Tag: camping

destination: south carlsbad state beach 

Camping, lifestyle, Outdoors, parenting, travel October 14, 2015

This state park is 1.5 hours south of LA and 30 minutes north of San Diego. It is busy, and reservations must be made well in advance of your visit. We reserved our spot in May for this October visit. You want a spot overlooking the beach and not one of the spots sandwiched between the other campers and the road.  But once you have carefully studied the campground map, looked at campsitephotos.com (that’s what I do anyway), and made your reservation (around $40 a night), here’s what you can expect. 

These spots are pretty tight and some have trees/shrubs separating them from the others, some not so much. We had 163 near the end of the park. It faced the road on one side (rather than other campers) and the beach on the other. Next time I’ll book earlier and get one with shrubs on both sides, probably the one right in between the bathroom and the path down to the beach in the 160s. 

Our neighbors were a very large crowd of many families. People stuffing as many of themselves and their stuff into one spot seemed to be pretty common.  The good news about this is that with the sound of the ocean, you actually don’t hear too much from your neighbors unless they are very close by.   I am an extremely light sleeper, and I faired just fine and better in this busy campground thanks to the endless crashing of the waves. Get a nice awning with a side wall, and you can pretend you are alone on the bluff with the Pacific Ocean.  

These spots are perched high above the beach, and it is truly a lovely the view marred only by a utilitarian chain link fence. Perhaps California can spring for something more attractive someday.  The sites each had a picnic table and fire ring. We spent three days and two nights and will be returning.    

 The walk down to the beach was 5 minutes for us. Once there, the crowds were minimal.  The water was perfect for the heatwave.  My skin is still tingling with the memory and my mind’s eye occupied with my boys’ faces as they played in the waves. 

There were restrooms that were cleanish, most lacking hand soap so bring your own. The showers required quarters so we skipped them. The laundry facility has three small machines which we eagerly out to use. There were periodic spigots for rinsing off sand. There was a little camp store with the expected t shirts and souvenirs, but also and more importantly they had ice. 

A final perk is the accessibility to Carlsbad. There are many restaurants very nearby if you are tired of camp cooking. We checked out Pizza Port on the recommendation of my sister. The place was massive with rows of shared picnic tables and semi frenzied guests acting a little lord of the flies-ish in acquiring spots. Many families, much stimulation, and children everywhere. The good news about that was that no one cared when my travel weary children forgot their table manners. My 1 year old actually was involved in a minor baby brawl (he lost) with a larger baby wearing only pajama bottoms. 

 

road trip: 966 miles and back again 

Camping, Gear, lifestyle, Outdoors, parenting, travel October 14, 2015

  

Does the U.S. love road trips?  Yes it does! Our country is large. Our terrain and culture is varied. Our parks are many. We love automobiles. And it is the ultimate in democratic travel. Everyone with a road worthy vehicle can partake. Gas is currently way more affordable than plane tickets for a family of four. And I like to think that some of the mythological American still exists. The rugged individualism, the ‘go west and find prosperity and adventure’ the fierce independence of what we thought we once were. But I digress.

Trailer packed. Roof top tent mounted on trailer. Futon in Subaru. Our two-bedroom-road-trip-camparu was ready. Both kids had runny noses, one had a cough. Just under 1,000 miles of road, most of it the long dry desolate desert of Arizona lay ahead of us. We would be enjoying many climates, from cold mountain air, to desert heat, to sandy beach humidity. And we set off on the adventure. 

Things I have learned since leaving three days ago:

1.  Yes. It is a long haul with small children. 

2.  Yes. It is worth it. 

3.  KOA campsites are your friend.  They are everywhere. (Middle of nowhere, middle of city). They are easy to access from the highway. They are cheap. They are quiet. They have bathrooms and playgrounds. 

4.  Do not try to make good time on such a road trip. Plan for many stops and long stays so the kids enjoy themselves and don’t make you pay from their car seats. 

5.  Whatever your set up, if you decide the next campground you see is the one you want to sleep at, and your kids are asleep in their car seats- you will want to be able to set up beds quickly.  Lightning fast.  Our first night, we stopped driving around 9:30.  By 9:45, both boys were asleep in their respective beds and J and I were enjoying a beer under the starry desert night of AZ.  (This involved futon in the Outback and a roof top tent on a trailer). An airstream would be easier. But we can’t tow one with our 4 cylinder outback and we can’t afford one/ don’t have time to renovate one we can afford. 

5.  Absolutely indespensable items:

  • A good attitude and flexibility. 
  • Organizational skills. Do not bring anything that you can’t keep organized. Three camp meals a day with two little ones, and getting everyone dressed will make you crazy unless you run a tight ship. (Or it does me). 

6. Things I didn’t think I really needed until I used them on this trip:

  • An awning.  We have th REI Alcove and it is great. Shade is obviously important.  The optional side wall gave us privacy in the crowded campground. We backed the car right up to it, shading the car and providing a living room of sorts for the car bed.  I stretched the sidewall over our car windows at night for added privacy.    
  • Our berkey go water filter. We can fill our plastic 3 gallon water can up at any campground faucet and have plenty of  clean and safe water to drink. Keeping hydrated is so important, this keeps the cost and waste down of endless plastic water bottles 
  • The out sunny aluminum folding table. (Pictured above) It is tiny, and it is a tad shaky at times, but we ate every meal there.  It’s big enough for my 6’1″ husband and small enough for our one year old.  It folds in a flash and is lightweight. We actually never even brought our camp chairs out.
  • A fan.  Yes we froze in the high desert at night, but once we reached the coast, California was in the middle of a heatwave. A car at night can get stuffy under the best of circumstances. Our little fan powered by an incredible 8 D batteries kept the air moving just enough to make the paltry breeze moving through the two  open windows feel good. 

All in all the trip has been wonderful. We are already planning another even longer trip next summer. The kids are absolute troopers and watching them experience the ocean for the first time has been amazing. We our leaving our beach campsite and heading to the city next.  The world is wide and time is short. I’m so pleased to be able to introduce the joys of travel to these boys and not have to wait until we can afford it. 

destination: heron lake, nm

Camping, travel August 4, 2015

The plans were finalized and the great reunion of 2015 was underway.  10 adults and 7 children were to relive memories from the 80s and 90s by descending on Heron Lake en masse and with a new generation in tow. We reserved two campsites ahead of time (each allowing for two vehicles according to the website), and made plans to meet up. 

When we went way back when, there were no online reservations of course, no reservations at all. We had a go-to spot and met up there for good old fashioned primitive camping sans outhouses, picnic tables, and trash cans. Alas times have changed and so have the preferences of our group. My protests were overruled and we elected to remain at our civilized reserved sites instead of the wild shoreline I had sniffed out at the far end of the lake. (Pictured above)

(For those whose tastes align with mine:  follow the road until you cross the river, wind back around to the lake and take the last park marked right. This will take you on a pretty rough road through some nice tree’d camping spots in the hills above the lake and finally down to a wide open shoreline with plenty of room for primitive camping.  Be forewarned that the receding water line has given way to scratchy weeds that have taken root where the water used to be.)

For those who prefer modern amenities such as tables, grills, and outhouses, the reserved spots of ‘brushy point’ and ‘island view’offer all that plus tidy parking spaces and some potential views.   The sites are in the piñon trees, offer some privacy, and are about a ten minute walk to the shore.  

 

The lake is low. So much lower than before thanks to drought and a thirsty Albuquerque.  However, the area is as beautiful as ever and the drive is stunning.  A ways after  the reserved spots, there are some easily accessible primitive shore spots that we may try next time. There will always be a next time for Heron Lake. 

the best boat is the one that is with you 

lifestyle, travel June 28, 2015

We woke up this morning, and after a leisurely breakfast, decided that we wanted to take the boys fishing. We have a baby and a toddler, which means that just getting to the grocery store can be challenging.  After everyone is dressed, fed, brushed, changed, and packed, it is almost time for another nap or meal.   The pull of the couch can be powerful for even those who aren’t responsible for tiny dictators with lots of accessories. So anything you can do to streamline and simplify getting out the door to go out of doors is invaluable.  I grew up paddling around mountain lakes on windsurfing boards, and the desire to get out on the water has been nagging at me all summer. We decided on the Advanced Elements Packlite Inflatable Kayak to get our family on the water.  We wanted something easy, something that could fit atleast one adult and one child, and something that we wouldn’t have to sell one of the kids for.  (Like an Alpackaraft , which I would love to have) This is kind of a tall order, but this boat is perfect. In fact, I think that I am now a fervent believer in pack rafts in general.  

We drove up to the lake, grilled up some hotdogs and inflated the boat with the foot pump advanced elements sells for it. (Just a couple of minutes). We could actually carry the baby and all of our picnic items, as well as the boat and life jackets in one trip.   That is four hands.  On the way home we discussed just packing up a backpack with the boat, fishing stuff, a couple of chairs, picnic blanket etc. and leaving it in the car for impromptu day trips. 

We wanted to avoid the crowds at the dock, so it was a bit of a walk to reach the shore. But it was no problem with this boat. My husband and I took turns paddling around with our elated toddler. So fun. The mountains, the water, the swans and ducks, the strain in your arms, the sound of the paddle dipping into the lack, the joy of an almost three year old. It would be no problem to load up two boats with a few picnic items and take small trips. (I believe our time to be more limited by the small passengers more than the boat).   So that’s that. I considered numerous water craft options (fantasized about portages in a gorgeous wooden canoe, looked into SUPs to relive my childhood, love the Orukayak but couldn’t afford it). This  wound up being the most affordable and it turns amount, most convenient way to get out there.  Not only do we not need to heave the thing onto our car, but we can fit it in my diaper bag. Apparently these boats are also serviceable on a mellow river run.   We may even go again tomorrow. And as I said, I want another. Yesterday.  Happy paddling and find a mountain lake and packraft as soon as you can.  

Update:  I love this boat. Took it on another day trip to Cabresto Lake- 4 miles up a steep switchback, was glad to not have anything on our roof. Once again, the shoreline wasn’t close to our car, so we hiked a ways to a nice private spot and paddled away. We will hit up every lake in the southern Rockies until the snow falls.  

 

destination Ojo Caliente

travel May 9, 2015

I have been to the hot springs at Ojo Caliente (not far from Santa Fe, New Mexico) many times. They have changed much over the years but the different pools with different temperatures and minerals are lovely as always. When I was a child, the place consisted of some funky buildings and a series of pools separated by rock walls. People bathed nude together, man woman and child. The atmosphere was laid back and anything but pretentious. Since then it has burned down, been purchased and remodeled. It is landscaped, there are casitas and a restaurant and a yoga yurt and a gift shop. Though the old northern New Mexico funkiness is gone, the charm lent by the beauty of the surroundings and the essence of the soothing waters remains. The complex is nestled in a valley with cottonwoods and sandy bluffs overhead. There is hiking to be done here as well.

Camping is our preferred method of travel due to financial issues and a family love of the the out of doors, so I was excited to find campsites listed under accommodations on Ojo Caliente’s website. I pictured some cottonwood lined nook, perhaps a creek nearby. A day at the resort swimming and soaking sounded perfect, perhaps I could sneak a massage or a yoga class for Mother’s Day. The prices have gone up, but we decided to spring for a special treat.

At $40 a campsite, I figured the sites would be pretty nice. Our friends were going to meet us and the sites are supposed to accommodate two tents, so that took a little sting out of the cost. When we showed up with the boys in the evening, exhausted and ready to set up camp and go to bed, we found that it is very much an RV park. In fact, the “tent sites” are basically a parking lot with trees. We were tellingly, the only tent campers. And the sites are small. They won’t accommodate two cars and certainly not two tents.

Neighbors are very close by. I spent a good portion of the night in my tent not sleeping to the sounds of car doors and watching the shadows of people move across my tent as their bright lights illuminated my sleeping family. A car horn as they locked their car. Nice touch. Somebody appeared to have been watching TV or listening to the radio. Too close for my comfort. Again, the price.

Additionally, the ground is compacted and it was very difficult to drive stakes in, and difficult to pull them back out. I am now shopping for new tent stakes as mantid ours are now bent.

I have nothing against RV parks, I just choose not to stay in them because, you know, I don’t have an RV. So I think a little honesty on the part of Ojo Caliente as to what this ‘tent site’ actually is, would have been appreciated. $40 for a parking spot. This is all a shame, because the area really is stunning and there could be beautiful campsites if the resort had chosen quality over quantity.

On the upside, the sites have electricity and water. But we camp assuming these things are not available anyway. There is a bathroom available that I did not visit and pretty clean porta potties. Each site also has a nice picnic table.

In the mid May morning of our visit, the temperature was just below 40 degrees and we got a little rain during the night. We were up early before the rest of the lot, so our breakfast and coffee was pleasantly quiet. Just birds and the occasional breeze in the trees overhead. New Mexico after ang moisture is always lovely, and thus was no exception. However, once I was in the tent while the little one took his morning nap, the hubbub of sliding doors and the like could be heard amongst the quiet morning voices of my neighbors.

In the end, we got hailed out of our site and left. By then it was freezing outside and I was irritated that the $32 entrance to the pools didn’t get you more than an unreasonably small towel and that a stay at the RV park didn’t get you a discount to the pools. The place is not as I remembered it and the bottom line seems to have edged out concerns for guests’ overall experience. It is less original than it used to be, and is more like a resort you may expect to find anywhere. The staff though, was friendly and helpful. It is definitely worth a day trip, and rent one of the houses available if money is no object. I would stay away from the campsites though, unless you are an RV owner or don’t mind camping in a parking lot. The picture below is the camp site at its best, green with the moisture and the neighbors carefully cropped out of view of the empty spot.

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