Next week we’re planning to go camping in Idyllwild for our anniversary. I’ve never been camping camping before. We used to go RVing when I was a kid, but that’s not the same thing. I’ve been collecting everything we need to get started for over a year, and one of the last things I wanted was some kind of cushioning to sleep on. I found a couple of self-inflating mattress pads on Craigslist, but the were all the way in San Clemente, over 30 miles away. We decided to take the train to San Clemente and make a day of it instead, since our last train venture went so well.
Los Rios Historic District
On weekends a day pass is only $10 for any distance for the Metrolink train. We started in Orange and stopped in San Juan Capistrano. On one side of the train tracks, right across from the station is the oldest neighborhood in California, the Los Rios Historic District. This place is adorable and nestled inside is a park, a petting zoo, a few restaurants and cafes, a local artist gallery and some colorful shops in some converted homes. Also in the neighborhood is the Montanez Adobe, build in 1794 and nestled in a desert butterfly sanctuary garden.
The building and garden is open to the public and is filled with artifacts from the time period. It was surprisingly cool inside, with no AC, even thought the weather outside was a bit too warm. The dirt floors reminded Luis of his grandma’s ranch in rural Mexico. We signed the guestbook to help the docents advocate for the preservation of the adobe building, which was in surprisingly good shape for being, oh just over 200 years old.
San Juan Capistrano Mission
After exploring the Los Rios District, we crossed the tracks, walked a couple blocks and found ourselves at the San Juan Capistrano Mission. I haven’t been to the mission since we studied them in 4th grade and went there on a field trip. Usually when I visit places I’ve been to as a kid, I’m slightly disappointed that the sights aren’t as magical or enormous as I remember them. This time, I was blown away. I remember very little from my first trip. I had forgotten all about the ruined grand stone church.
How they built something so ambitious in 1806 is beyond me. They didn’t do the best job obviously since most of it is gone, or maybe they did all things considered. I don’t think they knew that earthquakes were kind of a problem in California. I would have been devastated if I helped build this church for 10 years only to see it go down six years later which is what happened. Can you tell I learned a lot? Luis and I actually really love history, but we like to see it and experience it (that probably explains why we live in the Bunch House), which makes these simple adventures supremely satisfying and interesting for both of us.
There was a lot to see. One of my favorites was the Serra Chapel. There was a heavy almost mystical energy housed within. It has the distinction of being the only standing church in which Father Junipero Serra officiated. The oldest parts of the chapel are from 1777 although the grand baroque altar from Barcelona, Spain is estimated to be over 400 years old. With Independence Day being right around the corner, I couldn’t help but be reminded that around the same time, on the other side of the continent, the US was born, and then a few months later San Juan Capistrano was founded (or re-founded technically).
San Clemente Pier
After we toured the mission and historic district for a few hours, we hopped back on the train and traveled further South for a couple stops to the San Clemente Pier. I thought the train would leave you close to the pier. I did not expect that it would leave you practically right on the sand. The ride there was beautiful since the train travels right along the water.
We met with the guy from Craigslist and bought the camping pads off of him. Although I later learned that they weren’t quite as thick as the listing said. I still got a good deal, but next time I’ll be a lot more vigilant.
Since our train to the pier was delayed by about half an hour, we didn’t have a whole lot of time to explore San Clemente, but we did have enough time to grab some lunch, walk down the pier and dip our toes in the water. We’ll definitely be heading back soon for a swim. I love the beach, but getting sand in the car is no bueno. Thankfully, riding on the train means this isn’t an issue.
The train ride back from the beach was crowded. The platform was packed with people leaving the beach, but since the train was practically empty, almost everyone found a place to sit. The ride home was about an hour, but felt much shorter since we were both looking through all of the photos from the trip and reading up on the history of California.
It was definitely mission accomplished 🙂