Last Looks…

Of San Jacinto and Simpson Park

Can’t See the Forest for the Trees…

Jeff and I like to walk and hike. So, before discovering the amazing trails in Simpson Park and the Coachella Valley Preserve, we pounded the pavement throughout San Jacinto.

Now, San Jacinto, CA is not the most scenic city. But if you focus, one step at  time, on your immediate surroundings you will discover some amazing trees and shrubs adorning the sidewalks and not-sidewalks.

So, as we walk I snap a photo or two of our favorite specimens which Jeff and I name in our own crazy way. I hope you enjoy this crash course in the study of trees. I call it Dendrology 101.

Baby Bottle Brush Tree…

Green Olive Palm Tree…

Coral Star Fish Bush…

Christmas Berry Tree…

Garbanzo Bean Tree…

Wasp Nest Tree…

Oh wait, it’s a Garbanzo Bean Tree with all the branches removed…

Bee Tree…

These trees are a buzz with noisy bees… not my favorite to walk under. And these trees are in front yards, how strange.

And speaking of strange, for all of us Netflix binge-watchers, check out the…“Stranger Things” Demogorgon Bush…

Corn Kernel Pod Tree…

Purple Olive Tree…

Oh wait, it is an olive tree!… a black olive tree. The fruit on the sidewalk below leaves a squishy purple residue.

Yellow Star Jade Bush…

Sienna Bark Tree…

These beauties line Victoria Avenue.

And finally, How Californians Trim Trees…

Rock graFfitti…

Some rocks don’t need names. They have already been christened.

The rock above is on the Canyon Trail near Fireman’s Loop and we have passed it, I don’t know how many times now. What’s funny though is that we always called it Bonnie’s Junction. It wasn’t until I took this picture that I realize the B is an R and it’s really Ronnie’s Junction. (But I know Jeff and I will always call this rock Bonnie’s Junction.)

Here is, for us at least, the most famous rock in all of Simpson Park:

It’s Balloon Rock, the one that will always remain dear to our hearts as it is the landmark of that fateful day when Jeff and I got lost and wandered off to Gibbel Road, 9 miles by car away from the parking lot.

We still can’t figure out how we strayed so far away. I mean, it’s obvious that teens hang out around here as there are lots of tagged rocks in this area. So that must mean that it’s not far off the beaten path to the parking area. After hiking throughout these mazes several times now, it’s impossible to get lost. It beats me, get it, how we managed to take all the wrong turns that day. I guess we were just so hot, dehydrated, and confused…

Finally, here is Jeff’s favorite rock, well actually it’s a spot that we also discovered on the day we got lost. It leads nowhere, hence its name:

Estudillo Mansion

At the corner of Main Street and 7th Street, separated by black wrought iron gates, lies a beautiful red brick mansion surrounded by coiffed and unlittered grounds. Jeff and I have walked by many times on our daily walks through the neighborhoods of San Jacinto.  One day we take Main Street to Dillon and discover the place is the Estudillo Mansion and that it is open every Saturday from 11 to 4.

So, one Saturday we walk over and check the place out.

In 1842 Jose A. Estudillo acquired all of the land (35,000 acres) in the San Jacinto Valley when he was deeded a Mexican Land Grant. In the 1860s his sons, Francisco and Antonio came to the valley to begin cattle ranching.

Francisco constructed the two-story  mansion on 6 acres of land between 1884 and 1885. He became San Jacinto’s first postmaster and was also appointed Mission Indian Agent by the Federal Government. As Mission Indian Agent, Francisco was responsible for 32 Reservations in southern and central California. He was an elected school board member and the second mayor of San Jacinto, serving from 1890 to 1892. (

After passing through many owners, the mansion was purchased by Riverside County in 1992. Six years later the County turned ownership over to the city of San Jacinto. (

Meanwhile, in 1939 the San Jacinto Women’s Club and the Chamber of Commerce decided to display early California and Indian artifacts during the Ramona Outdoor Play. Response was so positive that citizens petitioned for a permanent museum in 1940.

In 1978 a group of residents formed the San Jacinto Valley Museum Association and this non-profit organization continues its support today. In 2005 the Museum Association was able to use its funds to purchase its present building on the grounds of San Jacinto’s Francisco Estudillo Heritage Park. (Historic San Jacinto City Museum brochure)

The house has been restored inside to reflect the style of the late 1880s. No pictures of the interior are allowed to be taken so I capture the grounds and garden.

We learn that a tree trimmer has to shimmy up the trunk of this Washington Palm to prune the fronds.

The highlights of this visit, however, are the docents. These women fought “city hall” to prevent the demolition of the Estudillo Mansion and preserve  it to the Historical Registry.

Welcome to San Jacinto, CA

San Jacinto is one of the oldest cities in Riverside County and is named after Saint Hyacinth who died at the age of 12 in 108 AD.


Hyacinth was an early Christian who refused to participate in ceremonial sacrifices to the official Roman gods. Denounced as a Christian, he was imprisoned, scourged,  tortured, and finally only served meat which had been blessed for sacrifice to the gods. He eventually starved to death as he would not eat the meat of Roman gods.

The city of Hemet is south of San Jacinto and Beaumont is to its north. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, San Jacinto was a dairy and agricultural center. (



Several dairy farms still exist today as evidenced by the annoying appearance of pesky flies and the intermittent whiffs of cow manure in the air.

The Anza Trail, one of the first European overland routes to California, crossed through the San Jacinto Valley in the 1770s.

A nearby street commemorates its name.


Mission padres named the valley after Saint Hyacinth and established an outpost here in 1820.

The San Jacinto Valley is located at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains in the east and the Santa Rosa Hills to the south with the San Gorgonio Pass to the north. It is home to the cities of Hemet and San Jacinto.

Below is a picture of the San Jacinto Valley as seen from the San Jacinto Mountains. The bright street in the middle is Florida Avenue (State Highway 74) in Hemet.

AC5AA8D3-8DFA-4B28-BFEF-D08C4A5A9C7F contributed by John Stroud

The valley is also the setting for a novel written by Helen Hunt Jackson who visited the area in the 1880s.

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Helen, a poet and writer (1830-1885), became an activist on behalf of improved treatment of Native Americans by the United States government.

Her romance novel, Ramona written in 1884, dramatized the mistreatment of Native Americans in Southern California after the Mexican-American War.


The novel’s sentimental portrayal of Mexican colonial life appealed to both readers and film producers.

In 1910 D.W. Griffith directed a 17 minute drama starring Mary Pickford. True to the book’s theme, the silent film explores racial injustice through a love story. Below is the film’s title credit. The subtitle reads A story of the White Man’s Injustice to the Indians.


Click here to view the opening sequence from TCM, Turner Classic Movies.


In 1916 Donald Crisp directed 10-14 silent movie reels of Ramona, starring Adda Gleason. All but 5 reels are lost. These remaining reels are preserved at the Library of Congress. On April 6, 1916 the New York Times printed a movie review.


Delores Del Rio starred in the 1928 silent film version of H. H. Jackson’s book.


Mordaunt Hall, a film critic from The New York Times, praised the silent film as “an Indian love lyric” in his May 15, 1928 movie review.

In 1936 Loretta Young and Don Ameche starred in the first film adaptation of Ramona with sound.


On October 7, 1936 film critic Frank S. Nugent posted his review in The New York Times praising the cinematography but finding issue with the plot as “a piece of unadulterated hokum about Lo, the poor half-Indian girl who fled a southern Californian hacienda with her chieftain’s son and was tragically victimized by the ruthless American land-grabbers.”

Lo refers to Ramona Lubo, after whom many claimed the novel was named…


The novel was also aired as a telenovela or Spanish soap opera in 2000.

On April 13, 1923 The Ramona Pageant premiered as an Outdoor Play in Hemet, CA. Staged annually, it is the longest running outdoor play in the United States. It is held over 3 consecutive weekends in April and May at the Ramona Bowl, a natural amphitheater.



In 1959, 18-year-old Jo Raquel Tejada played the title role. We know her today as Raquel Welch.


Ten years later, another famous actress starred as Ramona. Anne Archer was 21 years old.


Less than 4 miles out our RV door, where State Street turns into Gilman Springs Road, lies a heavily guarded compound of 50 buildings surrounded by trees and high fences topped with steel blades.


Patrols, cameras, and motion detectors keep watch 24/7. The property is bisected by the public road with cameras recording passing traffic. An underground tunnel runs across the street.

Below is an aerial view of the compound from the west.


So, arriving at our San Jacinto snowbird destination at Diamond Valley RV Resort, Jeff and I exit Interstate 10 West in Beaumont, head south on CA 79, and exit onto Gilman Springs Road heading east. All of a sudden we encounter lush greenery amid the brown monotones of the mountains and desert. Peeking out are spiral columns topped with turrets, a gate house, beautiful blue buildings, a golf course, and what looks like a church.







Are you as curious as I was? Let me give you some hints:

  1. A sign from the road reads, Golden Era Productions.
  2. It belongs to a church.
  3. Tom Cruise stayed and studied here in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
  4. Does L. Ron Hubbard ring any bells?

This lavish resort compound is Gold Base, the international headquarters, though not legally recognized as such, of the Church of Scientology.


This land was well-known by local Native Americans for the natural hot springs bubbling from what is now known as the San Jacinto Fault. In 1890 Sydney Branch purchased this parcel and developed it into a resort and spa. In 1913 he sold this property to the Gilman brothers who further expanded the resort into a popular vacation retreat. By 1978 the Gilman Hot Springs had lost its popularity and went bankrupt.

With extreme secrecy, L. Ron Hubbard pays $2.7 million cash for the resort under the guise of a group of investors who called themselves the Scottish Highland Quietude Club. The new owners supposedly had a condominium project in mind, but Hubbard’s ulterior motive was to create his church headquarters here without anyone knowing it belonged to the Church of Scientology.


Why the intense secrecy? At the time, the Church was charged with a criminal conspiracy, called Operation Snow White, against the United States Government. Hubbard and his wife were accused of infiltrating and stealing unfavorable documents about Scientology in 30 countries.

72803514-2FF1-400B-AED5-62FB0D6C04EC Mary Sue and Ron Hubbard (

21387643-BBB5-49AB-AFB7-39BF49D7D8BA, The Underground Bunker


For more information about Operation Snow White, check out this 1990 article from the LA Times. And to read what Scientology has to say, go to their Stand League website, Scientologists Taking Action Against Discrimination.

Hubbard went into hiding, eventually living in an undisclosed location in Hemet, code-named X. The Gilman Hot Springs property was code-named S, and no one in the Church could travel directly between the 2 locations. Instead, with all the drama of a spy movie, Gilman and his minions had to make indirect trips of 120 miles each way.

In 1980, however, a local reporter broke the story that Hubbard was living in Hemet and working at the Gilman location. So, literally overnight the base was converted into Golden Era Studios and presented to the world as the Church of Scientology’s media production facility. After conning the world into believing that the organization had an acceptable function, the international management was safe to return to Gold Base.


Ironically, L. Ron Hubbard never lived at the base. He authorized renovations on Bonnie View, a tutor-style house on the property, with the intentions of residing there. Unfortunately the original house had to be torn down. The almost $10 million mansion built to replace it was not finished until 2000 and Hubbard had already died in January of 1986. The mansion and his living quarters, however, are still maintained in anticipation of his reincarnation.


Today, David Miscavige, the Church’s current leader, lives and works on Gold Base with other Church officials.


Unless otherwise noted, the information from this blog came from Wikipedia. I have found this to be a reliable source, after checking its references time and time again, against other online sources of information. I now contribute a small yearly donation to its site organization.

Diamond Valley RV Resort


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Our Space

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How we rigged the sewer house…

0C736E71-3769-4959-BAC4-58457C514F63 The connection to the sewer is elevated, preventing gravity to allow the hose to drain properly. After walking around the RV Park, we noted how other permanent residents resolved this problem. So Jeff came up with an inexpensive alternative using plastic buckets, pvc pipes, and a hand saw that we took turns using, to create a “slide” for the hose. (TMI?) 

Other Spaces




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I know it doesn’t look like a Resort, but “don’t judge a book by its cover” which I probably did in my previous  post on Blythe, CA. (Mea culpa)

In between the long-term residents’ colorful and cozy spaces are a scattering of newer RVs. 




Office and Ammenities


4529B8A0-F983-4334-93D6-64356A70DB7E 3CDC8313-39AF-41BB-AFDB-5CEDB741EDB6

145DD695-B5C1-47DD-AB39-067B797FA861 a beautiful outdoor patio

423CF3ED-5DF3-48F9-B711-B9FE81EB57E6 a heated pool and hot tub

A39A23E1-09A6-4EC8-8977-ED5A193A6FD8 For $5.50 we can wash and dry 2 full loads of laundry! 

6378F755-7540-44AA-B624-152D5019796C the Club House


5F9B7536-8940-4759-A340-2DEE65C69C20 and lending library

On November 21st every resident was invited to a pre-Thanksgiving catered dinner. But wait, There’s more! After dinner each RV space received a raffle ticket and then we played Bingo. Jeff and I yelled, “Bingo!” twice and took home headphones and a rotating light show projector of stars and moons. During the Bingo Games raffle tickets were drawn. From grand prizes of a computer laptop, big-screen TV, and a multi-purpose mini outdoor grill, each RV space received a prize.  We won a Cuisinart toaster with Bagel, Defrost, and Reheat settings. Meanwhile we met Diana and her daughter, Alex, and schmoozed with others. (Well, at least I did!) 

As the dinner experience broke up, people piled up paper plates with leftovers and desserts. Really? Even the edible decorations were disassembled and taken home! Against the wall was an arrangement of fruit, kind of like a cornucopia minus the goat’s horn, flowers and corn. Among this array of fruits were light red-orange, small, apple-looking items topped with green blossoms. I thought they were some kind of pepper or tomatoes. When we left, all of the bananas and apples were picked over. So I figured no one would miss a few of these mysterious fruit whatevers. I took 3. Later I learned they were persimmons. 

160D14C6-1D13-4CCD-9007-89297208931D A gentleman told me to let them sit out for another week until they were very soft. To eat them, he suggested I cut off the top and simply scoop up the insides with a spoon. So I followed his advice and enjoyed mildly sweet spoonfuls of soft red-orange goodness, reminding me of the consistency of a kiwi fruit. 

D2519EAF-BAA5-4B60-B819-256EB6A9EE2A The dog park even supplies its own “poopie” bags! However, someone does not pick up after their dogs. Seriously? 



3A0C2B35-D51F-4AAB-9C73-C1969369C195 When we first arrived the grass was green but daily hose-watering cannot compete with the desert sun. 

4B83A2D6-B886-4653-B821-8D5294F0192E Here we have met Vickie, another Diana, and Rick. Rick helped design and landscape the dog park and takes pride in its appearance. So, we all are appalled by the person or persons not picking up after their pets. We suspect the same culprit but cannot prove it yet. According to the RV Park rental agreement, failure to clean up after your pet results in a fine of $100.

Beside the dog park, a passionate gardener is planting a community vegetable garden.


But I would say that the biggest amenity here is the people! Residents are outgoing and friendly, starting with the management. Mooshy runs the office. Ron is the resident handyman. Abraham lives and works here too. Behind us lives Janey and her 3 dogs. Maggie just moved in with her dog, Piper. Across the street are another Rick and Allison. Marla lives down the street. Elliot and Sherry’s space is surrounded by a garden of potted plants. (Sherry is responsible for cultivating and planting the vegetable garden next to the dog park.) Good people. Good energy. A caring neighborhood.

Outside The Gates


Diamond Valley RV Resort is nestled in the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains at the corner of State Street and Ramona Boulevard. Avid walkers, Jeff and I pound the pavement daily for an hour or more. When sidewalks end we travel on dirt or the street encountering many homeless people, churches, schools, trailer parks, tire stores, Mexican markets, and lots of litter. Not exactly pretty, but wait… 

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6664035B-33E3-469B-939F-58BFE486A4E7 1E60CD41-6AE1-4B07-91D2-01AFFDAB858B

60B25F98-6B6F-4F73-9D4D-C405276F5624 persimmons

96D3B8E7-B282-4180-84DE-34833B5A1321 a massive tumbleweed!

ECB59FD5-E1DF-4DBD-A5F5-94D162FC1C07 We collected a bouquet of these on the ground along Ramona Expressway. Don’t know what they are but they look great on top of our nature “curio shelf.”


DD22AAE0-5390-4E70-AC19-B4660C207FA5 Seasons’ Greetings from the desert…

20BABEFA-738C-4251-A79C-3CDFA51D8B9D St. Anthony Catholic Church

B43EDD6E-D1D6-4A40-B3BF-A4C7D5521BCC a tiny shrine to St. Anthony built from stones

0DAC056D-44D1-4CAA-B53F-1C9AED811E49 by F.J. Walkowiak in 1936