"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

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Favorite Campgrounds of 2019 & 2020 Plans

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.

Here are our favorite camping spots of 2019 (in no particular order):

1. King Rd, Kofa Mountains NWR, AZ  
The nice thing about this boondocking site is that it is in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge bordering the BLM.  You can go back about 1 1/2 miles and still get super fast, 5 bars of Verizon LTE.  It's free to camp here but there are no facilities.  It is fairly close to the border inspection. station.  I like it better than the LaPosa South area of Quartzsite because it is so quiet and much prettier as it sits at the base of the Kofa's.  Plenty to do.  You're fairly close to Quartzsite, Yuma, Palm Canyon, the Yuma Proving Grounds, old mining towns, etc.  We always spend time in Q with friends, but this is a nice spot to be in for a week for the peace and quiet.
                              Great place for some unwinding after the crazy holidays.
2. 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!

3. Lone Rock, NV
$14 no hookups but there are some outhouses and a dump/water station. This National Rec Area has some great boondocking down on the beach with a great view of Lone Rock in Lake Powell on the Utah side. Hardpack sand, with kayaking, great views and much to do in the Page, AZ area. 
           As beautiful as it is, it's not so fun when the wind kicks up! Think "sandblast".

4. Goblin Valley, UT 
If you drive around the mesa from the State Park there is some unbelievable free boondocking!  You do have to drive back a ways on a long bumpy dirt road, but WOW!  Just a few miles from this boondocking spot is the amazing Little Horse Slot Canyon hike. Read about it on my blogpost.  You can pay a day fee and still visit the amazing park itself or camp inside the park. Absolutely no cell reception here.
  Incredible scenery and privacy.  Our group found our own slot/cave behind the trailers where we had our campfires. Slot hike is on the above right.

5. Green River BLM, Daniel, WY  
This free BLM boondocking spot is right off the highway down a decent dirt road.  There are at least 12 separate drives that lead down to the river.  Some, including the one we chose, require driving down a fairly steep dirt/rock road.  Our 4x4 truck pulled us up/down with a little effort.  I can't imagine how gorgeous this would be if there wasn't still ice on the river and the grass and bushes were lush and green.
                  Such beautiful views, right on the river and fishing with no one around!

6. Rocky Point Rec Area, Belle Fourche, SD
$22 for water/electric right on the lake with very private sites.  So much to do in the area including kayaking, fishing, day trips to the town of Spearfish and the Loop Drive to Deadwood.   
                                                  Long, well spaced sites right on the lake.

7. Carbella Rec Area, Gardiner, MT   
This is free BLM boondocking just outside of Gardiner and right on the Yellowstone River.  It's right off the main road and down a dirt road with large rocks.  Just go slow and you'll be fine.  Great fishing with nearby off roading and within minutes to town and the Roosevelt Gate into Yellowstone National Park.
              Our spot on the river.                    Great evenings!             That's our spot down on the river.

8. Clarks Canyon BLM, Dillon, MT    
Another BLM winner!  This developed campground had bathrooms but no utilities.  It is FREE though.  Across the lake is a campground with water/electric and dump for $5.  Nice spots with gazebos right on the lake.  Fantastic fishing on the lake and the river.  Great 4wheeling too.  The town of Dillon has a nice historic downtown with dining and breweries.  The ghost town of Bannack is nearby as well as a drive to Lemhi Pass for gorgeous scenery and the headwaters of the Mighty Missouri River.
         Lots of room between sites.                 Great fishing!               River fishing & 4wheeling too.

9.  Hope Valley NF, Hope Valley CA   
This is a free boondocking area along Highways 88/89 in Hope Valley outside of South Lake Tahoe.  This is one of the most gorgeous areas.  So much hiking in the Sierra Nevada, many lakes to fish and kayak, near Lake Tahoe and you now get 5 bars of very fast Verizon LTE thanks to a new, nearby cell tower.  There is only a central outhouse but you can get water at nearby campgrounds.  There is light, distant highway noise during the day.  It's one of our favorites and we always camp here when we can.  There are limited areas and it gets busy on holidays.
                So much hiking, kayaking and fishing all around.  20 minute to Lake Tahoe.

10. Carson City Regional Park, Carson City, NV   
A county run park in the forest.  It is much cooler than across the lake at Washoe State Park but there are no electric sites here.  Just water and dump.  $25 a night.  Plenty of hiking and much to do in nearby Carson City. Limited cell.
           Cooler spots under the pines with a nice view from our spot overlooking Lake Washoe.

11. Elks Lodge, Gilroy, CA 
This is one of our favorite Elks Lodges so far.  Far from any busy road and very quiet.  On the golf course with lots of spacing between rigs.  Water & Electric $25.  Mt. Madonna State Park nearby.
Not too far from the Southern Bay Area or the coast and close to hiking.

12. Silver Springs SP, Silver Springs, NV
$5 for a State Park!  Central water and garbage, no electric.  Many spots right on the lake.  This was a nice quiet place in October.  It was going to be just a stop over but we ended up staying 4 nights.
                   We enjoyed the downtime and walking along the sandy beach.  Lots of birding. 

Honorable Mention:
-Elks Lodge, Boulder City, NV: Small park, very campground-like.  Clean, quiet, great location.
-Elks Lodge, Merced, CA: A few miles west of Hwy 99 makes this cute, small campground very quiet.  Train is quite a distance away and muffled.  Nicely landscaped, spaced, clean and long sites.

For those that might be interested, here's a breakdown of the places we stayed, and the costs:
StaysNightsTotalAVG (per night cost)
Private Parks939$1276.00$33.00
State Parks731  $684.00$22.00
State Rec Area14    $88.00$22.00
National Park519  $382.00$20.11    
COE5  $100.00$20.00
Thousand Trails*426  $470.00$18.01
National Rec Area13    $42.00$14.00
County Park611  $135.00$12.28
National Forest317  $192.00 $11.30
BLM622  $104.00$4.73
* We bought a Thousand Trails membership for $470/yr in September. For my purposes I chose to divide the number of nights we actually stayed at TT parks in 2019 into the membership fee to get my "price per night".  The rest of 2020 will show as $0 per night through the remainder of the membership until it ends on September 30, 2020. 
** Boondocking for us is anywhere we stay for free which is not an organized campground.  It includes time at family and friends. Also one night each at a Burger King and a Gas Station/Truck Stop. 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.

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      

What was different?
We boondocked less and stayed at more Elks Lodges due to our sons wedding in California.
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 bought the Thousand Trails Membership as we are "back home" for 6 weeks.

Plans for 2020:
We will spend January and February in Arizona as usual, but we'll be heading back to Monterey, CA in March for the birth of our first grandchild!!  We also have another son's wedding in May and a close friends wedding in June. Because of this we decided to stay mostly in CA to visit our grandson several times, spend more time with my parents and get our money's worth out of our Thousand Trails membership.  We'll be staying at the other 14 of 16 TT parks in CA to check them out.  Camping in California is very expensive so besides TT I have chosen all the Elks Lodges that have camping along the coast and we will stay at those as well since they are usually only $25 - $35.  Much better than the almost impossible to get into CA State Parks that are well over $50.  This will make up the majority of our camping.  We will sneak away to our favorite CA & AZ boondocking spots but I doubt we'll get much boondocking in this year :-(   It will be interesting to see how this affects our camping fee totals.  We will get back to Arizona for Sep/Oct before returning once again to CA for the holidays.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Boondocking in our Happy Place - Hope Valley, CA

Hope Valley, CA
National Forest - Boondocking

Back in the forest at our favorite place to decompress before the busy times before the wedding.  We had a special visitor to greet us.
Someone left a pumpkin carved face on a gall on a stick.  We named our new mascot, Wilson.
We love this spot off of Hwy 88 in Hope Valley.  So peaceful on the edge of a meadow under the pines with rivers and lakes nearby.  And LOTS of hiking! Great cell signal makes this a treasure.  We'll be staying 10 days.  With an elevation around 7000 feet, it stays fairly cool here even in summer.
We would've preferred a spot that gets some shade but didn't want to crowd the folks parked nearby.
Our view out front.  We called my parents and asked them to join us up here for the day.  We haven't seen them since January (it's August 2019 at the time of this post).  We put on the large shade screen on the awning which attaches easily and visited on the "Front Porch" for a bit then drove over to the Kirkwood Inn for some lunch.
This place was built in 1862.  Still original.  Great ambiance, food and drinks!

My Dad and Mom.
At the other end of the dirt road where we're camped at we spotted this patriotic trailer. 
The rivers around here are beautiful and full of trout.  Today we drove off road to find a more secluded lake to kayak on.  Blue Lakes are getting way too popular.
Ahh.  Perfect.  We had to portage down a hillside, but Tamarack Lake was our prize.  Almost no one out here.
Hurley loved him some splash and fetch time.

 A family of Merganser's floated past us. 

We paddled all around the lake and found a nice little spot to pull out for lunch.  We came upon some great spots to hike down from the road and pitch a tent.
Look at the little tree growing out of this old sump.  Life always finds a way.
Even though its August, there is still snow in these mountains.

While we were getting ready to pull the kayak out we found a geocache very close by.  Steve found it in the hollow of a big pine.

What a great day we had on the lake.  We'll definitely come back to this lake.  I'd love to get our rig down here but it's a long way in and the road is a bit iffy.

Back home we had a nice dinner and campfire.  You can see Wilson in the background on the railing.  It's very dry out here and we were surprised to find out we were still allowed fires.

The next day we drove another dirt road that we have hidden previous geocaches on.  We wanted to check them out and search out an old mining camp we haven't been to.  It's still mostly intact although much of the roof is falling down.
Some interesting graffiti.
This tree has grown so big it is pushing into the old cabin.  We walked around and looked for old glass, miner supplies and odds and ends laying around.  Much history up here.

Another day after Steve finished work we took a hike around Burnside Lake.  Another pretty little alpine lake that we'd like to kayak on another time.  Great spots to boondock along the lake but you couldn't bring a big rig up here.
The south side of the lake where Hot Springs Creek runs out of the lake.
Very pretty.  While we were looking for a geocache hidden near the lake we came upon a campsite that had a trail of clothes leading from the tent laid out on rocks and fallen trees for about a 1/4 of a mile.  This is a fairly remote area. Not just a few items.  Many.  And purposely laid out.  Since the camp looked used and had some newer items, neatly kempt, we reported it to the ranger.  They would check it.  Later in the week we went back but everything was cleared out.  Never found out what the deal was.
A curious deer checking out a campsite.
Back at camp we had a nice fire with our neighbors.  Rob and Kathleen are from Ione not too far from Placerville.  We all enjoyed a spectacular sunset.

The next morning I enjoyed my coffee al fresco in my 1980s Apple coffee mug.  It's my favorite.
We spent most of our evenings walking Hurley through the meadow to the West Fork of the Carson River where he can play in the water.
It's nice to walk through the wildflowers and look at the snow covered peaks all around us.

A quick moving storm blew through and made for another gorgeous sunset.

While we talked by the fire we reminisced about our beloved Coleman Popup that we camped in with the kids for 17 years.  The above picture was taken the only time we took it out without the kids once they were all off to college.   It was so sad being in it without the kids.  We never took it out again and later sold it to go fulltime.  Sure have a lot of good memories in that popup though.

Our last few days some of our Placerville friends, Jim & Jenny joined us.  That's there nice Grand Design behind us.
Their son, Brandon playing with granddaughter Marley.
Jim, Steve and Brandon.
Hurley isn't the only one that loves playing in the river.
Me and Jenny.
Jenny with the other granddaughter, Izzy.
The guys playing Corn Hole.
Our last campfire with friends and Brandon had some Campfire Magic to add some color.
A couple more days to ourselves and then we head to Placerville.
Hurley wanted me to share this joke with you all before I go.