Unexpected site at New Brighton, fully appreciated as a weekend saver
“Well, at least this will make a good blog post.”
This is at least part of the reason I keep up the blog. When things do not go according to plan, we always know, sometimes in the midst of intense problem solving, that at least there will be a decent story here. That’s how this weekend started out: a future recountable story.
I had reservations for Fremont Peak. The calendar showed Fremont Peak, site 7, one of the very few sites where you can actually fit a trailer. We had plans for how we were going to spend Saturday, and tried to get an early start Friday afternoon so we wouldn’t have to arrive in the dark. For context, getting up to the campground is one of the more exciting roads we ever take. I’ve done it enough that I know I can, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The ten mile climb ascends over two thousand feet and includes a handful of narrow, cliffy, sharp corners, where the guard rails look so beat up, you wonder how they were able to keep someone from falling off the edge. There is also a section of maybe a quarter mile where the dropoffs are on both sides of you. And then you get to the campground, whose tiny road is so narrow, you’re not sure you’re supposed to drive there, let alone bring a trailer. For pictures and a description of the road, see this post.
View of the Fremont Peak road in the daylight
Sadly, we did not beat the setting of the sun, and arrived after the last remnants of dusk had given way to darkness. I just took it super slowly, all the way up, and then down into the Valley View loop. I proceeded down the steep slope to the site, where you can’t see the road at all and just have to have faith it’s there. As we pulled up, we could clearly see a car parked in our spot. I’m figuring it’s just someone from another group stashing their car in hopes no one will come. Richard got out to ask them to move. He found the party fully set up around the fire pit, flames blazing and chairs set up all around. Hmm. He talked to the people as I pulled up the reservation email confirmation to show them as proof. Huh. “Checking out Tuesday?” I notice. “Did I get an extra couple of nights and forgot to modify?” That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but then my eye landed on the arrival date. Sunday. Oh shit.
Site 7, in the daylight, and properly reserved
Richard had just finished pointing out to the party that our names were on the reservation post. But then he also noticed that next to our names, and under the reservation tags of other names, were the dates for Sunday and Monday nights. Oh shit.
You have to understand, this campground has maybe two, perhaps three sites total that can fit a trailer. With the one I thought I’d reserved definitely taken, the only thing I could think of was to drive up to the other loop and see if the one we’d looked at before as a potential alternative was free. This meant navigating the rest of the tiny loop road in the dark, but we were in full panic mode now and I was wide awake. I pulled Dory into the day use area and just parked. I needed to regroup here. I did walk over to the site I had in mind as a possible landing for the night, but it had reservation notices posted for the whole weekend. It was dark and cold, we were hungry, and no good options were presenting themselves.
We figured we’d better have dinner so we could think better. I had Dory as far off to the side of the parking area as I could, and I was at that point planning to just camp there overnight and figure out the rest in the morning. We raised the roof and Richard heated up a frozen pan dinner while I surveyed every possible campground in the area through our Allstays app. All the sites, trailer friendly or not, were reserved in Fremont Peak. I called the private place at the bottom of the hill, but did not get an answer. I called the huge RV park off Highway 101, but they did not answer. I checked online reservations of all the state and county parks anywhere in the vicinity and they all said 0 sites available. We discussed what might happen if we stayed put, and tried to guess whether a ranger might pound on the door in the middle of the night and make me do that drive down the mountain at 3am. We talked about just giving up and driving the 2-3 hours back home, arriving around 10pm. We even looked up the Walmart in Gilroy to see if it allowed overnights (reviews say no). Things were pretty bad.
Then Richard thought to call New Brighton State Park directly. I never thought anyone would answer at 8:30pm, but shockingly, the ranger at the kiosk picked up. Richard explained our situation and asked if there was an empty site we could stay in for the night. The ranger said yes, there was, but they weren’t going to be in the kiosk to check us in for much longer. I pulled up directions to get there and Google said it would take about an hour. The ranger said they could wait an hour.
Even more fun going down in the dark, and in a hurry
And so we high tailed it down that mountain, as fast as I dared go. Around the hairpin deathy corners, in the dark, with nothing but adrenaline to keep me lucid. I do not usually drive highway speeds, but once we got to the bottom and onto the 65 mph highway stretch, I was right there matching it, making sure navigation’s arrival time did not slip. The ranger called a little after 9pm and we gave our location and the predicted arrival of 9:36. They said they were going to leave at 9:40. We pulled up to the kiosk at exactly 9:34 and thanked the ranger for longer than they probably wanted.
We pulled in to our site, relieved and deliriously happy that any of that had worked. Now we could safely unhitch, Richard could shower, and I could have some well earned Chardonnay. We slept like rocks that night.
Crossing fingers as we wait for sites to be released
The next morning, my plan was to get on the waiting list to get into a site so we could stay. I wanted Richard to be able to get in a good ride, since I had a lot of reservation guilt and wanted to do penance. I was so appreciative of the fact that he never once laid into me for the reservation screw up. It’s really not at all like me to make that kind of mistake, so he was more confused than angry, but still, that could have gone all kinds of bad. I got our names on the list, and the ranger seemed to think it was very likely we’d get a released site at 2pm. So Richard headed off to Gayle’s Bakery and brought me back an eclair. We had to vacate the temporary overnight site at noon, but were allowed to hang out in the day use parking area. Promptly at 1:45, Richard showed up at the kiosk to await the daily site releases. He scored a nice spot, with hookups no less, that was even available Sunday night as well. I did some quick analysis of how bad it would be to take Monday off, and the answer was: not too bad at all. When the universe hands you something like that, you don’t think about it; you make it happen.
Photo friendly Capitola
We spent Saturday walking around picturesque Capitola. The charming beach town got thoroughly pounded during the storms that wiped out nearby Seacliff State Park. Much of it has already been repaired, but there are signs remaining that some of the structures might never recover. It is a very touristy town, but earns it’s keep with an array of nice little shops and restaurants. The colorful vacation rentals sitting right on the beach set the place apart, even if they are sort of like movie set pieces. It’s a fun place. After dinner, we walked over to the beach to catch the sunset. All plans had been set in motion for a Monday off, so Sunday was ours for the taking.
E ticket ride
Richard got in his big ride. Instead of going down, then back up, Fremont Peak, as planned, he did a Jay’s Essential Ride up Bean Creek Road, to Mountain Charlie Road. He said it was a “best of the best,” and didn’t even get lost. Meanwhile, I drove down to Elkhorn Slough to go paddling with otters of the sea. I note that, if I had a hard sided, rather than inflatable kayak, I would not have taken it with me for the weekend. It’s really nice to always have it in the roof box, just in case we end up somewhere with unexpected boating. We actually had an extra dinner with us because I thought there was a chance I’d be up for cooking on Friday night. Since that was nowhere near what transpired, we got to use the ingredients for our “extra” night on Sunday.
E ticket paddle
After dinner, we went over and chatted with an Altoiste couple we spotted with their 2114 across the way. They told us a harrowing tale of getting trapped at the top of Henry Coe during a sudden snow. They had to stay an extra two nights before it was safe to go back down. We told them our Fremont Peak story, and since they knew the place, they appreciated how not fun that must have been. Nice couple!
Sunsets did not disappoint
The cherry on top of the saved weekend was to walk over to Marianne’s for ice cream. We walked along the beach and watched the waves and the sunset. We noted that the million dollar houses all along that strip have mostly gotten repaired. Seacliff Campground, on the other hand, is still very much gone. The debris has been cleaned up, and they are allowing parking in an area that used to be campsites. But there are no signs of rebuilding the campground. I wonder if they even will. It’s sad, but understandable.
Still sad to see it all gone
And finally, on Monday, after lazing around for most of the morning, we drove home via Highway 1 along the coast, catching a lunch time stop in wonderful Pescadero. I will never not want to stop at Arcangeli Grocery, any time I’m in the area. We picked up a hot sandwich for lunch, and got deli salads and cherry pie for dinner. Richard snuck in a quick ride up to see the closed section of Stage Road, and then we endured highway traffic to get back home.
Very closed Stage Road
It was a glorious save of a weekend, one that started out pretty badly. We are now routinely verifying reservation confirmations prior to leaving. I don’t know what happened there, but honestly, it turned out to be a fabulous weekend regardless.
“Just keep traveling…”
Oh! I need to mention that my little face got into a Safari Condo commercial! A bunch of owners spent the summer sending in photos and videos for Safari Condo’s new promotional materials. I was surprised and deeply honored to see a quick thumbs up facie shot make it into the cut. That was super nice. 🙂 This little trailer sure does fill our lives with adventure. And sometimes eclairs.
Total miles: 144.0 with a side trip to have dinner at the top of Fremont Peak, 16.9 mpg, 3 hours 28 minutes to get to the site I did not have reserved, an hour to panic and grasp for backup plans, and another hour to race downhill to New Brighton. Site 18 overnight, then site 53 with hookups. Good solar. Good cell service. Great dump. Really nice rangers.