Tales of camping on the coast.
(And the kind of camping we prefer)
We left Berkeley, CA three days ago, on a Saturday afternoon, to drive north up the coast, along routes 1 and 101, to get to Oregon and then Washington.
We decided to not plan this part of our trip too much because we wanted to take our time driving up the coast and we didn't know exactly where we'd be and when we'd be there. To "take our time driving" means to not drive 10 hour days along the most expedient and efficient interstate routes, but to take the more scenic routes, and spread out the driving days a bit and enjoy the scenery along the way. Granted, we only had two days to drive through Northern California so that necessitated driving, and not hiking, through some of the most beautiful terrain I've ever seen.
Unfortunately, taking the scenic route, without reservations, on a weekend, made finding good camp sites tricky.
Ideally, we like to camp in state parks and national forests. These kind of camp sites are often situated in beautiful areas and don't provide the amenities sought by RV'ers or weekend campers (swimming pools, camp stores, and mini-golf). State parks and National Forest campgrounds lack the hot showers and flush toilets of fancier places but they are also more affordable ($16/night vs. $40/night) and more natural. They are the places we prefer to stay, for so many reasons.
Generally, there are two ways to get campsites in State Parks and National Forests. A certain number of sites are available for online, advance reservation. The rest are first come first serve.
On our unplanned, unscheduled drive along the northern coast of California we didn't make advance reservations (it was unplanned, after all), we couldn't stop driving for the day at 1pm to get the first come first serve beautiful State park sites (seriously, some of them were the most swoon worthy camping I've seen), we had limited internet access to research and book sites while driving, and the National Forests were too far off our route to access the free dispersed camping option.
We did the best we could with what we had but we spent more than what we wanted for sites that were not what we wanted. That's sometimes how it goes.
Our first night we found a site via HipCamp - 3 G Familia Farm, just outside Manchester, CA. It was Saturday night, all the other private campgrounds along the ocean were booked (and some were ridiculous prices - $60/night to pitch a tent!), and then we stumbled along this place for $40/night with no potable water and porta-potties.
There was a group of Abalone divers camping at the site that night and they invited us to their potluck and shared their breaded and fried Abalone with us. It was a very cool experience meeting them and learning about Abalone diving. Interesting people make all the difference. I couldn't recommend this site without the Abalone.
Our second night we needed showers and we had a full day of scenic driving, along the coast and then through Redwoods, so we needed to book a site at a place where we could arrive later in evening and know we'd have a place to pitch a tent and get cleaned up. $46 bought us that privilege at a private campground in Klamath.
It also bought us the privilege of having floodlights illuminate our site, (smack dab in the middle of the campground), to wake up to the resident rooster crowing at 5:30am, followed shortly thereafter by the diesel truck next door idling for a good 10 minutes before finally leaving camp for who-knows-where. Unfortunately there were no interesting people or Abalone to make up for the site's deficiencies. But there was the trickle of hot water in which we could all wash up, that's something to be grateful for.
Camping along the coast was not what I had envisioned but to have the experience I had idealized we would have had to plan months in advance or cut short our driving at 1pm to snag the first come first serve sites.
After our two nights camping we stayed at the home of an online acquaintance in Oregon wine country. No camping necessary. Fluffy towels and pizza on the deck.
Today, a Tuesday afternoon, we arrived at Tinkham Campground, along the South Fork Snoqualmie River to secure a site for our next two nights. @toesalad is working this week and we needed close access to a town (North Bend). Mid-week there were plenty non-reserved sites to choose from, all of them beautiful. No RV's or mini-golf in sight. We paid $32 for two nights of accommodations, just off interstate 90 in the the beautiful Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
We won't be served Abalone or hear the distant surf of the ocean (full disclosure: we hear I-90 instead) but neither will we be woken by roosters or diesel engines or the high powered bathroom hand dryers. And we're in the woods. Home away from home.
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