There’s the money shot.
Message to future Fremont Peaking self: Do not stress about the last ten miles or the backing into the site in the dark. You will be fine. Get off the highway. You can have a margarita when you get there. It’ll be fine. Stop stressing. Eat something besides popcorn.
Some context: Friday’s travel to the campground was brutal. It was bad enough that I vowed never to reserve this campground again. We got a bit of a late start, partly due to me chatting with a colleague at the end of the day (it’s all your fault, Jenn!), and partly due to trouble with the driver side Caravan Mover. It has started an annoying habit of slipping against the wheel when we are on the steepest part of the driveway. This is not good. Thankfully, we have a winch and can manage the ramp maneuver with a carefully choreographed combination of alternating microbursts from the CM and the winch. It is honestly impressive that we can do this, but it is also time consuming and fairly stressful. So that’s how we launched.
When you know what is waiting for you, in the dark, after four hours on the road.
As soon as we were hitched an en route, it became clear that Highway 101 was a mess in multiple places. We began as we normally would, taking 680 south toward San Jose. I have long wanted to find a back way to skirt around Silicon Valley, and that seemed like a good time to try something since the time difference between sitting in traffic vs taking surface streets was not going to make that much of a difference. And that part worked pretty well, minus a wrong turn somewhere in Morgan Hill. The stress started building once I realized there was no way to avoid hitting the crazy drive up to the campground in full darkness. I also remembered that backing into site 7 was dodgy and required blinking safety cones. So I just stressed for about three hours solid.
This was happening while Richard was still outside stabilizing.
Once we got there, we took a moment to get out of the car before backing into the site. We did use the collapsible cones, thanks to the fact that I ALWAYS pack a ton of spare AA and AAA batteries, and half of the blinky lights were dead. The walkie talkies were also dead. We are thus reminded that winter is coming and we need to dust off our nighttime arrival tools. Even so, I nailed the backing, if I do say so, and rewarded myself with an extra strong margarita. Life was good again and the billions of stars visible from the darkness of the peak were especially amazing.
In the morning, I was reminded why I love this site. I am pretty convinced that none of the other sites in the whole campground would make that drive tip into the “worth it” category. But 7 does. You feel like you are on top of the world, and quite removed and private from the other campers. It is already a very small and rustic campground, and the dilapidated state of the road keeps away most casual partiers. There is no chance a big rig is going to pull in next to you up there. So it is very peaceful.
That sign is really understating things.
Looking down, we could see the whole Salinas Valley covered in a dense layer of fog. Richard was interested in doing the ten mile climb on his bike, and I actually enjoy the crazy drive in the daytime. The road is in absolutely terrible condition. There are pot holes or pot hole fills everywhere. It’s bumpy and jarring, even if you are going slow. Most of it would barely classify as having two lanes. Yes, there is a yellow line there, but really you’re driving the middle unless you see someone coming. It is a good thing there usually isn’t much activity on the second half.
I dropped the crazy bikie down at the bottom and went back up. Of the ten miles of San Juan Canyon Road, about half winds easily through wooded rural residential properties and ranch lands. Then the grade kicks up pretty quickly until you are on the ridgey part. This is where you have to navigate multiple blind corners with steep drop offs on one, or both, sides. There is about a half mile of ridge road, and then you get into a woodsy part, hugging the north side of the mountain. That’s when you know you’re getting close. That, and the abandoned RV off to the right.
The campground road is barely more than a sidewalk in places, and there’s one spot were you don’t really believe you’re supposed to go that way. And then there’s site 7. If you can do all that with a trailer, you have earned the view.
Very cool. Like an island in the sky.
I chilled for a while until Richard made it back. He enjoyed the ride, like he does, and after a rest, we went on a hike up to the peak. The fog layer was rising and looked like it was going to engulf the campground. I thought it would be cool to see that from above. It was a nice hike, but the very last part to the actual peak was a scramble over rocks. We were contented being about twenty feet from it, and just looked out over the vast sea of white. We had clear blue skies overhead and it was fun to watch the banks of clouds wafting and drifting, like a huge ocean of highly whipped meringue.
As soon as we started down to Dory, we entered the fog layer. It was downright chilly then, so we banged on the heater and got all snuggly under blankets inside for some quality nappy time. We indulged our naughty side (get your mind out of the gutter) by staring at the tent campers all bundled up and huddled together as whisps of fog blew over the fire pits they were not allowed to use. All they could do was gather around their camp stoves until it was deemed fair play to call it a night and retreat into their tents. Meanwhile I rocked out to music while making Turkey & Shawarma-Spiced Rice with carrots, currants & lemon labneh (used sour cream), garnished with fresh chopped parsley. We followed that with a big screen viewing of “Lightyear” and an episode of “Derry Girls.”
Feeling a bit smug at this point really…
Sunday we had to really talk ourselves out of staying another night. I think if we’d had the makings for another dinner, we might have gone for it. But alas, descend we did, and then headed over to Betabel RV to use their dump. I had put lots of thought into finding a decent backroads way around San Jose, so we tried it. I’m sure it added an hour to travel time, but the route bypassed all of the 101/680 interchange mess and put us back on the highway in a much calmer section near Sunol. I can’t say whether it’s “worth it,” but it sure would be in the rain, or in the dark. For fall and winter weekends, I decided it would really help to have some wraps in the car so we could eat on the way. That would ease the stress of avoiding highways because at least I wouldn’t be hungry and trying to push to get to the campsite for dinner.
Just gorgeous. Ok fine, it was worth it.
In the end, this campground remains in the mix, as long as I can reserve #7.
Total miles: 107.2, 15.8 mpg, 4 hours 14 min (avoiding highways from Morgan Hill on). Site 7 no hookups. 2 bars LTE or 5g for both but sometimes cut out. Trash, water, vault toilets in campground. No dump; dumped at Betabel for $15. Future self driving tips: heading north, get off at Bailey; heading south, get off at Jacklin.