Saturday, April 11, 2015

La Purisima Mission State Park

Or, what I did on my Spring Break.

As you can tell by my lack of posts that I am still busy with working on a masters in education and working full-time at an alternative education school. I will not kid you, having a Spring Break is as good for the teachers as it is for the students. Sheila and I had our first days off together in two and half months. So what's the first thing we do? That's right, road trip to a historic site.

The first stop is the museum at the  
visitor's center.
We chose to visit La Purisima Mission State Park in Lompoc, California.  La Purisima was the 11th of the 21 missions established in California. The first mission was established at a site that is now in Lompoc on December 8, 1787. But that site was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812 and the mission was rebuilt on its present site about three miles northwest of the city. When you visit you'll notice that the new site is actually an improvement over the old. The mission is tucked into a hillside that will help block the winds that come with being so close to the ocean. There is a fresh water source via a spring and creek that flows through the site. Also, being at a slightly higher elevation you have an excellent view of the farm fields in the valley below.

The walking tour will take you past
the heritage animals kept at the
Mission: sheep, pigs, foul, donkeys...
and this critter. Very impressive.
Your first stop is a fairly new visitor's center with a great little museum that devotes a large amount of space to the Civilian Conservation Corps project that rebuilt the mission in 1934. We joke that once you've seen one mission, you've seen them all. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. I visited seven missions at different times in my life and they are all a little different. What they usually have in common is a beautiful garden surrounded by historic buildings. Many are still owned by the Catholic Church and are still active. What is different about La Purisima is that it is not owned by the Church but rather the State of California and operates as a state park. The only way I can describe it is that La Purisima seems to be in more of its "natural" state. There is not a perfect garden and there are no church services. But there are historic buildings that are not surrounded by suburbia. There are active displays and even heritage animals on display (the bull and the donkeys are very popular). As a result it's a lot easier to get your history on and try to imagine what mission life was really like.

A real benefit is that the mission
buildings are not surrounded by
modern life.
Admission is free but it will cost you a dollar for a brochure/walking map to the site, which is worth much more than a buck. There are no food or drinks sold on the site, but there are some nice shaded picnic benches. I highly recommend brown bagging it, but Lompoc is only three miles away for restaurants and hotels. Some weekends there are living history folks demonstrating weaving, woodworking, and other skills from the mission days. So check out the State Parks site or much better the foundation site, Prelado De Los Tesoros, at, for hours and a calendar of events.

Nothing like a nap after breakfast.
We finished our weekend with drive up the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur to Monterey. So enjoy a picture of a pile of elephant seals just north of Cambria. :-)

There is a recreation of the Native
American Chumash houses that would
have been located at the mission.
Inside the buildings are working
museum displays.
If you visit during the week, you'll have
the place to yourself. That is until the
elementary school field trip arrives.

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