Last Thursday we went to the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, which is one of six wildlife refuge areas down by Los Banos. It’s just over an hours drive from our house. We left early so that we could do our walk in the morning before it got too hot, and we wanted to eat lunch before the restaurant we chose in Los Banos closed at 2:00.
After a short stop in Turlock for an Egg McMuffin, we got there at about 10:30, and found the entrance to the visitor’s center.
To get to the visitors center, we walked across this very loud and squeaky bridge that went over a stream. I have never heard such a loud bridge before.
The bridge crossed over a small stream that had a couple dozen schools of tiny mosquito fish. We spent a long time just watching them swim around. Each black blob is hundreds of the tiny fish, and they would move around in the water and occasionally they would join up to make a larger school of fish, or divide in two and swim apart.
The Wildlife Refuge has a couple of driving tours available, and we took the Waterfowl tour loop. It is almost 10 miles to drive, and it also has 3 spots where you can get out of the car and walk through the marshes. The first one is the Chester Marsh Trail, and is a one-mile loop. However, the trail isn’t marked very well, and there are also lots of other paths and trails crisscrossing it, so we got lost, and ended up walking probably an extra mile.
We had beautiful weather, the temperature was only about 80 degrees, and there was always a slight breeze.
We found an observation platform with a working telescope and we checked out all of the distant landscape.
We came to a branch in the trail that we could take over to the San Joaquin river where there was the remains of an old bridge. It was built in 1884 to replace the ferry that the Merced – Los Banos stage-coach used.
We got here with 10 minutes to spare, and this place is amazing! For lunch we had a choice of steak, chicken, pork chops, or lamb chops. We both chose lamb chops, because what else do you eat at restaurant called “Wool Growers”? Then the nice waitress brought us a bowl of lettuce salad, a bowl of cabbage and vegetable soup, a pitcher of water, and a small bottle of red wine. All were delicious. We each got 3 lamb chops, and a plate of french fries, a basket of bread and butter, a bowl of pinto beans, and a bowl of fabulous lamb stew – whew! We even got a little cup of vanilla ice cream for dessert. Everything was wonderful, we were both stuffed, and we took our chops home in a bag.
After we ate, we walked across the street to check out the plaza and this fountain with cows and a cowboy.