"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Friday, January 1, 2021

Best Campgrounds of 2020 and 2021 Plans

Rancho Cordova, CA Elks Lodge



 
When looking for campsites, we prefer privacy, easy access, gorgeous views, on or very near water for fishing and kayaking, nearby hiking and biking trails, not too far from towns for amenities, entertainment, good food and water/dump.  We also love areas with history, breweries and other fun things.  Since Steve works from the rig, all of these spots have great Verizon cell signal unless otherwise noted. We also love to boondock and love FREE camping.  If we have to pay, anything  in the Twenties is what we shoot for.  Anything above $30 stings a bit but sometimes that's what it is.

Here are our favorite camping spots of 2020 (in no particular order):

1. Anza Borrego Desert, CA
FREE. Easy to get to on BLM land, right off a paved road..  This spot was large and flat and perfect for visiting Borrego Springs area.  Good Verizon as well.  Water and dump at the Red Earth Casino nearby.
    
 Great boondocking, hiking and sight-seeing.

2.  Alabama Hills - Lone Pine, CA
FREE.  I've been waiting to go here for years!  It can be hard to get one of the awesome spots up against the rocks.  Roads near the rocks can be sandy, rocky and very uneven.  We persevered and got a great spot!  So much hiking!!  The Movie Museum in town and the Manzanar Internment Camp are must dos!
    
                Life Rocks!                                 Mt. Whitney                          Several Arch Rocks

3. Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction, AZ    
Beautiful, sparkling clean campsites, nicely spaced with a spectacular view of the Superstition Mountains and great hiking!  $30 to camp with electric and water ($20 with no utilities).  This is an all-time favorite and is always on our list! An annual stop for us.  If you get lucky being here at the perfect time in March/April , you may hit the peak bloom.  Spectacular!
    
                                         So much hiking, kayakingand exploring!

4. King Rd, AZ
FREE camping on BLM land between Quartzsite and Yuma.  All the beauty of the KoFa Mountains but none of the crazy crowds.  Fantastic Verizon!  
    
Plenty of hiking, fun over in Q and lots to do in Yuma.

5. Lake Pleasant Regional Park, AZ 
Less than an hour from Phoenix, but so peaceful.  Plenty of hiking and kayaking on the lake to keep you busy.  $22, no hookups but other loops offer more.
    

6. Sweetwater Regional Park - San Diego, CA 
This park we heard about from other RVers.  It's a great place to stay for visiting San Diego.  We spent 10 days here.  $30 for FHUs on large, private spots overlooking San Diego.  So much to see in this city.  We biked, went to the Zoo & USS Midway and many other landmark areas.  AWESOME!
      
   USS Midway Aircraft Carrier                San Diego Zoo                    Sweetwater Campground

7.  Old Rim Rd - Payson, AZ
FREE boondocking on National Forest land.  At this particular spot there are marked sites that are very  spread out and private.  The Mogollon Rim is well over 5000 ft elevation and perfect for summer stays. Lots of hiking, kayaking and watching the Elk.  Just plain relaxing!     
     Kayaking Willow Springs  The Rim is on the other side of the trees.   Sunset on the Rim!

8. Texas Springs Campground - Death Valley, CA
$16 gets you a nice site with water and dump.  So much to do in Death Valley!
      


Honorable Mention:
We are not big on private parks, Thousand Trails or Elks as a first choice.  This was a quirky year so we made the best of it.  We find Elks to work out when we need to be in a big city or expensive area.

-Elks Lodge, Monterey, CA: Small park, not too level.  Clean, quiet, awesome location, kayaking.
-Elks Lodge Napa, CA: Great location for wine tasting and kayaking.
-Elks Santa Barbara, CA: Great location for exploring the beach and area.
-Thousand Trails Groveland, CA: Great location in Yosemite NP.
-Thousand Trails Idyllwild, CA: Great location for hiking.
-Thousand Trails Ponderosa, CA: Great location near Placerville on the river.


For those that might be interested, here's a breakdown of the places we stayed, and the costs:
StaysNightsTotalAVG (per night cost)
County Park420  $527.00$26.35
Elks22154$3689.50$23.95
Fairgrounds22    $45.00$22.50
State Park17  $140.00$20.00
National Park12    $32.00$16.00    
Thousand Trails*1493  $600.00$6.45
Boondocking**451$0$0
BLM426$0$0
National Forest19$0$0
Walmart10$0$0
State Rec00$0$0
National Rec00$0$0
Private Park00$0$0

* We renewed our Thousand Trails membership for $600/yr in September of 2020.
** Boondocking for us is anywhere we stay for free which is not an organized campground.  It can include time at family and friends and other areas. This year we spent one night at a Casino and 1 night at a hotel (which I didn't count the stay or cost at $100). Some of our boondocking will be at BLM, National Forest, etc, but I give them a separate category because we generally spend a lot of time at them and I like to keep track of that.  Sometimes there can be a small fee to camp at them but most of the time it is free.

We traveled 5,845 miles and had 54 stops averaging 6.7 days a stop.
We have 155,000 miles on the truck.

Yearly Comparison
2014 - (need to add)
2015 - (need to add)
2016 - Yearly Campsite Total: $3494.50
            Daily Average: $9.57
2017 - Yearly Campsite Total: $5090.50
            Daily Average: $13.94
2018 - Yearly Campsite Total: $4038.00
            Daily Average: $11.06
2019 - Yearly Campsite Total: $5530.00
            Daily Average: $15.15 
2020 - Yearly Campsite Total: $5075.50
            Daily Average: $13.90

What was different?
Wow, I was surprised to see how much we spent.  Well, California is an expensive state.  Guess it was a good thing we had that Thousand Trails.
We boondocked MUCH less and stayed at more Thousand Trails and  Elks Lodges due to another sons wedding and the birth of our grandson. Covid kept us in place in Monterey, CA for 85 days.
We don't care for memberships or private parks but we needed a back up place to stay since the Placerville, CA Elks Lodge has been full on more occasions so we renewed our Thousand Trails Membership as we are "back home" for 6 weeks.

Plans for 2021:
Our plans have changed already and we haven't even left CA yet!  Steve's eye surgery has us here until we get the doctor's OK to travel. Probably Between the 7th and 14th of Jan.  Quartzsite and King Rd. will probably be out.  We will spend the remainder of Jan, Feb & Mar in Arizona going back to CA for Jaxon's First Birthday.  Then we will spend April - May in the upper gulf states and celebrate our nieces wedding in Florida in May.  After the wedding we will meander through the middle part of the midwest states and pop into Colorado in Sept. 
We will get back to Arizona Oct before returning  to CA for the holidays.

We're really missing the Superstition Mountains in AZ right now.  
This isn't my picture but, yes, it IS this amazing.

Safe Travels where ever you end up!


Monday, August 31, 2020

August 2020 Southern California Loop

Southern California Loop 
August 2020


Wow, this is the most we have moved in one month. Ever.  Most of the stops were 1 or 2 nighters on our way to a longer stay.  Most of the moves were just a couple of hours though as we'd leave after Steve finished work.

Montery, CA
Elks Lodge

Boy this is the tightest we've been here at this lodge!  We usually take the spot on the far right so we can move over even further but they were full this week with all spots taken by nightfall.  We're just here to sleep so we don't mind.
Ryan and Diana found us some great hikes to take Jaxon on.  Anytime we can hike along a creek Hurley is a happy boy!

Nonna, Mama & Jax.
On our way from Monterey to San Luis Obispo we had lunch in San Juan Batista with my friend from childhood, Debbie and her husband Rooty.  She still lives in the Bay Area so we try to get together at least once a year.

   
I've recently written about the Mission at San Juan Batista so I won't write about it.  It is a gorgeous place to visit.  The mission, the grounds and the gardens are beautiful.  Indoors are still closed due to Covid but you can walk around outside.

We had lunch at Jardines, an amazing Mexican restaurant with equally beautiful gardens you can eat out doors in.


San Luis Obispo, CA
Elks Lodge
Nothing special about this Elks.  It backs up to Hwy 101 so there is constant freeway noise.  Not too bad.  The camping is out back, $20 W/E.
While Steve worked I wandered through 2 old cemeteries across the street.  There was this large pyramid on a hill overlooking the rest of the cemetery.  Must've been a prominent family.


Then there was this modern headstone apparently designed by the occupant before she died.

One day we drove to the coast to Morro Bay for some sea kayaking.
We put in by the old power plant and headed for the famous Morro Rock.
The iconic Morro Rock sits at the mouth of the bay and is a 581 foot tall volcanic plug rock.
We paddled all day and watched the Cormorants, seals and otters play all around us.
There are many homes and boats that call the large bay home.
On the way home we stopped in to Central Coast Brewing for a tasting.

Santa Maria , CA
Elks Lodge
The Santa Maria Elks Lodge was a quick 30 minutes drive down Hwy 101.  This is one of the prettiest lodges.  It has a simple camping area on one side and on the other side is a very nice FHU section backing up to a huge lawn and lovely landscape.  Too bad the lodge is closed due to Covid as they are known for their huge BBQ Steak dinners!  People come from all over for it!
Site #2, FHU. $30
Our nice view out back.

Nearby was a wonderful trail system at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Rec Area.  Unfortunately I didn't know dogs weren't allowed so poor Hurley had to stay in the truck.  You walk through the protected dunes, over a boardwalk system that takes you over small creeks and lakes to the ocean.  You can explore for miles. It was a great time.  Hurley sure would've loved it but I get why they don't want dogs here.  There are also areas that are protected for the Plover.



We spent one day with the intent of visiting a few vegetable/fruit/flower farms.  We totally struck out!  All were closed due to Covid  Of course.  But we enjoyed our drive anyway.
There were layers of color in the flower fields.
We figured we'd end the day with a paddle on Lopez Lake.  Another strike out!  With Covid they are only open to county residents!  Darn that Covid!We did find ONE avocado farm that wasn't open but did have a small stand out front.  Most of the avocados wouldn't be ripe for a few more weeks but we did find one.  It took 3 weeks for it to ripen!

On our last day we did get a nice bike ride in on the Santa Maria Trail.  It didn't have too much scenery but it was a nice ride along a wash and mountains on the other side.



Of course we found a brewery at the end to stop in at and share some lunch.

Santa Barbara, CA
Elks Lodge

Another short 1hour drive brings us to Santa Barbara.  Another beautiful California oceanside town. Home of Oprah, Former Prince Harry & Meghan just to name a couple.  The University of California Santa Barbara is here as well.  Since this is where our oldest graduated we've visited here often.
Site #16 on the end.  $35 W/E/dump.  Again, Hwy 101 isn't too far behind us.
Our main reason for stopping here besides an oceanside bike ride, is to visit Max and his very pregnant wife, Pauline.  Ryan (our oldest) and Max grew up together in Upstate NY when we lived there.  His Mom, Rita, and I are besties!!  It was so nice to see him again!
The Perseid Meteor Shower was peaking so we  took an evening drive up Rattlesnake Canyon in the steep mountains behind Santa Barbara.
(There is a video here but if you don't see one, Blogger is still having problems and you can only view it on a PC)
We saw a few meteors and just enjoyed listening to the crickets and watching the city lights of Santa Barbara below.

I tried to get a picture of the lights and this is what I got.  Kind of neat.

Santa Barbara Marina
A 6 mile bike ride along the shore in Santa Barbara, it couldn't be better!
The beaches were empty (Covid) but the pier and bike path were busy with others soaking up the sunshine.  Most everyone distanced and wore masks.

Some stretches were almost empty!  It was a short visit but very enjoyable.

Santa Clarita, CA
Elks Lodge

We only needed a stopover for the night, so we chose an Elks in Santa Clarita.  We've stopped in this bustling city before, but we've stayed at a Walmart in one of the newer parts of town.  This Elks is on the far side of town in a very old area.  Kinda run down.  Not impressed with the lodge but it's probably been here for a long time and has seen better days.  The RV camping is in back in a locked yard.  Bare bones and sits across from the stored RVs.  It was run by a very nice gentleman that appeared to be in his 90s. To be fair it was middle of summer and well over 100 degrees!  Not much to do over here so we were glad to be on our way bright and early!
#7, $25.  W/E

Ontario, CA
Elks Lodge
#7, $25.  More parking lot style, but nice, clean and quiet.
We planned these stops to get us down to San Diego where we'll be spending an extended amoutt of time.  Almost all are an hour apart.  This lodge is also known for food.  Plus we have friends in the area.  Hurley needed his Rabies shot and there was a vet right around the corner.  No problem.  In and out in 5 minutes!  
After his shot we took him to a nice dog park down the street.  Again, with temps over 100 we didn't have much outdoor time.  Also the pavement doesn't cool down much overnight either.  He had the park to himself.  Lots of fun obstacle courses but it was so hot he preferred to sniff around and lounge in the water.

Meneffee, CA
Thousand Trails
#97, W/30amp.
This park is quite large and is known for the canals that run all through it.  Almost all sites back up to them.  Lots of ducks and geese.  Once again, the heat was insane!  With only 30amp it is impossible for our 2 A/Cs to keep up.  Not only did we keep all blinds closed I hung small fleece blankets over the windows on the sunny side.  It was barely tolerable!  We had planned to be here 4 days.  We did small drives and made appointments to swim in the pool at 6p.  Not much out here otherwise to do.  We thought we were being clever parking under one of the few treed spots that were open.  The shade was great, but these large Bay Trees dropped sticky sap/blossom balls all over the roof, awning and slide toppers.  What a mess!  We won't park under Bay Trees again.

Idyllwild, CA
Thousand Trails

This is a very popular touristy town.  People from the hot valley come up here to escape the heat. There are many vacation homes.  We're here for 2 wonderful weeks.
#622 then #232 (below)
We moved because the Verizon was MUCH better in 232.  There are not many large sites here.  Again, I chose to take the hit for our membership fee on last years budget.  So any TT parks we stay at in 2020 up until October are free stays for us!  We're here for the week to hike and kayak. 
Ahhhhh.  Back up in the mountains!  So much prettier and cooler in the pines.  70s in the day!
Only Steve went swimming here as it was too cold for me! I went hiking with Hurley instead.
There are 3 ways to get up here.  One we drove up from Hemet.  The other two we took drives to so we could check out the access and play around.  We geocached, hiked and drove over plenty of fun dirt roads to explore.
This day we are headed up for a hike to a lookout tower that is still in use.


We had a great hike, enjoyed our lunch with the views and talking to the two Rangers who were keeping an eye out for fires.


On the way out as we were catching up to this other group of hikers we were wondering what the heck kind of backpacks they had on.  They looked like turtles. As we got closer we could see they were pads.  Bouldering and rock climbing are popular out here.  

There are many shorter hikes all around but they are overrun with people.  Not that I don't like people.  But I like to hike in peace.  It was not easy to park either.  You had to have a permit to park at the small trailheads so we chose less popular trails.  Ernie Maxwell was only a little busy when we hiked it. 
It's a nice 5 mile trail with a 1000 feet of gain.  It was surprisingly warm up here and Hurley was pooped.  Thankfully he found a few streams to cool off in.


Great view of Suicide Rock.  We're heading that way!
Getting closer! 
Unfortunately we didn't do any kayaking because all the lakes are No-Contact.  Bummer.
We loved all the hikes and drives we took and enjoyed the cute town.  But we are looking forward to time in San Diego!