienced in riding make sure you wear proper clothing too. Most places will provide helmets. You are on your own to wear decent boots, jeans and a t-shirt or long-sleeve shirt, depending on the weather. The saddle, halter and other gear for the horse should be provided for you.
Nothing like getting out, enjoying nature, fresh air and gorgeous views while riding a horse.