Tag Archives: campground

Camping in Morro Bay State Park

IMG_8973On the weekend before Thanksgiving Katie and I headed up north to Morro Bay State Park with Punky and Frankie for a short weekend of camping fun. We arrived late at night and the campground was completely full. We quickly lit a fire and the proceeded to set up our tent and sleeping spot as the girls patiently waited in the car, or not patiently as pinky wouldn’t stop whining.

Once we were set up the girls came out for bathroom break and then we all huddled by the small fire to try to warm up. Within 30 minutes I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye and Frankie started growling towards another campsite. That was our first encounter with the coyotes. We decided the girls would be safer in the car and within another 10 minutes the ranger drove through the park following another coyote through the campground. We decided to call it a night soon afterwards and all climbed into the tent. It was very cold so we huddled together for warmth with Frankie under the covers in the middle and Punky under them on the side.

When we awoke we clambered out into the crisp air to a whole new world around us. Everyone was up making breakfast so we slowly started our day. I made the fire while Katie walked the girls. Once again our wood was not the best, but we managed to heat up our burritos and some hot chocolate. The girls settled in their crate as the morning slowly wasted away.

Once most of the other campers had left we took Punky and tethered her to our table and then I played a little with Frankie as she at her breakfast. Eventually we decided to go on a hike within the campground called Black Hill Trail which took a couple hours and then we were back at our campsite relaxing again.

With the time change and the shorter days it got pretty late without us even noticing it. By 5pm we were already starting dinner and dessert, chicken sausages and banana boats. We started dinner so early we even had time for second dessert, s’mores with real graham crackers from Trader Joe’s.

As we sat by the fire and the night air grew colder Katie put Punky in the crate again and wrapped her up like a little burrito in her favorite fluffy blanket. Another two coyotes came around, but this time Punky was the only one to let us know as Frankie was huddled under my sweatshirt sleeping. We burned as much wood as we could, our fire hot with white flames and so large it encompassed the entire pit. Staying warm was the only thing we thought of.

We headed to sleep and this night the girls were a little less cuddly. Katie and I thought it was colder the second night than the first, but the girls must have adapted to the cold quickly since they chose not to sleep under the covers that night.

The following morning we were up earlier. We made breakfast, packed up our supplies, and said goodbye to Morro Bay State Park. It’s definitely a nice place to stay. You are within walking distance from a dock where you can rent kayaks, a little cafe called Bayside Cafe, a nice hike, and a golf course. Put it on your bucket list if you are into just relaxing camping trips.

Camping at Big Sur State Park

IMG_8973Last weekend Katie and I headed to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park for a weekend of camping. We had heard early in the week there was a chance of rain on Monday, the  final day we planned to be there. As the weekend drew near and it got closer for us to pack up and leave the report had showed more and more possibilities of it being a sun filled weekend. We were excited and ready to explore Big Sur as much as we could in the short time we would be there.

We headed up to Big Sur late Saturday afternoon with our camping gear knowing there was still a chance of rain but hoping the weather would hold out for us. We drove down the 101, the sunsetting just as we reached Avila Beach. Then we crossed over to route 1 which we winded our way up the coast. It had gotten dark and with a cliff and ocean to one side and a mountain to the other we slowly drove until we finally reached where the GPS said the campground would be. Not seeing it, but knowing it was nearby we continued on stopping at the Big Sur Station to call Katie’s parents and ask if they knew where it was. Another 1/2 mile down the road we pulled into the campground glad we found it and feeling that it was still early enough in the night to get everything ready and have a massive campfire.

We drove slowly through the now pitch black campground with only our truck headlights leading the way. We headed over the bridge and then down a one way street stopping at each sign we saw, inching our way closer to our site #180.  We finally got there and Katie backed the truck into its spot. We scanned the site for a perfect tent location and moved the small rocks away. We set down our tarp and I put up our tent while Katie pulled out our gear and firewood.

Then, while Katie set up the air mattress I started the fire. With in a few minutes it was lit and I was just coaxing it to catch onto the bigger, denser, and still somewhat wet wood. Once it was a decent size we ate our sausages and then made banana boats before calling it a night to sleep on our what we realized now was a partially deflated air mattress. Somewhere along the way our mattress got a hole in it. First thing on our last for the next day, get a new one.

We woke up the next morning on the hard Big Sur dirt floor. I got up and started a fire without using any matches, just the hot smoldering dense log we had left to die the night before and what I now realize are the best things ever, a few pieces of Starbuck’s coffee cup holders. My fire lit faster than it had the previous night and we heated up our breakfast burritos while we ate oat bars and apples.

We let the fire die down and got ready for the day. We headed to REI and the Target about an hour away and then went for a hike at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. We came back to the campsite after dark again, this time due to the time change. I started our fire back up again without using any matches, it was still warm from earlier that morning a few hour ago.

We cooked our sausages and then had s’mores that night. Afterward we sat by the campfire talking for a while until we felt like having a second round of sausages and s’mores. We continued talking as we looked at the stars above us. It was crazy how bright the stars are when there is no other light washing them away. We sat watching the fire burn late into the night until we finally decided it was time for bed.

Early in the morning I awoke to rain drops on the tent. Too early for me to want to get up I reached outside to make sure our shoes were under the flap and tried to fall back asleep. A few minutes later I was awoken by an even more intense rain and I knew that it would be too difficult for me to sleep in any longer. I laid there wondering if the tent really was waterproof, so far so good, but it had just started to get heavy. When I couldn’t stand laying there doing nothing any longer I made my way out to the car to get my rain gear and then headed to the bathroom. I got back to the tent and tried to sleep some more. It was too noisy for me though and that’s when I realized that I forgot to bring my book into the tent from the car.

I laid there looking up and noticed a bug that looked like some kind of beetle. Compelled to move it off our tent I flicked at it and it grew to double it’s size with 8 creepy legs catching back onto the tent as it fell. From that moment on I was the defender of the front of the tent. I told the spider it could coexist with us as long as it stayed on the back half of the tent and didn’t attempt to block my exit. I thought we had an agreement until I made it’s move toward the front. I flicked at it and it scurried back. I laid there watching it’s every move. Allowing it to climb all over the back of the tent but not allowing it to adventure onto the front. Katie got up to use the restroom and eventually I could take it no longer. I told the spider that it was time to go and gave it one flick sending it to the floor below.  It tried to scurry it’s way back up the tent once more but by now I had made up my mind. It had broken the rules and it was time for it to go. One last flick and it was gone.

We climbed out of the tent and started to pack up our things. Even though it was raining we wanted to heat up our breakfast burritos so I tried to make a fire. It took us about an hour or so to get it started, but eventually with a little help from some dry cardboard, lighter fluid, wet wood, matches, an umbrella, and some charcoal the neighbors left the other day we did it. It lasted just long enough to heat our food up and then we let it die as the rain fell upon it. Any wood we had left was too wet to continue it, so wet that the few pieces we put on it hardly were able to dry enough to burn with any vibrance.

We packed up our gear within an hour, finishing at 12:05pm just after our set check-out time and just as the rain stopped. We ran to the bathroom, threw out our trash and stopped at the Big Sur Lodge to get myself a magnet and some postcards before heading north toward Carmel to start our day.

Camping at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park was so much fun and definitely somewhere everyone should camp at least once. Next time I go I hope to be able to check out some of their trails, many of which were closed while we were there. Maybe we can even try some fishing.

Camping at Avila Hot Springs

IMG_8973Katie and I went to the Avila Hot Springs in San Luis Obispo, CA for a weekend of fun, exploration, and relaxation. Discovered in 1907 by oil drillers, the Budan family established these springs as a popular natural artesian mineral hot spring oasis. Today they offer RV campsites, cabins for rent, and what Katie and I chose, tent campsites.

We arrived at Avila Hot Springs as the sun was setting on a Saturday evening and pulled up to the admissions office. Katie headed inside to find out where our campsite was and soon we were unloading the truck and setting up our tent in nothing but flashlight, nearby campfire, and moon light. After our tent was set up and the firewood we would need for that night unloaded we moved the truck down to the parking area below.

We set the wood into the pit and made our first attempt at our fire. It was turning out to be a big flop. Our free wood was too dense to catch fire once we had a spark or small flame growing on the newspaper. We struggled time and time again with no success. Luckily our neighbors saw that we were having problems and offered us some lighter fluid. It was enough to get our fire and dense wood finally lit long and hot enough to continue for the rest of the night. We spent the rest of the evening by the fire making a few S’mores and staying warm until we figured it was time to go to sleep.

The next morning we made breakfast over a new fire made with more lighter fluid, egg and cheese burritos and hot chocolate. Most people were heading out that day and someone offered us some firewood since we were staying for another evening. Then we got to explore the campground. They have a massage room, hot mineral soaking pool, freshwater pool with two watersides, bikes for rent and even a small cafe. Katie was excited for their 20’x20′ therapeutic hot mineral soaking pool. At 104 degrees it is constantly being replenished with water from the natural artesian well beneath Avila Hot Springs. She could barely wait to get in, but held out until evening when the temperatures dropped and the water would feel the warmest.

We headed out to the town and explored a few areas. As it got later we headed back the the campground for dinner. We were determined to try to start the fire this time without lighter fluid this time, or at least I was. We lit the fire with our new wood and it was so much easier. We made our dinner, chicken apple sausages and banana boats for dessert and they were delicious. There’s no better way to cook a meal than over a campfire.

With our fire slowly dying we decided to go for a soak in the mineral pool and a swim in the freshwater pool. The mineral pool was so hot we quickly needed to cool down in the freshwater pool, but both pools were so nice and refreshing. One to relax your muscles and the other to cool you down. We stayed until the pools closed and then headed back to our campsite. A little poking and prodding and our fire reignited, ready to warm us up and cook a few more s’mores. The night was much colder than the previous one so we retired to our tent pretty late using it as long as possible to keep warm.

The following morning we made one last fire, cooked and ate our breakfast, and packed up our belongings. As we pulled away from the campground I couldn’t wait to come back. It’s definitely a place for people of all ages to enjoy.

Climbing Jumbo Rocks

IMG_8973Jumbo Rocks is one of nine campgrounds located at Joshua Tree National Park. My friend and I stopped there for a picnic lunch during our visit. We drove around the campground for a bit and eventually found an empty site to rest. The site, like most of them in the park, was right up against some rocks. It would have been so awesome to camp there. Too bad all the sites were full the weekend we wanted to camp. We’re just gonna have to try another weekend.

We ate our lunch while listening to the white-tailed antelope squirrels scuffle in the bushes near by. They weren’t confident enough to come ask for any of our food, which was sad, but also a good thing. It means campers aren’t feeding them and they are still able to find their own meals in the park without relying on the humans. We also watched as some lizards chased each other around the rocks, stopping to bask in the sun.

We finished our lunch and decided to check out the area a bit. We climbed up the nearest rock and could see trails leading around and through the campground. I found a rock with hand and foot holes that could be used to get to the top. I decided to give it a try and then realized how unsafe it was and found another way up to the top instead. We also found some impressions in the rocks and laid down to look at the sky. It was so blue and clear. You could see for miles. What a beautiful day!

We cut our exploring short because we had a couple trails we wanted to check out and as we  drove out of the campground we realized that there were a lot of free sites. So, if you want to camp in Joshua Tree National Park and can’t get there early Friday or  Saturday morning to claim a spot, try Sunday, not on a holiday weekend, and you shouldn’t have a problem.

© Caroline Foley
© Caroline Foley

 

 

Arch Rock of White Tanks

IMG_8971White Tanks was my friend and my first stop inside Joshua Tree National Park. After swinging by the visitor center and seeing a postcard of the amazing arch we just had to see it in person.  Since it wasn’t on our original loop through the park, but was toward the beginning we headed straight for it as soon as we entered.

White Tanks looked very similar to all the other campgrounds, rocks and open spaces with campsites nestled between along the dirt road. The trail was easy to find and we parked nearby. There were a few other people there, but it was easy to experience less people as you went further down the trail.

The Arch Rock Nature Trail is a .5 mile trail that loops around the area with a short path off to the famous Arch Rock. It is suitable for all ages with a few stairs that can be easily climbed by anyone if you plan on  staying on the path. However, standing on the path does not give you the best view of Arch Rock. Going off the path just a little will give you a better view, but not as easy as the trail. So if you are able, take some time to explore the area off the trail.

As you get closer to the rock and higher up the rocks you will notice that Arch Rock resembles two birds kissing. Some say it resembles a brontosaurus too. Take a moment to climb up, sit on the big rock under the arch for a photo opportunity or if you are extremely fit you might be able to hoist yourself up to the top of the arch and get a photo above. It’s a big jump though so short people be warned!

After you check out the rock take some time to explore the area off the trail. The rocks have little fingers that you can walk down, jumping from one slot to another. There are boulders and washes as well. It’s like a big jungle gym back there. As my friend and I explored we found a rock that looked like a huge elephant head, a lizard with a body the size of my foot, and an old dam that must be used to help the rain from washing into the campground. We even took some pictures that look like the rocks are crushing us!

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Getting back onto the trail isn’t the easiest, but if you follow the wash back and do some more climbing and jumping you’ll put yourself on the backside of the arch rock and back onto the trail. The trail then continues to tell you about the minerals in the rocks, the history of the soil lines in the rocks, and how the granite was formed. White Tank Granite is made up of three prominent minerals, quartz, feldspar, and biotite which gives the rocks their color today. You will notice that the rocks have a clear line where the coloration is different. The rusty brown color on the rocks above known as desert varnish has been exposed for over 8 million years. Back then the Mojave Desert was more moist than it is today allowing more vegetation to grow meaning more soil. As the vegetation became less and less the rain has easily washed away the soil exposing the fresher and cleaner rock below.

The Arch Rock Nature Trail loops you back out near the beginning and is a quick stop worth checking out. If not to see the Arch Rock or learn about the granite then to at least explore the area and have fun jumping, climbing, and exploring.

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© Caroline Foley

 

An Oasis in Borrego Palm Canyon

IMG_8707I swung by the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Foundation Store and Visitor’s Center in Borrego Springs and asked about another hike that my little Honda Fit would be able to drive me to. I was told to check out Hellhole Canyon or Borrego Palm Canyon. Since I was by myself I chose the one with more foot traffic just to be on the safe side. I headed over to Borrego Palm Canyon Campground and drove towards the back where the trailhead is. It was around 3:30pm, so I had about 2 hours before dark to make the 3 miles.

I grabbed a pamphlet at the trailhead which marks different plants, rocks, animals, and waters throughout the trek and started my hike following the clearly marked trail. I took note of two signs posted about bob cats and rattle snakes to my left and quickly made my way to the first point. I stopped to read my pamphlet about the cacti at this location, thinking to make sure I stayed clear of any cacti. I don’t need to be pricked by anything along my journey.

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I continued to point 2, 3, 4, and 5 quickly and thought to myself how this hike was going to be very fast if I kept coming upon the points at this rate. I got a false sense of distance and time spent on the trail as the map I had looked at made them all look  relatively similar in distance from each other.

The sun dropped below the mountain tops around me and after point 5, the points seemed to get farther and farther apart from each other. I was a little nervous I would not make it to the oasis in time to make it back before the sunset, but I continued on. I kept a careful eye out knowing that the cooler temperature might bring out snakes.  Little creatures, like lizards had started to scatter across the path in my way. The last thing I wanted was to come across a rattle snake.

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I picked up my pace a bit and continued to the next points. 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. Bees buzzed pasted my head, and more little creatures scattered across my path. My intuition had been right, I came around a bend in the trail and there was a snake. I froze, not sure what to do. I can only imagine that it was as fearful of me as I was of it. It was a dark grey color with a long nose. I didn’t believe it was poisonous, but I had no way to move it off the path. I tossed a stick at it, hoping it would cause it to clear the pathway, but it just stayed where it was. I slowly walked around the backside of it, keeping my distance and made it past without incident. Thinking back to it now, I should have stopped to take a photo of it, but that was the last thing on my mind.

I continued onto point 11. Right before I reached it I could hear the first signs of the oasis being near, running water. I came to where the stream dies out and to my right I could see it, far off in the distance, about a 1/2 mile away, the oasis. A small patch of palm trees peaking over the rocks in the valley of the mountains on each side of me. The excitement ran through my body and I hurried on my journey.

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I came across two elderly couples as I climbed up and down rocks, moving closer and farther from the stream. They said they were the last people that had been up that way, but that they didn’t reach the oasis. I feared there was no one behind me, so I picked up the pace even more, closing the gap between me and the small paradise in the desert. Every bend watching the palm trees grow bigger and bigger.

When I finally reached the paradise there was a small family there getting ready to head back. I observed the small waterfall, palm trees, and beautiful stream. The green lush plants and cool shade made it all worth it. I could have continued another mile or so to a bigger waterfall, but I didn’t have the time. I decided to turn back, quickly catching up to the family that had departed about 5-10 minutes before me.

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On the way back to the trailhead I scanned the mountains for the ever popular and desert animal, bighorn sheep. The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park gets its name from 18th-century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the Spanish word for bighorn sheep. I thought it would be an amazing and nice ending to my trip if I was able to spot one. Unfortunately none were around that day so instead I settled for some beautiful tiny flowers once the trailhead was back in my sights.

I made it back to the trailhead before the sunset, got in my car and headed back to LA. As I drove up over the mountain I watched the sun’s rays stretch across the desert in an amazing board of breath-taking colors. As the last light of the sun left the sky, the stars started to scatter across the sky. I can’t wait to go back and explore more. Maybe spend a night camping under the stars there too.

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