Bodega Dunes (2)

IMG_1153I love quiet, misty weekends. This was a cozy outing to a place we should visit more often. Our site had good solar, good cell service, and enough space that you feel private even when an interesting neighbor with no sleeping bag or tent is in the site next to you.

We got a break from the rain long enough for Richard to bike while I wrote a report Saturday morning. IMG_1163In the afternoon, we hiked out to the beach. The trail there helped us understand the “dunes” part of the campground name. It was beautifully misty at the beach and there were very few people out. For dinner, we went to our standby Mexican place, La Bodegita.

Sunday, we hitched up and stopped at a local favorite bakery, Wild Flour Bread Bakery, which has only recently reopened after a car ran through it’s wall. IMG_1165It’s worth the stop for sure! There were piles of fresh loaves and delicious scones stacked high on a huge counter. After putting in our order, we realized they only took cash and I was about to send Richard back to the car. Instead, they issued us a handwritten IOU and said we could come back or mail a check. Wow. I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen something like that. We came back with cash, and bought more Meyer Lemon/cherry/blueberry/rhubarb scones. OMG.

We tried out a new floor mat in the bedroom area that I’ve decided I like. So we’re getting more to cover the rest. IMG_1156It’s made by Chilewich and it’s their indoor/outdoor mat line. The material looks like a low nap shag rug, but the threads are tiny, looped strands of something synthetic, so it will wear well and have the ability to be hosed off when it gets dirty. As for sand or dirt, it falls down into the loops so as to maintain a nicer look and cleaner feel on your bare feet. Also, it provides an effective layer of insulation on the otherwise chilly floor.

The only other mildly interesting thing to report is that a woman sort of camped in the site next to us with no apparent camping gear. I think she just laid down on the ground, on top of a big scarf. In the morning, she asked me if I knew of a store nearby where she could buy a sleeping bag or tent (that seemed to be a new thought). We secretly speculated a little on what would bring someone to a campground with no camping gear, and then decided everyone has some kind of amazing story behind how they got where they are. I kind of regret not having asked her.

It was a pretty laid back, peaceful weekend. Just the thing after a week of progress reports.

I didn’t take data this time, but we got the same gas mileage as usual for this area; around 14.9. We both had good LTE. Nice bathrooms, good dump. Sites 60, 61, 67, 68 are still nice. 71 has a water view, but is right by the road.


Samuel P. Taylor (3)

IMG_1112Third visit, same site. This time we got to enjoy a lazy, rainy weekend and didn’t do much of anything besides run the heater and make blueberry coffee cake. Perfection.

We lucked out leaving home and got a nice break from the rain for hitching up. We also got a break for unhitching when we arrived. For the rest of Friday evening and well into the day Saturday, we were treated to the sound of steady rain on the roof. We watched more episodes of “Altered Carbon” and generally wasted time online because we had excellent LTE inside the campground. IMG_1120In fact, we were online so much, we decided to run the generator to charge up the laptops. For people who resisted this technology as long as we did, we are certainly making up for lost time. It was nice to discover the generator fits under Dory, at least it did in this site, which was at a bit of an angle.

IMG_1140Saturday afternoon we took a trip to Bolinas to check it out. We caught a beautiful sunset, but headed back to Lagunitas, which is very close to the campground, for dinner. We loved Arti Cafe very much and highly recommend the house special Chicken Tikka Masala. This is a family run place, and one of the family members was having a birthday. We all got to sing and share in the birthday cake, so that was fun. Sunday we dumped tanks at the RV park in Olema and stopped on our way home at Stafford Lake.

Everything is lush and beautiful right now and it was a gloriously slow weekend to take it all in.

Total miles: 72.6, 14.9 mpg, 2 hours 11 min. Site 38. Other nice sites: 46, 29, 31. No solar, great cell service, bathroom closest to us was closed for renovation, but the other one was nice.

Henry Coe (2)

IMG_1063Hmmm. Well Henry Coe, I’m just not sure what to think about you. This is the second time I’ve arrived thinking, “I’m never driving here again,” only to end up really enjoying myself. I still say the twisty, terribly maintained, road up to the campground is at least four miles too long. And I still say there are at least two spots within the campground loop where you need to post a sign or something stating: “It’s ok. The road does not actually disappear off a cliff. Just keep moving. There’s a road there, I promise.” And no, this campground is not meant for trailers, I get that, so every approach into a site makes it impossible (or at least really exciting in the dark) for backing. However, the views are beautiful, the vast expanse of wilderness is impressive for where it is located, and the LTE inside the campground can’t be beat.

IMG_1088We actually got out in good time Friday afternoon and were rolling by 3:30. It’s not that far a drive to get to the point on 101 where you head East and into the hills. But once you’re on East Dunne Road, it just keeps getting narrower, bumpier, and scarier because huge chunks of road have fallen off into the abyss and have yet to be repaired. In two spots, we encountered signs saying, “One Lane Road Ahead.” And I’m thinking, “Really? Because this already pretty much feels like one lane.” IMG_1089And you turn a corner to find that, for fifty feet or so, half the pavement has relocated to some lower point in the valley below. Then, when you finally reach the campground, it is already dark because you had to drive so slowly. Then, you need to follow a very steep and narrow “road” through the campground to get to your site. I opted to forgo any attempt at backing in and just pulled in straight. That actually turned out to be fine and it’s what I would do in the future, assuming we try again.

IMG_1075Once in the park though, you are rewarded with acres and acres of wilderness trails, plus stunning views over the hills. Because the place is not that easy to get to, it is also not very crowded in the campground. We were definitely the biggest rig there and almost everyone else was tent camping. You might see some vans or truck shell campers, but no one is going to haul a big rig up there. So it’s quiet and peaceful and very beautiful in the spring. It gets too hot up there in the summer, which is too bad because the extended light of day might make that drive easier. We got out on Saturday, after I banged out a report, and did a lovely 4 mile loop. Some wildflowers are starting to come up now and the backdrop scenery is all lush and green. Very peaceful.

IMG_1079Our evening entertainment got a little jolt of adrenaline when Richard knocked over the movie projector (he would probably assert that it was because I moved the speaker, causing the audio cable to be too tight, but the important part is that it was not me doing the actual knocking over). The first thing we saw when he quickly set it back up was the image of a very cracked lens. I can tell you the words coming out of our mouths did not include: “oh darn”. Fortunately, it turned out that the intro to the show we were watching  just happened to land on this effect and it had nothing to do with the projector. Still, exciting. Time for a glass of wine.

IMG_1064When we left Sunday, it was not difficult at all to back out of the site and get out of the loop. In fact, I wonder about the idea of going the wrong way for just a little bit in order to get to site 16. That would avoid the parts where you truly cannot see the road under you until you start to go down it. It would also put me at an angle where I could maybe back in. It wasn’t a problem going car first, but Dory’s door then opened into a bush, rather than into the picnic table area. It was too cold for picnicking anyway, so no biggie.

IMG_1092The drive down did not bother me, probably because it was at no rush and in the daylight. We lunched at Andersen Lake again and noticed the water level was significantly lower than the last time we saw it. We chatted with a Sheriff, who was drawn to Dory, and shared some good campground recommendations.

All in all, I think this place would be great if I could do the drive in the daytime, and not after a full day of work. Sort of like how I felt about Salt Point. Maybe good for a three day weekend in the spring or late fall.

Site 16. I didn’t take data (just wanted to get out of the car, then forgot). I’d do this site again if I could approach it going the wrong way. Excellent LTE for us both. Water spigots, vault toilets, but nice bathrooms in the visitor center, which is nearby.


Salt Point (2)

IMG_1047Winter is getting in a mid February push here in California, but we know we can’t complain. The long Presidents Day weekend was mostly sunny, though brisk, and though we didn’t feel much like hiking in the chilly wind, we were still happy to take in the gorgeous scenery. We just chose to do some of that from inside Dory, or Bruce, with butt warming on.

Friday was not a holiday for Richard, so he got in a solid morning’s work before we headed out midday, with him continuing to work for much of the drive. Once you hit the coast and go northwards of Bodega Bay though, cell service all but disappears.

IMG_0945From Jenner northward for 13 miles, Highway 1 becomes what is known as “The Rollercoaster.” This is not a part of the highway I would ever want to try at night. We were fine though, and got to the campground around 2. The reservations there are non-specific, so you get to scope out what’s available before choosing your site. We were in the Gerstle Cove loop and chose a site under tree cover because there was a bit more privacy (and we have a generator). It was closer to the highway, but from inside Dory, we couldn’t hear the cars much. IMG_0972After getting situated, we drove a couple miles back south to check out Fort Ross State Historic Park. I highly recommend it, and it is certainly an interesting time to be learning about Russian attempts to colonize North America, no?

Saturday was the first of two full days and Richard went on a spectacular bike ride while I wrote a report. I know, it doesn’t sound that fun, but when you combine it with music, and a cozy spot, and the baking of cornbread muffins, it’s actually a very pleasant way to get work done. By 1:00, I’d finished and was just deciding that I was bored when Richard pulled up. IMG_1020We walked down to the cove and gawked at a couple of scuba divers who were braving the frigid waters. Both Friday and Saturday nights I cooked Blue Apron indoors. I had been thinking of grilling one of them, but the wind had turned decidedly chilly. Entertainment was rear-projected, big screen versions of “Wonder” and “Stranger Things.”

IMG_1009Sunday we were cold. We get it, in other parts of the northern hemisphere, you are under snow. But we were chilly and rather than go on hikes of any length, we chose to drive up to Gualala and make little tiny viewing stops on the way back. Then, when it started to drizzle, we got cozy with the heater and nappy time back in Dory.

Monday was really really windy and temperatures were going to be dipping below freezing, so our timing worked out quite well. I had made reservations for the same area a few weeks from now, and we’ve decided to cancel that. For a four day weekend, this area is gorgeous and the drive is doable. For a weekend though, I think it’s too much for me to attempt after a day of work, worrying about hitting darkness on those deathy curves. IMG_1053One thing I’ll say though, they have made tons of improvements to the road since we last drove it. The paving is clearly new and smooth and there are guard rails in all the places I really wanted them. Last time I drove it, I was pretty …. “alert”…. for thirteen solid miles and probably aged a couple of years. This time was much, much better and I attribute most of that to the addition of nice, solid looking guard rails between me and certain death. So, thanks to whatever municipal public entity funded that. Infrastructure spending rocks.

Total miles: 111.4, 14.9 mpg, 3 hours 27 min (it’s 3 hours to arrive there, then setup time, but that would be ok in the dark). Verizon had occasional service, but not in the campground. There was nothing for ATT between Bodega Bay and Gualala. Site 27. No solar, near the highway, but spacious and more privacy. Other nice sites with solar: 16, 11, 10. We still haven’t checked out the Woodside loop.

Wright’s Beach (3 & 4)

IMG_0883This is the second time I will be making a combo, 2-weekends-in-a-row post. It’s not the sign of a new trend, but rather the result of being overly excited when I saw a cancellation for a premium site at Wright’s and booked before I realized I had previously made reservations for the following weekend six months ago. I remember saying to Richard, “I hope you like the beach as much as I do.” and he found that to be a very strange question.

IMG_0872I think I can officially state that this is my all time favorite campground. We got site 9 the first weekend and site 3 the next. As long as you get 1-10 (but not 2 because it is an accessible site) (and maybe not 4 because the bushes obscure the view of the ocean), you are going to have an unsurpassed view of the ocean. My all time favorite thing to do in life is to grill dinner while watching the sunset over the ocean. Richard still insists on donning solar glasses for sunset viewing and he’ll probably have the last laugh when I go sunset blind.

53998911587__84AB36AB-1231-4F43-9046-56BB1ACF0106Both weekends, he got to do a ride up Bay Hill Road and along “Boho” (that’s what the cool kids call the Bohemian Highway). The second weekend, he unexpectedly joined up with a big organized ride called “The Grasshopper.”

IMG_0913While he was out biking on the second weekend, I got a huge treat. Two of my workplace BFFs came and hung out with me on the beach and I got to do some Dory entertaining. This was a new thing for me, so I bought and made a ton more food than was necessary. But one of the BFFs is expecting, and the other one has been good for far too long, so I felt it was important to overfeed them. Enthusiastic thumbs up for using the TJs muffin mix to make a blueberry coffee cake. Also, I got a tiny cast iron skillet that I used to cook up some mushrooms and bell peppers that were used to make grilled Naan pizzas. YUM.

IMG_0929We spotted three T@Bs this weekend, which is unusual, and one of them belonged to an Altoiste, so that was fun to meet her in person. We also gave lots of Dory tours and one of them scored us a bottle of privately produced Napa wine. Can I somehow turn camping into a career?

IMG_0836The latest in kitchen tweaking is that I got two acrylic display shelves and used them as brackets to suspend cutting boards. You’d be surprised what a difference a tiny thing like this can make, and also, how many times it is possible in one weekend to comment on how much better the gadget organization is. Last thing to note is that we have decided the solar panels only work when you have a generator. And by that I mean that, if you carry a generator with you, the sun will shine and you will not need to use it.

It does not get better than this in my book. Great weekends, both.

Total miles: 88.5, 2 hours 40 min, 15.5 mpg. Only occasional Verizon down at the beach, no ATT until you get closer to Bodega Bay.

Spring Lake (1 & 2)

IMG_0785This post will be doing double duty for two weekends in a row. Last weekend, we also went to Spring Lake. However, it was a pretty work heavy Saturday for me, so I didn’t get to really unwind and enjoy the park. Then, because of the federal government shut down, our reservations for this weekend at a BLM campground got cancelled. Since there seemed to be plenty of availability at Spring Lake, we decided on a do over. Good call.

IMG_0820The whole area around Sonoma and Santa Rosa was hit hard by fires in the Fall. Spring Lake was one of the lucky state parks to survive it. Sugarloaf Ridge was not so lucky and is closed for the foreseeable future. I must say, we are both fans of Spring Lake now. It is a lovely little spot, not very far from neighborhoods and restaurants, but tucked away enough that it feels nature-y, with boating, hiking, and copious biking options all around. The lake itself is pretty and peaceful. And even though its proximity to town equals lots of company on the trails, the campground itself was practically empty both weekends. There is a camp host and a ranger on duty, though she told me they were running on a skeleton crew. One thing you don’t think of after an area has been devastated by fires is the decrease in public funding due to loss of property tax revenue. Oh, right.

IMG_0802Both weekends were plenty chilly and we were being silly the first weekend about not running the propane heater enough to be comfortable. On our do over weekend, we rectified this and brought the generator along even though we never needed it, just to be sure we wouldn’t feel like skimping on comfort. There was a good deal of condensation, which always happens when nighttime temps get into the 30s. We remembered that it helps to run the 12v Caframo fan rather than the overhead fan, because it keeps the heat inside a little better. And I got a little squeegee to clear off the windows in the morning. If you just run the fan and heater a bit, it clears off.

One thing notable: our site was positioned right at the entrance to the hiking/biking trail down to the lake. That made for lots of traffic coming and going immediately next to Dory. Lots of people stopped and stared into the windows, not realizing I was inside, and could totally see them. Once, I was inside going to the bathroom as a couple walked up and stared into the windows. If they saw anything inappropriate (I don’t think they did), that’s on them.

IMG_0816On the culinary front, we discovered that if you use Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Sugar Muffin Mix, and add blueberries, which you then pour into silicone muffin liners, you end up with awesomeness for breakfast. We also tried out Yeti for outstanding Indian food in town. The Chicken Curry is tender and delicious and the Prawn Tandoori is just the right spiciness.

Richard went on two bike rides – one where he rode half way up Lichau Road. It’s a “Gravity Hill.” Google it. It’s interesting. The other was up Lawndale, then Warm Springs Rd. to Sonoma Mt. Rd. IMG_0808He did get some views of fire damage, but now that the grass has started to grow back in, some of the most striking images are of open plots of land where it takes a while to realize there used to be houses once standing there. In some cases, what is left is a gate, or a swimming pool. On the surrounding hillsides, you can see the black of charred trees. And all along the road, you notice houses untouched, standing right along side scorched forest or footprints of neighboring estates, that no longer exist. Very sobering.

Total miles: 73.8, 2 hours 16 min, 15.3 mpg first time, then 14.2. Something was up, but we’re not sure what. Sites: 5 is a nice pull through but WAY too close to the hiking and mountain biking trail. 8 is nice, also 26. Good cell service. Water spigots, nice bathrooms, dump.


Coyote Lake

IMG_0709This was a weekend about how thoughts create reality. I’ve never made a mistake in site reservations, or at least I don’t recall any. So we set off Friday, as per usual, arriving after dark, and merrily set up in our site. Well,… ok, maybe not “merrily” per se. On this particular trip, we learned that the phrase: “straight back” has become a trigger for me (especially when yelled or repeated multiple times) that could potentially result in property damage and/or bodily harm. But besides discussing verbal backing direction alternatives while eating dinner, we progressed with the evening fairly normally. Hookups meant we could microwave Chinese food and watch movies on our projector with the new screen that has not been melted by an iron. All good.

IMG_0710In the morning, the park ranger came by. When we arrived the night before, the check in kiosk was closed, which is normal when arriving after hours, so we knew we’d need to get our registration tags the next day. According to the ranger however, there was no record of us having reserved. Huh. Figuring it must be their error, I searched for the confirmation email in the mailbox I always use to file them. Turns out, in July of last year, I made a reservation for the 5th-7th like I was supposed to, except it was for the 5th-7th of July. Of last year. I have no idea how that happened, but it was pretty clear I’d screwed up. Luckily, there were plenty of available sites, just not the one we were in. So we had to pack up and move one site over. But here’s the thing: we had no idea we were driving to a campground with no reservations on a Friday night. Had we known this, we would surely have been super stressed the entire time. Not having any idea made the drive down and the night spent squatting in an unreserved site fine and dandy. This is what I mean by how our thoughts create our reality. I’d like to see if I can increase the amount of time I spend in blissful ignorance of my mistakes.

IMG_0714Saturday (after moving sites) we went on a modest hike. Richard was still recovering from the lethal version of the cold I’d had the week earlier. It was touch and go there for a while. He’s learned that it is important to consume calories, even when you think you’re dying from the virus that didn’t stop your wife from going to work. We now have a specialized shopping list labeled “Sick” to be used the next time he is not well.

Coyote Lake is a nice spot with sites for both hookups and non hookups. There is a reservoir there that is currently closed to all boating because of an invasive species of mussels, but it looks like it would be fun if it ever reopens. There are lots of hikes and bike rides in the area and it’s not that far a drive for us. We’d like to return. With reservations.

IMG_0722One last thing to note – it turns out that it’s important to check the little tiny screws that hold the pull out drawer under the table on its track.

Total miles: 85.0, 2 hours 58 minutes with really bad traffic, 16.3 mpg. Site: 8, then site 10. Both were nice, along the outer part of the hookup loop. The Lakeview loop has no hookups, but some sites have a view of the lake. Nice ones there: 34, 35. Sites 31, 32, 40, 41 do NOT have solar. Water spigots, but there was a notice posted that they had failed their water inspection, so carrying water is a good idea. Very occasional cell service for both ATT & Verizon. Nice dump.