Valley View Campground
Weekend of information gathering: check. Fremont Peak State Park has long been a glaring omission from the list of local state parks visited. The primary reason for this was the description of the road getting there as being narrow, windy, and with steep dropoffs. This has never been my favorite kind of road, so I’ve avoided making reservations there. Then recently some fellow Altoistes checked it out and assured me it wasn’t that bad. Meanwhile, Richard has been itching to go there because climbing to the top is a Jay’s Essential Ride.
As the weekend approached, we were both keeping a close eye on fire status because this is definitely not a place that has an evacuation route. Things looked ok though, with much cooler and more humid weather moving in. Still, I was nervous. I have been consistently zombie-like following a day of zoom school. The idea of doing a scary climb on a Friday after work had me worried.
Betabel RV Resort
So we did what we thought was super clever by reserving a site at nearby Betabel RV Resort. We could stay there, avoid the scary drive at the end of a tiring week, and spend Saturday checking out the park without being hitched up. That way, I could get a sense of whether the road was doable with Dory for future trips. All good planning there.
Yeah, it’s a bit packed
We have driven past Betabel countless times without any reason to stop. It is literally right off Highway 101 near Gilroy, and from the road, looks like a parking lot for big rigs. But it gets a 5 star review and had a site, so we figured what the hell. And it turns out, it is in fact a parking lot for big rigs, but with well manicured lawns and attractive shrubberies; ones that look nice and not too expensive. I honestly don’t get what people do in places like this, but clearly it’s a popular spot for long timers to move in and set up porches and semi permanent patio areas next to their behemoth “mobil” homes. Due to no fault of the management, the people next to us made us very uncomfortable. They were spread out right up to our site, with lots of maskless family gathering going on. Even getting out of the driver’s side of the car, it was impossible to maintain 6′ distance. We sheltered inside with windows and curtains closed and pretended not to care.
San Juan Canyon Road
Saturday we got outta dodge and drove to the bottom of San Juan Canyon Road to launch Richard. It’s an 11 mile drive up nearly three thousand feet of elevation gain. The description from Jay is spot on. Road conditions are pretty bad, but since you have to go slow anyway, the unfilled potholes are not jarring. The first half is a very easy woodsy drive through the valley, with not much climbing yet. The middle part gets more exciting as the grade kicks up and you have to navigate a couple of blind corners with a rock wall on one side, and a dropoff on the other. There were guard rails, of sorts, for each of these, but that provides more of a psychological assist than any real safety measure. Then you find yourself atop a ridge that goes for maybe half a mile. Then at last, you enter the woods again before arriving at the entrance to the park. I sagged Richard the whole way up and honestly, it wasn’t that bad.
Don’t look down….
We found the site we had let go and noticed it had not been claimed by anyone. We also noticed it had a spectacular view and tons of privacy. That led to pondering whether to ditch Betabel, eat the reservation fee for that night, and go get Dory. We decided to see how I felt on the descent, keeping tow worthiness in mind, and we could decide when we got back to her. We arrived back around 3 to find the family again spread out all over the place. “Pack up!”
Ahhh… yes, thank you.
It’s impressive how fast we can stow and tow when under the threat of fire or loud Covidy gatherings. Bruce got Dory up that road like a champ. I wasn’t even nervous. It might have been a case of situational bravery, considering the alternatives. But once we got settled in to our super private site with a glorious view down into the valley, there were repeated declarations of “this is so much better!” for the rest of the evening.
View of Monterey Bay
So, we have discovered a new-to-us state park that I look forward to visiting again. There are views up there of the entire Monterey Bay area. You can even see the twin smoke stacks marking the location of Elkhorn Slough. As the clouds rolled in below, we were treated to a sandwiched sunset, beaming through the stratus layers. In the morning, we got to enjoy our coffee under a magnificent blue sky with nothing but the sounds of birds and far off campers. We have nothing against the big rig lots, but it really is not our speed. And I’m sure none of the 40′ haulers would consider towing up that road as anything close to a good time. Everything has its place and it is nice to discover a new one.
Total miles to Betabel: 87.3, 17.9 mpg, 2 hours, 26 min. 107 to Fremont Peak, would probably be about 3 hours total. Site VV07, no hookups. LTE for both. Needed leveling blocks on passenger side, but not too bad. Water spigots. No dump. Toilets looked like vault, but we’re not using them anyway. Dumped at Betabel.